I Regret To Inform You That I Will Never Be Rallying For Sanity Again

WASHINGTON D.C., Oct. 30

My enthusiasm sputtered and died as I stood in line at the concessions stand, about the time the seventh person in a witch costume walked past carrying a sign making fun of Christine O’Donnell. I tried to look at it on the bright side – she did manage to temporarily block out my view of the guy roaming a small patch of open grass while performing a minstrel version of “The Times Are A-Changin’”, pausing often for iPhone photo ops with strangers.

But then along came the guy with a sign announcing The End Is Far, after the guy demanding a Return To The Metric System, then a couple holding a giant banner warning of the dangers of a four-hour Boehner, the woman with a giant fake penis strapped around her waist, the woman wearing a sandwich-board homage to masturbation (accompanied by another dig at O’Donnell) and a thousand others that I don’t feel like describing. All of them wore semi-sheepish, aren’t-I-funny? grins, while their fellow rallygoers fell over each other in their haste to photograph the hilarity. This was my Saturday? This is supposed to be meaningful and memorable?

Jon Stewart’s Rally To Restory Sanity, as it turned out, was really a giant competition to see who could broadcast the cleverest, most ironic, wittiest and/or most irrelevant slogans – and who could take the most pictures of the amazing funniness. I must have been the only one there with neither a sign nor a camera. All I’d brought were fragile hopes that a giant crowd would gather in D.C. to celebrate moderation, reason, and sanity. I found this:

“This Font Is Big”

“God Hates Shrimp”

“Don’t Be Douchey”

“WTF GOP LOL”

(Some of the older, not-in-the-loop attendees were broadcasting earnest, patsy slogans like “Humanity Should Be Central To Politics.” Given the context, they seemed more than ever like shabby artifacts from the ‘60s who’ve spent decades wearing pins and working the polls and writing indignant letters to the editor to no apparent effect. Is it commendable persistence or just idiotic that they’re still trying?”)

The thing that chafed me the most was how mean-spirited the whole affair was – the parody of every Tea Party stereotype, the slander of every conservative hero, the insults hurled at all the constituencies imagined to stand in opposition to the left-wing interests present. It’s not that I don’t agree with them, per se, or that I found none of it amusing. It’s that I found a lot of it amusing on a 10-year-old level. And the whole reason I’d come was that I’d thought this whole crowd had gathered to act like adults, to elevate things a little bit. I can chortle about tea bagging back home.

Was the joke on me, maybe? Is this what I get for taking an entertainer seriously?

And so here I am, sitting disconsolate on the fringe of the National Mall, watching more sign carriers come and go (“Homo Is Where The Heart Is” “Be Excellent To Each Other” “Kleptocracy Sux”) and hoping the bus comes soon to take me home.

These are sly times. Our ideologies masquerade behind cupcake homages to Honor and Sanity; our demagogues are professional clowns; the line between truth and joke is so fuzzy that we’ve invented a genre of literature called “faction,” we’ve invented the word “truthiness,” to amuse ourselves, and we’re calling it political activism to march around with signs about loving pancakes and arming bears. We’ve quit debating other people and chosen to simply mock them. It’s a mad, mad world. Be careful out there.

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Comments

  1. “Is this what I get for taking an entertainer seriously?”

    Possibly.

    From the moment I found out about it, I assumed this was a giant publicity stunt for Comedy Central. I drove to DC with that in mind, and was not shocked or disappointed when the rally turned out to be just that.

    I could have done without Kid Rock, and some of the more mean-spirited signs (which seemed to contradict points in Stewart’s final speech) but I got what I expected out of it. Form where I was standing far away from the stage and jumbotrons, what I could hear of the message was clear: the media (which include Stewart and Colbert) fans the flames that serve to drive wedges between us.

  2. David Rood says:

    Nearly everything that Andrew reports is true but I and my wife HAD A BALL! The sound system was inadequate, the crowds were claustrophobic, and only a lucky few could actually see the stage. However, all but a very few signs we saw were funny and NOT mean-spirited, and the atmosphere was one of joy, not bitterness. It appears Andrew’s disappointment was because he had different expectations than we. On our trek across the Potomac, during the rally and back at our hotel, we met some really friendly folks from Michigan, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Oregon and Hawaii, all of whom said they had a great time and wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I never made it to Woodstock but I can tell my grandchildren I attended The Rally to Restore Sanity, which was a group statement AND a day of celebration of civility.

    • Mr. Rood, perhaps you forgot elementary grammar, but I believe you meant to write “my wife and I HAD A BALL!”

      • David Rood says:

        Mr. Briggman, making the author first when paired with another subject to a predicate may be impolite in formal English but it is not improper form. However, I am glad you are taking an interest in grammar and the Queen’s English…finally.

  3. Jeremy Hawkins says:

    Having spent most of the day in transit to and from the rally, I have to say I had a blast as well. I was pressed up against some really great people on those metro trains, and was continually impressed by the crowd’s good nature and high spirits despite the hours spent waiting in lines. I enjoyed the signs and the thought behind some of them. I enjoyed the diversity of the crowd. I pretty much loved the entire experience. Did I agree with every sign I read? Not at all. But you didn’t see anyone getting tossed to the ground and stepped on for representing “the other side.”

  4. I guess expectations were the key difference between me and people who enjoyed the rally. But I disagree very strongly with the idea that the event was a celebration of civility. People at the rally were civil and friendly to each other because everyone there found it funny to mock the kinds of people and ideas present at the Beck rally in August. As far as injecting calm and reason into the national political mood goes, this was a failure – do you guys really think that the signs and slogans did anything at all to win the hearts and minds of people who didn’t go to the rally? Or at least did anything to convince them that liberals are interested in being reasonable?

    • David Rood says:

      Andrew, satire is not contrary to civility. Swift was friends with the most of the people he lampooned. It is perfectly acceptable to mock an opponent as long as you do not unfairly label him as a Hitler or Stalin or make unfounded assertions about his character, religion or place of birth…or make threats real or rhetorical. I saw very little first-hand or through reports that crossed the line, and I overheard at least one person politely criticizing the fellow holding the “Asses of Evil” sign. No one was packing heat or claiming their adversaries were enemies of America. I also encountered several Republican moderates who seemed to enjoy the rally. Was the event perfect? No, but it was certainly a step in the right (no pun intended) direction. The message “relax, cool down and listen to the other guy” is one that cannot be overstated.

  5. Paul Somers says:

    All of this sentiment you talk about on the signage, etc. is a symptom. I think of it almost as a defensive psychological state resulting from a lack of perceived effect in spite of effort, be it actual or perceptual. While this state may suit individuals, like myself from time to time, when paraded on the social level it becomes useless. It also achieves nothing of what people seem to have wanted the Rally to be, namely funny and/or meaningful, and it also is useless in defending our social psyche against the pains of failure, again be it actual or perceptual, because pretending to care by pretending not to care is not a functional defense mechanism on a broad social/Rally scale.

    I watched portions of the event on TV and it was painful because I love both the Stewart’s and Colbert’s shows, but their humor is not suited to rallies of a political nature that are seriously of a political nature. I sensed disdain in Daily Show Reporters Samantha Bee and Aasif Mondvi as they partook in the day’s events.

    I understand Stewart and Colbert wanting to take action in this way but it oversteps a boundary and puts them in the real political world. If I see them in this world I expect it to be on someone else’s turf and not their own, and I expect them to be shining like the stars they are. When they host a political rally themselves it just really ceases to be formally satirical, which is where the truth of The Colbert Report and The Daily Show flowers from. They are masters of satire truly, which I hold in higher regard to any other medium of truth, but when you take satire out of the situation it is just “changed utterly.”

    • David Rood says:

      Paul, to the extent that the rally was “political,” it was in delivering the message: DON’T LET THE NOISE OBFUSCATE THE FACTS BECAUSE FACTS LEAD TO TRUTH AND NOISE LEADS TO CONFUSION AND CHAOS.

      Whenever 215,000 individuals assemble in one place, there are bound to be some who do not understand or subscribe to the intended theme. The rally did not target Republicans, Democrats or and specific person. It made fun of those who can only communicate through anger, spite and volume. If these traits describe one party or group more than another, it was purely coincidental.

  6. Lowell Fulk says:

    Good Grief Eeyore, lighten up!

    I’m with Messers Rood and Hawkins. I enjoyed the event tremendously, and found the participants to be most friendly, civil and considerate, and fun.

    And to the best of my knowledge, so also did the some 270 of my best friends from the Valley who rode together.

    And so did the Pediatrician who loaded five kids under 13 into the car and drove eight hours from upstate NY, the young expectant couple from Manhattan, the folks from California, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Illinois, and on and on…

    As did everyone I’ve heard from, both at the event and afterward, until now that is.
    I found many of the signs to be great fun and intelligently considered. Did I like them all? Mostly, some not so much, but guess what, they were making their signs to express their thoughts and I’m glad they shared those thoughts with me.

    I’m really sorry you didn’t have a good time, I wish that you could have your day back.

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