November 05, 2010

 

 

 


            Photo Credit: Chuck Smith

‘Rally for Sanity and/or Fear’ Promotes Bipartisan Spirit, Less Media Hysteria
by Rhiannon Ross

“Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule — and both commonly succeed, and are right.” ~ H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)

Mainstream media struggled to define last Saturday’s “Rally for Sanity and/or Fear” in our nation’s capital. Was it a nonpartisan, public discourse promoting moderation and civility between Republican and Democratic extremists, especially during what many believed to be a particularly ugly primary campaign season? Was it a pep rally to get out the progressive vote in Tuesday’s crucial primary election? (If so, it failed.) Or, was it the unexpected outcome of a political parody taken seriously by scores of loyal — and politically disgruntled — Comedy Central fans?

Randy Carlson, Gettysburg, PA, presented his own definition: “I’d call it a cross between ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ and ‘Woodstock.’ It’s the most interesting assortment of signs and people and costumes. I feel like I should be doing ‘The Time Warp,’” he said, laughing.
        
Indeed, any unknowing soul arriving on the Washington Mall for a tour of, say, one of the Smithsonian museums or The Washington Monument on Halloween Eve might reach the same conclusion. George and Martha Washington could be seen strolling arm-in-arm alongside zombies and black, pointy-hatted witches. Cyclers and roller bladders tarried among dog walkers and parents pushing baby strollers. College-aged students and former hippies alike touted signs from the humorous — “I Like Tea and You’re Kind of Ruining It,” to the thought-provoking, Dr. Seuss poster — “Think Like Me or Don’t. But Please Don’t Yell,” to the acerbic — “Support Separation of Head from Ass,” and “I Hope No One Steps on My Head.” (The latter referencing the recent incident at a bipartisan political debate where Rand Paul supporters dragged a MoveOn.org supporter to the ground and stomped on her head.)

  • Photo Credit: Chuck Smith
  • Photo Credit: Zeke Allen
  • Photo Credit: Chuck Smith
  • Photo Credit: Zeke Allen
  • Photo Credit: Chuck Smith
  • Photo Credit: Zeke Allen
  • Photo Credit: Chuck Smith
  • Photo Credit: Chuck Smith
  • Photo Credit: Zeke Allen
  • Photo Credit: Chuck Smith
  • Photo Credit: Zeke Allen

One sign simply read, “White People Are Pissed Off.” In the tsunami of more than 200,000 folks, it appeared that most were Caucasian. However, when the sign was pointed out, a white passerby muttered, “Black people probably are, too!”

Organizers of this eclectic happening were Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, a satirical liberal news program and Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, a satirical conservative news program. The event, billed early on as the “Million Moderate March” technically was two pseudo-political rallies: one for “Team Sanity” (led by Stewart) and one for “Team Fear” (led by Colbert). Signs, labeled “Team Sanity” and “Team Fear,” were distributed in a good-natured attempt to get rally participants to takes sides. The kicker, however, is that the idea for these rallies began as a comedic response to the “Restoring Honor” rally organized by conservative radio and television host Glenn Beck in August at the nation’s capital. But Comedy Central viewers were listening … and interested. Some began to post on Facebook and other social networking sites the question, “Is the rally for real or is this a joke?”

For Bruce Tarin, Port Elizabeth, NJ, who described himself as an “old hippie,” the rally was anything but a joke. He accepted it as a personal challenge from Bill O’Reilly, host of the political commentary program The O’Reilly Factor on the Fox News Channel.

“Bill O’Reilly said we would never do it. When he was on Jon Stewart, he said, ‘you’ll never pull this off,’” Tarin said. “But I have a voice. Don’t tell me to stay home!” 

People are tired of the polarization between the Republicans and Democrats, Tarin added.

“We can sit and talk with each other, disagree, but have intelligent discourse. I think that’s the reason that everybody is here today. They’re tired of the unintelligent discourse.” 

A call for moderation in politics is needed, agreed Eugene Hurley, Bergen County, NJ. “I don’t want extremists from either side taking over,” he said.

Anna Gombar, Holly, MI, said she is bothered by the ongoing reports from the media “about how people are so angry.”

“But I don’t know anybody who’s angry,” she said. “I think some of the media blows some of these things out of proportion. I think people need to read the issues before they act.”

Stewart’s keynote address or his “moment of sincerity” as he termed it, was, in part, an indictment of the press.

“The country’s 24-hour, political-pundit-perpetual-panic-conflictonator 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, bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire, and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected, dangerous, flaming ant epidemic,” he said.

“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 or Rick Sanchez is an insult not only to those people, but to the racists themselves who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate. Just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe, not more.”

Steven Eisen, an international affairs student at George Washington University in DC, is a longtime fan of The Daily Show. Stewart’s use of political satire, he said, successfully “calls out hypocrites, which the national media doesn’t really do.”

“The only time I get to see a good, calm, rational political debate is in the last 10 minutes of his TV show, when he has people on. I’ve seen more discussions about politics rather than fights about politics on his show,” Eisen added.

The “Restore Sanity and/or Fear” rally also was the first rally Eisen said he could politically identify with.

“That’s what’s great about this. It’s a moderate rally. To be honest, it’s center-left, but that’s what I am. Everything this way has either been far right or far left. Even the Republicans I know don’t really have an identity with any of the stuff I’ve seen so far. So, this is the one thing that basically anyone who may be a moderate is showing up to.”

Stewart provided his own answer as to what the rally really was all about by first explaining what it was not.

“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,” he said.

“Do you want to know why I’m here and what I want from you? I can only assure you this: You have already given it to me. Your presence is what I wanted. Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder. Seeing you here today and the kind of people that you are has restored mine.”

History has shown that political extremism is not ideal for any country, said Bashir Chuma, from Atlanta.

“I see good things from the Republican’s point of view and good things from the Democrat’s point of view,” he said.

Being a Tanzanian-American, Chuma added, allows him to view the country’s political system both as an outsider and as an insider. (A claim President Obama also could make because he spent his formative years in Indonesia.) 

“I can see things wearing my Tanzanian hat and see things wearing my American hat,” Chuma said. “The best America is when there’s a balance between Republican ideas and Democratic ideas.”

Following the results of Tuesday’s primary election, perhaps the next big question is this: How successful will the Republican House and the Democratic Senate be in embracing the Kumbaya spirit, as they work toward America’s economic recovery?

Rhiannon Ross can be contacted at Rhiannonrosskc@yahoo.com.

Locals Show Support for DC Sanity/Fear Rally

For those who couldn’t make the trek to Washington, DC, showing local support was the next-best thing to being there.

“I wanted to make it to DC so badly, but if the announcement would have come about four months ago, and we could have saved for it, then it would have been possible,” said Doreen Mundy, one of the Kansas City rally organizers.

“But it was too short of a notice, so when I saw that local groups were forming, I definitely wanted to be a part of it to show my support in any way I could,” she said.

Approximately 75 people gathered Saturday at Mill Creek Park on the Country Club Plaza to demonstrate simultaneous support for the “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” in DC.

Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, issued a clarion call to the “Busy Majority,” the “people who’ve been too busy to go to rallies, who have lives and families and jobs — r are looking for jobs,” to join him in DC or organize joint rallies in their hometowns. In all, nearly 1,000 cities worldwide — from Stockholm, Sweden to Sydney, Australia — held rallies.  

Comedy Central says approximately two million people watched the live broadcast. Live video of the rally also was streamed to iPhones, iPads, and Android 2.2 devices.

Paul Rola, a Kansas City activist, hosted a rally watch party at his Brookside home.

"Congress, as it addresses the needs of the people and the nation's future, should learn from the Rally to Restore Sanity," Rola said.

"Understanding and problem-solving should follow the example offered by the Sanity/Stewart vs. Fear/Colbert scenario presented at the end of the day. A thorough, honest and complete analysis of realities of a problem/fear will give way to a sane solution, if we will let it. Senators and representatives are not sent to Washington to win. They are there to protect us and this country and nothing else."

Mundy, who ended up missing the Kansas City rally because she was ill, watched the event on TV.

“I was hoping for a few more speakers and not so much music,” Mundy said. “I thought that Jon Stewart’s 15-minute speech was the best part of the show. I was hoping for a little more of that.”  —Rhiannon Ross