It was a long ride to Washington
, and I didn't sleep all that well, despite a sleeping pil
l given me by Craig, whom pure chance made my seatmate and is now my friend
. I ran into an old friend as the buses departed, a friend, her sister and her sister's partner and children. Over a hundred of us met at Midnight to take that eight hour ride. But like me, we're all pretty disgusted with what we see, a political process increasingly dominated by hatred, invective and a distinct absence of reason
. I avoid TV in the weeks before an election. I don't want to see the hate and scare tactics, most of whom have little or nothing. I want a political process centered on the real truth, and one that treats us like adults. And so when Jon Stewart
and Steven Colbert
announced their Rally for Sanity
(Fear) we just had to go.
It was cold when we got there at 8:30. Carol wanted to have dinner at Ebbet's Grill, across the street from the Treasury, and a power-broker hangout where she'd once seen Tip O'Neill. We had a fine breakfast and a tasty bloody mary provided celery to balance my diet. As we had time, from there we took a quick walk through the World War II Memorial, which none of us had seen before. Washington is a remarkable city, and the Mall particularly fascinating. The Capital, Memorial, Washington Monument, and Lincoln Memorial all line up, in a way where you can simply turn your head and see a clear reminder of American History across the three centuries of our existence. Then we walked down the mall to join up with Carol's sister who had staked out turf under a tree, near the stage.
We never made it. Every step more and more people seemed to fall in step. They carried signs, mostly humorous. I saw "The Civil War was an Inside Job", two girls with painted on Hitler mustaches offering mustache rides, and another young woman whose t-shirt carried the inscription "Civil Conversation Makes Me Wet". One sign in the crowd said much "I get my comedy from Fox News, and my news from Comedy Central". There were more, many more but much more but you get the idea. Oh, some were about political causes, and nobody seemed like Fox News for not being an actual news network. But many, many of the signs called for reason. Called for listening. Called for moderation. You know, the pre-conditions for an actual productive debate. And there was so many. I'd never seen so many people, and I've been to the Ohio State-Michigan game. (hint: both the Horseshoe and the Big House each seat over 100,000). We crowded together, but no one jostled anyone. Everyone was polite, but we never got even close to the stage. In fact we had a hard time, seeing a jumbotron from where we ended up. And we could see people gathering on the adjacent street, and on the steps of adjacent buildings, including the Smithsonian Museum of American History, which was across from where we stood. We had smart phones, but I with my dumb cell was the only one who could get data, and that by leaving a voicemail message. My friend texted back that he hadn't seen any counts and overheads but the counts were huge. We really couldn't see much but people from where we were on the fringes, and we got there two hours early.
We had fun. The musical choices weren't those I'd have made (Sheryl Crow really needs to do a better job of memorizing lyrics and Ozzy had a bad day). But they never are. And how can you really criticize Mavis Staples or Tony Bennett singing American the Beautiful? The jokes worked, but they all worked toward a well-defined point, with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert pointing that fear and hatred have no place in democracy. We laughed, we made each other laugh, we had fun and we all got it. I don't think I've ever been at such an event where I bet you could pick any five people out of the crowd, invite them to dinner and know you'd have a good time.
Getting over 200,000 people like that in one place is a real achievement. Most crowd control rally showed the rally far larger then Glenn Beck's, and without a hint of anger. And I have to wonder what Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, the Daily Show correspondents, their staffs, or the management of Comedy Central are thinking now? This rally was an overwhelming success. Their original permit was for a gathering of 60,000, and that must have seemed an enormous gamble. Now they have created an actual news event, one that crushed the Million Man March, or Glenn Beck's. You have to wonder if they're shaking their heads and wondering 'What Next?" Once a lighthearted look at the news, The Daily Show has become a serious force in the American political debate, by performing the simple task of fact-checking and exposing the idiocy and hypocrisy so common in American politics and pundits. Stewart and Colbert assume their viewers are adults, capable of telling a joke from the truth. By contrast Glenn Beck's success depends upon the ignorance of his audience. Comedy Central is more about reason then many serious commentators. Will they simply continue as they were? Probably. But Stewart in particular seems to take his home very seriously, and has shown real love for what America is and can be. As things get worse will the responsibility of leaving a better home for his children lead him, like Al Franken to give up comedy for a more serious position?
I don't know. I don't claim to know what Stewart, Colbert or Comedy Central should do next. But this day, they did something far larger then anyone dared dream.
for more of the signs, most of which will at least bring a chuckle look here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/30/the-funniest-signs-at-the_n_776490.html#s169727