I feel more sane already
There’s something strangely reassuring about being in a crowd, especially when you’re all doing the wave.
Maybe it’s the feeling of being part of something bigger, or the comfort of knowing you’ve all gathered for the same reasons – even if that reason is a rally with no particular agenda other than to restore sanity and/or fear.
Standing among the tens of thousands on the National Mall (which was to my surprise a large park and not in fact a mall), we waited for some sort of explanation as to why we’d all felt compelled to come to this place for an ambiguous rally.
Surrounded by people with signs stating the obvious like, “I like boobs” and “Africa is not a country” and other more creative sayings like, “I’m as moderate as hell” or “I can see America from my house,” we gently eased our way to the middle of the crowd. This was not the typical crowd of angry, brash Americans – no, it was a crowd of the reasonable and the sane, all gathered to prove that they are not a divided country.
The opening sermon by actor Don Novello highlighted this desire to unite.
As he read aloud different religions, Novello asked God to give him a sign to point out which of the religions was more right than the others.
Without any such sign, Novello speculated that perhaps the commonalities are more important, saying in regards to Muslims and Jews: “They don’t eat pork, you don’t eat pork. Let’s build on that.”
It became more apparent that the warm fuzzy feeling would only grow, when Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) and Ozzy Osborne attempted to sing two different Train songs, only to join their acts together to sing “Love train,” a bizarre and surreal moment that had everyone either singing or dancing.
These interspersed musical acts, while being well intentioned, were mediocre at best, so the crowd was at times left to their own devices.
One such occasion came in a moment of heart-warming crowd solidarity. Over on the side where the Porta-Potties turned unconventional-yet-conveniently high seats lined the edges of the crowd, a few thousand people had begun chanting the beloved, “Yes you can!” slogan, to encourage a man’s slow and ultimately successful attempt to climb a large tree, his efforts rewarded by cheers.
Colbert and Stewart proved more serious during certain segments of the
rally, giving away medals.
Anderson Cooper’s tight black t-shirt was presented with a “Feary” since its presence on your front lawn generally means that you’re now likely in a disaster zone of some sort.
Visibly frustrated at the “Islamophobia” covered by the larger news networks, the pair appealed to reasonableness, saying that yes, terrorists may often be Muslim, but being Muslim does not make you a terrorist.
Issues such as religious intolerance, hate speech and homophobia were openly pointed out and subsequently discredited.
While Colbert took the comic pop-culture cliché of irrational and fearsome attitudes, Stewart calmly explained that these common knee-jerk reactions were gross exaggerations of one-offs that only distracted from the real problems facing America.
The back-and-forth banter played out like a well-rehearsed script meant to simplify the issues the seemed to be dividing Americans.
The well-timed rally, ahead of the midterm elections, was not overtly political in nature but appealed to America to think with reason, rather than huddle in cowardice while pundits told them what to think and how to vote.
As the hours ticked by, the ultimate reasons for the rally began to seem forgotten by the hosts, who in their usual fashion went off on tangents and, while on television their antics are easy to follow, in a crowd that CBS News reported was about 215,000, it became difficult to put together what it all meant.
It wasn’t until the last speech, delivered by Stewart, that the rally’s objectives became clear. Pausing his comedy act and speaking with such sincerity, we all stood enchanted, holding our breaths as he spoke.
“I cannot tell you what this is. I can only tell you my intentions,” he said. “This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith or people of activism, or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument, or to suggest that times are not difficult and we have nothing to fear. They are and we do.”
It was a strange moment of hope and blind optimism that Stewart and Colbert, two comics with little real-life political influence, had managed to somehow create by delving into a world of “truthiness” that strayed from their conventional ways.
“But we live in hard times now, not end times,” continued Stewart, “and we can have animus and not be enemies.”
He paused to allow the crowd to respond with overwhelming apwplause, then took aim at the “24-hour politico-pundit-perpetual-panic-conflictinator,” which though not the exclusive cause of America’s problems, makes solving them that much harder.
However, it was the last line he spoke that was met with fervour and enthusiasm, a sentence that rang with such truth and timeliness that we all seemed to realize why we there – “If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”
It was on that note that we all felt as if our sanity had been restored, our attendance justified and while the fear still lingered, it had at least been, for a time, put in its place.
Top 10 signs
In the two-party system I prefer the after-party
My God has tea parties with your God
If it weren’t for CNN, I would have no idea what is happening on Twitter
The Mad Hatter called. He wants his Tea Party back.
If your beliefs fit on a sign, think harder…
I already regret choosing to carry a sign around all day
I like tea and you’re kind of ruining it.
Logic will you come back to U.S?
Somewhat irritated about extreme outrage
I’m against picketing, but I don’t know how to show it