ONE LAST WORD ON SANITY
In about 24 hours, this will be old news, but I thought I should chime in on the Stewart/Colbert rally that took place over the weekend.
Of course, I couldn’t travel across the country to attend, much as I would have liked to. Indeed, I couldn’t even watch it live, what with feeding kids lunch and errands and stuff like that. But I did get a chance to watch it on TiVo late Saturday, and I gotta say, it was fun viewing. Not only that, it was a (dare I say) hopeful moment in the midst of what has been an otherwise dreary political season.
Like most people, I didn’t know really what to expect from the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. Some said it would be an ironic mockery of political rallies, others thought he was there to hatch some new political movement where lefties rebrand themselves as moderates and attempt to… I don’t know… legalize weed or something. There was even hand wringing among some Democratic organizers that their best campaign workers would be out on the Mall partying instead of trying to get out the vote just days before an important election.
All of these views seem to utterly miss the point. From the start, Stewart framed the event as a rally for people who don’t have time to attend rallies; a rally for people who are genuinely turned off by what typically happens at political gatherings. People who were anxious to attend this rally were never going to knock doors for any political party. Seriously, who has time?
So the event begins and it’s The Roots playing and it was outdoors but they still blew the roof off the dump. There is no gig those guys can’t rock. But I digress. What was immediately noticeable to me was the smiles in the audience and the positive vibe that seemed to exist there. The assembled crowd seemed a creative lot as well, holding signs that ranged from the post-modern (“I’m Holding a Sign”) to the pointed-but-witty (“Birthers for Hawaiian Statehood”) to the just plain silly (“WWOPD: What Would Optimus Prime Do?”).
Over the course of the three hours, there was some music, various comedic bits skewering the conventions of most political rallies, and something resembling a 15 minute sermon by Jon Stewart at the end of the thing. I liked the message. In a nutshell, most Americans are pretty reasonable and understand the compromises required to get through daily life. Only the politicians and pundits don’t get this basic fact, but they run almost all of our public discourse. Not the kind of battle cry one is likely to hear just before storming the Bastille, but perfectly appropriate for the event.
When the whole thing wrapped up, I wondered if the sense of satisfaction I felt was similar to what people attending Glenn Beck’s rally felt last August. To me, it seemed like Beck’s crowd was all about fear and grasping for a lost America that never really existed. But perhaps that’s to be expected. I’m not Beck’s crowd, so perhaps I’m inclined to think the worst of them. I’m sure they thought they were gathered with the understanding that they were there to reclaim America for the normal people, “people like us.”
Oddly enough, that was basically the theme of Saturday’s rally: we’re here to reclaim America for the normal people. Obviously, I tend to think of the crowd at Stewart’s event as the normal people. But in all honesty, it’s probably because they’re more like me.
Whether they were anything like me, they weren’t shouting, and I liked that. I liked most everything about the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. I liked the music (Kid Rock excepted), I liked the comedy (mostly), and I liked the creativity displayed by the audience. I wish that this rally could be the start of some sort of actual movement. But by its very nature, “sanity” can’t ever be the foundation of a mass movement. First off, shouting makes more noise and will always get more attention. Second, the very sane people who were out on the mall on Saturday are back at their jobs today. They’re picking up their kids from preschool, taking piles of work home, and trying to figure out how to keep the bathroom sink from clogging again. They’re busy, and they’re tired. Just like me.
For one day, though, it was nice to see several thousand “people like us” having a good time and offering hope that maybe everyone can take it down a notch for America. That hope should be completely dead by Tuesday night, but still…