Yesterday I felt a surge of verklempt well inside me as I strode in a mass crowd toward the National Mall for the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.
It had been over two decades since I felt a reason to go to a rally, but this one stirred my passions from the moment I heard about. I knew I was going—and dragging my two children (13 & 15)—to witness and be a part of history, however much a footnote it would be in the grand scheme of things.
The promise in Obama stirred equal hope in me, but like so many Americans, I consider myself more independent than Democrat, making pure allegiance to political parties or political figures a less appealing prospect.
It took putting my 13 year old on my husband’s shoulders for us to get a view of the crowd behind us. In front of us, the crowd was packed in like sardines in the “front area” considered to be part of the official rally according to the park permit, which planned for 60,000 people. But a policeman there told me that area actually held 200,000 people, and that was before the street we were on (closer to the stage), the first street that breaks the Mall before the next section of Mall green begins.
Because so much of the rest of the Mall green was blocked off by portable fencing, behind us folks were left to stand on the pea stone paths running the the length of the Mall to the Washington Monument, or were packed four blocks deep on the perpendicular streets, extending the rally literally “to the streets”. As it was for us, being way far back from the jumbotrons and speakers, but closer than most of the rest of the crowd, we could see essentially nothing, and hear very little.
None of that mattered.
Everyone I spoke to remained committed to staying out to be part of the rally, seeing and hearing be damned. They wanted to show their solidarity, have their numbers counted, and stand for the kind of sanity Stewart’s well-researched, intelligently presented and yet still funny show represents, while eschewing the kind of media fear-mongering so brilliantly parodied by Colbert four nights a week.
Unlike tear-jerking alcoholic Glenn Beck, very little media coverage is being devoted to the rally, perhaps because it couldn’t have felt great that Stewart lampooned the media for its utter failure today to represent anything resembling a responsible fourth estate.
Though Stewart joked that the numbers were outrageous—6 billion, the whole world came!—and noted that there would be quibbling over numbers, it remains that size does matter. I stood next to a park policeman for most of the show, and he said he hadn’t seen a crowd this size since the Obama inauguration, and that, while this crowd didn’t reach those numbers, it wasn’t far behind, certainly outstripping Beck by far. And that matters because it reveals not only resonance, but commitment, and that the political make up of this country is far more complex than Beck would claim.
The kinda quiet, ironic silent majority…and mom and dad
Far from being mostly college kids, as some have reported, I was surrounded by people of all ages, from a 2 year old to a 68 year old. I saw a lot of folks in my age range and above (I just turned 44).
There’s no doubt that what Stewart said at the rally has more than truthiness to it.
Our political dialog is not simply tense, or occasionally hyperbolic to make a point; it is awash in a sea of meaninglessness and dangerous distortions. FOXNews is a good name descriptor of itself; a wily creature that will use an unending manner of tricks to trap and devour its prey. That’s a problem when you’re on the wrong end of their political and thought agenda. Add to this a 24/7 media environment on all fronts and it’s clear that we live in a time when our minds are not equipped to keep up with the insane pace.
Everything breaks down.
Folks turned out in droves (and by that I mean not the thousands, but the hundreds of thousands) to make clear that our problems today are too serious to let fall to such evil genius machinations, especially when fiscal policy, energy issues, infrastructure, human health, and the social contract are in the cross hairs. If we really care about this country, its stability now and the long arc of its success, we must get off this merry go round of lies and distortions and let the grown ups work it out. A gigantic sampling of America came out to call for that, to stand for constructive dialog.
In ancient times the jester, or fool, didn’t just prompt the guffaws of slapstick, but also played the foil to kings and others in need of a lesson. Sure, a funnyman brought us together. We’re laughing, indeed. We have to!
But we also mean business.