The Rally

Some time ago, I posted a link from the Daily Show that made a case for the US political machine being like the WWF.  It brilliantly illustrated a long held speculation I've had about politics.  (Re-watching it, I still think it's brilliant.)

In mid September, I had a similar feeling of concurrence.  This feels a little like deja vu.  As a non-conformist, this happen rarely (it had better!) and as a moderate, this happens rarely (unfortunately) as the media doesn't  cover moderation very often.  Jon Stewart, on the Daily Show, announced the Rally to Restore Sanity.  He said it would be for all those people who are tired of the divisiveness of the current political climate, to which I thought, “Absolutely.  It would be cool to attend that. How often do you see a rally for moderates?”  Of course, I'm not going to pay hundreds of dollars just to go stand with a crowd of people, no matter how much I agree with them.  Besides, I had two fears: one, that the rally would be co-opted by extreme liberals (I know Jon doesn't swing that way, but many people who watch his show do), and two, that it would be all shtick and no substance.

A week or two later, I was planning my trip to WV and MD, and I realized that I would actually be in the area the weekend of the event.  The stars aligned and I ended up going with my hostess, Jen, and her friend, Sarah.  (My one regret is that Sarah and I didn't explain the purpose of event to Jen a bit more, so she knew what it was about beforehand.) We made a small detour to check out the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian (very cool building – I'd like to visit again and spend half a day there...) and then dove into the crowds of the rally.

Current estimates place the crowd at 200-215 thousand people.  I'll not go into a long description as this article from the BBC summarizes the situation well.  There were some great signs; my favorites were “Poster Board is a Terrible Medium for Complex Arguments,” “!,” and “What do we want? Moderation!!! When do we want it? In a reasonable time frame.”  (Some more can be found in this gallery.)  It was an extremely diverse group of people with all ages, colors, and creeds represented (here's a photo gallery from the event).  I saw lots of women in Muslim headscarves (which, unlike some former NPR journalists, makes me feel happy about diversity).  For people-watching, it was a “target rich environment.”  The noise of the crowd, however, drowned out any hope we had of actually hearing the event, and after a couple hours, we left, needing a toilet not in a plastic box, a place to sit down, and somewhere where we weren't being jostled every other minute.  Turns out, being somewhere where the crowd was continually moving was good for people watching and bad for people averse to being knocked about by people who (sensibly, I admit) carried all their provisions for the day on their backs.

Later, we caught up though commentaries and live-blogging on some of the events we'd been present for but couldn't see or hear.  The pundits claiming that this would be something to motivate the youth to vote missed the point entirely, as should be evident from some of the un-youthful entertainers they had: Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens), Ozzy Osbourne, The O'Jays, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and R2D2.  After a day or two, Comedy Central has posted most of the show online. Most notably, we listened to Jon Stewart's closing speech, which can be seen here as “Jon's Moment of Sincerity.”  I highly recommend watching it, as the sentiments expressed are extremely sensible and illustrated well (I love a good metaphor!):

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
Jon Stewart - Moment of Sincerity
Rally to Restore Sainty and/or FearThe Daily ShowThe Colbert Report

My fears were laid to rest, as it was neither partisan, nor without substance.  I wish I could have heard it live (the recording is deceptive – the crowd was never silent, there was always some idiot (not Jon) talking) but I am satisfied with having been there, having represented, and knowing that the cameras were recording Jon telling the world what I and many like me want to say:

“We are reasonable people and we can work together and be diverse at the same time.”

Thank you to Jon Stewart and all his minions for doing this for us, the quiet moderates.

Postscript: Yesterday, I saw video from a post rally press conference.  Both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert acquit themselves well.  Stephen had shed his larger-than-life parody character and was actually himself.  He has a gentle demeanor that was very surprising to me.  Jon, as I've seen in other interviews, was earnest and easily shed questions that tried to apply too much political meaning to the event.  Great interviews, if you're interested.


Shawn Powers said...

I think the UCF is a prime example of people with drastically different views and opinions that get along quite swimmingly.

Also, Jon Stewart is on of my favorite entertainers. He truly is moderate. He even surprises me at times. For example, when he had President Obama on his show the week before the rally, he asked him some pretty tough questions, and then pressed the issues hard. Yes, he's good people. I watched the live streaming of the show, and I had a feeling I was getting a better view than those in attendance!

Still, cool that you were there. :)

Anne C. said...

Very true, Shawn, both about the UCF and JS being "good people." :)
And yes, it was very cool to be there. :)