by Mr. Universe
Saturday morning was the date of Jon Stewart‘s “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear”. It was held on the National Mall just in front of the Capitol. The overriding message was one of the freedom of assembly, the call for responsibility from the media and the call for fair governance for everyone. Actually, Stewart claimed he was just there to throw a big party. And throw one he did.
It started out with the Myth Buster guys who immediately set up some fun crowd participation exercises. They did a giant crowd wave experiment to see how long it would take a wave to get from one end of the Mall to the other. Then they conducted a seismic ‘everybody jump at the same time’ experiment where they monitored the activity from the seismic waves of a simultaneous crowd hop.
There was lots of music from the Roots and a sketch where Yusef Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) started playing his hit song “Peace Train” but was interrupted by Stephen Colbert. Colbert brought out Ozzy Osbourne who broke into “Crazy Train“. Ultimately, the segment ended with the O’Jays performing “Love Train” to wrap up the train analogy.
It was a big variety show and apparently it will cost Arianna Huffington several hundreds of thousands of dollars for offering to bus in 10,000 New Yorkers. Oh well. Go big or go home, eh? And the crowd, many wearing Halloween costumes, brought lots of creative signs. Here’s a sampling.
But eventually it did come down to a message. And Stewart delivered. I think the one historic takeaway line was “When we amplify everything, we hear nothing”. It was a call to reason. It was a call for compromise. It was a call for the media to report responsibly. It was a call for politicians to agree to meet and solve the problems of our nation and not take our toys and sulk off to our rooms hoping that the other kids will just go away. It was not so much a call for sanity as much as it was a call for civility.
Almost immediately, the 538Refugees comment section stirred to compare the public participation of the rally with other recent events. Was it bigger than Glenn Beck’s? Or the 9/12 Rally? My first reaction is that it shouldn’t be about who has the bigger rally but in reality, that plays a relevant part in this debate. Are there more people in the middle than there are on the rather vocal extreme?
It was estimated that there were 250,000 people on hand for the Rally to Restore Sanity (and/or Fear). That’s an awful lot of people who have better things to do than combat extremism. And objection to the extremism of the far right is essentially what this rally represented. It was an old-fashioned peace march. It was also fun.
Glenn Beck’s ‘Rally to Restore Honor’ was a protest against the democratically elected administration. Understandably, they didn’t care for the change that the Obama administration represents. This ‘Rally to Restore Sanity’ was a protest against Beck’s protest. You want Democracy? Then stand for it. Stand with it. Abide by it. Democracy isn’t just some catchy, feel good phrase that is only useful when it suits your purposes. Democracy can be inconvenient for those who disagree with its outcome. But that’s how it works.
Change is difficult sometimes. But change is also a means for growth. You can object to it all you want but change is a comin’ and none too soon. We are not going to take the country back. We’re going to take it forward.