Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Sanity/Fear Rally (Part 1)

I went to the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. My girlfriend
, two fellow seminarians, and I

got up early on that chilled Saturday morning and drove from Philadelphia to Pentagon City. There we took out markers and poster board and made a few cool signs!

We made our way to an extremely packed subway car and played the part of sardines all the way to the National Mall.
There we were met with Libertarians passing out signs, venders selling buttons, people giving away free towels, and people wielding homemade signs, lots of people wielding homemade signs!

We waded through the sea of people heading toward the stage in front of the Capital Building, passing Jumbotrons as we went. Along the way we saw met people from all over, from Alaska

to Texas, South Carolina to Wisconsin, Oregon to Maryland.
Eventually we found a place to sit near a Jumbotron, put down tarps, and enjoyed the rally. Stewart’s and Cobert’s show was great. It was filled with camp, satire, and stars (including the hosts of Mythbusters, Sheryl Crow, Kid Rock, and yes, R2-D2). Stewart and Cobert sparred over fear and sanity. Cobert was armed with a giant Cobert puppet and news clips, Stewart with guest appearances by R2D2 and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Stewart ended the show with a speech about his intentions for the rally—about its meaning.
First the rally was a chastisement of the media, which in Stewart’s view, has amplified all problems in America to the point at which it we believe that we live in the end times, a catastrophic apocalypse in which killer bees will destroy us all—as will bullying—as will illegal immigration—as will our the Tea Party. The media has also projected a false image of our fellow Americans. They are “Marxists actively subverting our Constitution.” They are “racists and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own.”
Secondly, the rally was about affirming that this media echo-chamber is not true. Most Americans live their lives, “as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do—often something that they really do not want to do—but they do it—impossible things every day that are only made possible by the little reasonable compromises that we all make.”
He made this second point clear with a video of people on a multi-lane highway that narrowed down to one lane in order to enter a tunnel. People were willing to take turns—to work together—in order to make it through to the other side.
Finally he concluded with a word of thanks, saying that seeing so many people come out to a rally to restore sanity restored his own.
I must admit, while I think it is important to affirm all of these things, to speak a still small word through the valley in order to point out that it has become an echo-chamber, and while I think it is also important to recognize dignity and humanity of people on both sides of an argument, I felt Stewart may have shot a little too low—maybe even have sided a little too strongly with the status quo. Having strong political views is seen as a vice, just getting along, just making it in a middle-class soccer-mom kind of way is a virtue. Not that there is anything wrong with middle-class soccer-mom’s, but I truly believe there are good strong political views and bad strong political views. I believe there is a whole large swath of America who doesn’t fit into a middle-class “just getting along” so don’t bother me Mr. Tea-Party-Man demographic.
And so, I have reflected upon this rally. Stewart allowed that it held multiple meanings—different people came for different reasons. In my next post I will describe what my reasons for going were.