We had a great time at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. Sarah and I deliberated for a while on how early we needed to get to the capitol mall. We had scoped out the stage the day before, and made it a goal that we wanted to be standing in the section behind the press area. Here is a photo we took of our ideal view:
We figured out pretty quickly that this would be no easy task, since the city seemed to be full of people coming to the rally. One clue of the madness to come was when our plane from LA erupted into applause when someone asked, “Who here is going to the rally?”
However, being on California time and rather wimpy about the chilly weather, we had some qualms about waking up at the crack of dawn to reserve our space. There was a little moment where we wavered . . . weighing our need for sleep against our excitement. But in the end, we set our alarm for 4am Pacific Time, threw on layers of clothes, and
stole borrowed a couple towels from our hotel so that we could have something to sit on. We also grabbed a couple of pre-made sandwiches and snacks from the hotel – a decision that we would appreciate when we saw the food line at lunchtime. We also ditched our Metro plans and hailed a cab down to the capital building – another decision that proved to be in our favor when we heard stories of the lines at the Metro stations.
When we arrived, people were already fairly packed into the first section, but we elbowed our way in and staked a spot. Then, we pulled out our books, sat down on our towels and waited. For several hours. We were pretty close to the stage so we didn’t have a very good perspective of the whole national mall. It was definitely a surprise to see the aerial shots of the the crowd that filled in behind us.
The show got started with some songs from The Roots. I was thrilled – I really like this band and they were great in person. They were joined by John Legend, who has an one seriously dreamy voice.
Finally, Jon Stewart took the stage. Let me say this . . . I’ve seen a lot of celebrities in person. I’ve done my time working at a celebrity rehab (and more importantly, as a seat-filler at awards shows). I am rarely all that affected. But seeing Jon Stewart in the flesh did set my little heart a-flutter.
Surprise musical guest #3: the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens. One thing you may not know about my husband is that he only listens to music produced prior to 1978. Cat Stevens is on constant rotation in his car. I was sorry he wasn’t there with me.
(And yeah, the whole Cat Stevens/Salmon Rushdie fatwa thing is still very confusing. But you know what? So is Rushdie’s marriage to Padma Lakshmi. And so are his novels, for that matter).
Next up: Ozzie Osborne. Another artist that my children are embarrassingly familiar with.
I think the guy in front of us was a big fan. Ozzie, pull down your shirt, for the love . . .
Then Jon and Stephen put on matching sweaters and sang a song with the guy from Wilco. Not a shining moment for Jon.
Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow sang some songs while we all took a nap.
There were some skits and some comic bits, and finally, Jon took the stage for what ended up being a rather sincere and impassioned keynote address.
Whether you are a long-time fan of the Daily Show, or someone who things this entire event was just a big mockery of people you admire, I would encourage you to watch this. I think you will find that the message was not really about criticizing one political stance or another, but about finding common ground, and being respectful where we differ.
In all, I thought the rally was really effective. There were moments of silliness, and quite a few times when Sarah and I observed that the programming felt a bit reminiscent of our youth ministry days. There were some brief moments when I wondering if this was all a big festival of hipsters reveling in irony . . . and there was certainly that element going on. But what drew me to the rally, and what sealed my admiration of the event, was the call to putting aside our difference and our fears in order to make our country better. I think everyone there had a sense of patriotism and a desire to see our country less polarized.
While there were times when that message was being presented in an overly simplistic way, I was reminded that even as basic as the message is, a good portion of our political representatives and pundits still don’t get it. Or don’t care to put those ideals into action. I thought it was inspiring to see such a large group of people come together, not over some common villain, but out of a desire to rally for patriotism without fear.
Here is a portion of the closing remarks:
"I can't control what people think this was. I can only tell you my intentions. 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 that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies.
Unfortunately, one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The country's 24-hour politico pundit panic conflict-onator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems and illuminate problems heretofore unseen, or it can use its magnifying glass to light ants on fire, and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous-flaming-ant epidemic. If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.
There are terrorists and racists and Stalinists and theocrats, but those are titles that must be earned. You must have the resume. Not being able to distinguish between real racists and tea partiers, or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rich Sanchez is an insult -- not only to those people, but to the racists themselves, who have put forth the exhausting effort it takes to hate. Just as the inability to distinguish between terrorists and Muslims makes us less safe, not more.
The press is our immune system. If it overreacts to everything we eventually get sicker. And perhaps eczema. Yet, with that being said, I feel good. Strangely, calmly good, because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us through a funhouse mirror, and not the good kind that makes you slim and taller -- but the kind where you have a giant forehead and an ass like a pumpkin and one eyeball.
So, why would we work together? Why would you reach across the aisle to a pumpkin assed forehead eyeball monster? If the picture of us were true, our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable. Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own? We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is -- on the brink of catastrophe -- torn by polarizing hate and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day. The only place we don't is here or on cable TV. Americans don't live here or on cable TV. Where we live our values and principles form the foundation that sustains us while we get things done, not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done.
Most Americans don't live their lives solely as Democrats or Republicans or conservatives or liberals. Most Americans live their lives that our just a little bit late for something they have to do. Often it’s something they do not want to do, but they do it. Impossible things get done every day that are only made possible by the little, reasonable compromises."
The rally was a reminder of how blessed we are to live in the United States, a place where everyone gets a vote, where we are free to share our opinions, where government is changed without bloodshed or military coups, and where differing political views may polarize, but never jeopardize our safety or our economic standing. In a time when so much political animosity abounds, it was refreshing to see so many people come together to say, hey, LET’S TAKE IT DOWN A NOTCH. We’ve got it pretty good.