Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Crux of the Rally to Restore Sanity

[Fort Collins, CO - USA] As the dust settles in the 2010 midterm election I continue to reflect on my short whirlwind trip to Washington DC last weekend to attend the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.

Today it becomes exceedingly clear that people and politicians in the United States are now in a position where compromise and reasonable discussion must prevail over rhetoric and hyperbole. Jon Stewart railing against the cable TV conflictinator machine could not be more timely. I have read at least one keenly written perspective on attending the rally. Here I will attempt to share my own experience. 

I flew into Baltimore-Washington International airport on Friday afternoon. I paid $6 for a train ticket from Baltimore to DC and was on the train within 30 minutes after walking off the plane. While inside the clean and roomy passenger train run by the Maryland public transportation authority I sat amongst rally goers from Minnesota, California, Indiana, Missouri, and Ohio. There was a calm sense of pride welling up in all as we shared how and why we had decided to make the trek to DC. The Minnesotans were from Deluth and were doning custom made t-shirts with "TEAM SANITY" boldly painted on the fronts. 

It was an interesting bit of real-world foreshadowing that the cost-effective and time saving train ride left such an impression on me as the concept of getting on a "train" together was a recurring theme in the rally itself. The "fear-mongering" Colbert character refused to get on the peace train as proposed by Yousef Mohammed the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens, while Jon Stewart refused to get on the "Crazy train" Ozzy Osbourne offered up as he intereupted Cat Steven's performance. I have to say I was disappointed that the "act" did not allow for at least the completion of a few songs by Cat Stevens as I think his appearence was one of the most significant aspects of the rally. Anyone with an internet connection can watch the whole event here. So I'll spare the details of the rest here. 

I stayed in DC with a friend from high-school who so graciously put me up for the weekend. Fortunately she had a friend hosting a brunch on Capitol hill the morning of the rally. After a full spread of monkey bread, Dunkin' Doughnuts, Bacon and egg quiche and much more we were ready to walk to the mall. We wiggled our way politely into a comfortable spot right next to the "coffee party's" headquarters on the mall to take in the musical intro by the Roots and the first portion of the "show." At this point I was about 1/3 the distance back on the mall and had good view of one set of jumbo-trons. I was amazed by the calm mood of the crowd and the organization of the whole event. I never once felt any hostility or disorder. 

As Stewart and Colbert began presenting their "awards" I departed the group to try and get closer to the main stage. Here is where I observed sanity in action. The areas of the mall directly in front of the stage were fenced off and the number of people inside was being regulated by police officers. A sea of people stood waiting to be admitted and the policy of one out one in was maintained perfectly. When anyone in line started to get grumpy or make make demands of being let in the cops dealt with it by making fun of that person and they were shunned by the crowd to move to the back of the line. I thought this a wonderful testament to the power of people to assemble peacefully Though I missed 30 minutes of the rally my patience paid off and I was admitted to the front in a very peaceful and orderly manner. You can see the photos I took here

In the end I was happy to be near Jon as he made his plea with us in attendance and anyone watching. A plea to stop perpetuating the illness the 24 hour news cycle has inflicted on the American psyche. In the following 13 minute speech you can see why he called for this rally and Now after the election is over I see the importance of his timing. We need to stop demonizing each other and come together to make things better. The culture wars are not going to end with one side victorious but when both sides make those small concessions we seem to be able to make every day! If you watched the rally already it is worth watching this bit from the end again maybe a few times.

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
Jon Stewart - Moment of Sincerity
www.comedycentral.com
Rally to Restore Sainty and/or FearThe Daily ShowThe Colbert Report
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