Crowd at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
So as the glut of photos that landed in my Flickr stream might indicate, I went to the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on Saturday. Reading the post-rally coverage since has been sometimes amusing, and sometimes infuriating.
The trouble is, no one really (still) can put their finger on exactly what the rally was about, except maybe the people who were there. We weren't looking for any political stance (in fact, a political stance, or, even worse, encouragement to vote for any one party, would have ruined it). We weren't looking for any stance on anything, actually. The Daily Show isn't about stances, it's about pointing out ridiculousness, and making you laugh. No one should have expected the rally to be any different.
I remember the vibe from inauguration, and the rally did not have that vibe. When Barack Obama came in to office, he did so with a promise of change, and the promise of "Yes We Can!" Well, like it or not, we've seen change, and we've had to accept the reality that huge problems cannot be solved in two years. But I think the thing that most deflated us was that we never really saw the "We."
Sure, there were opportunities to knock on doors, and make phone calls. But there was also the growing realization that doing so was just going to elect the same old people to the same old political system. Regardless of whatever happens tomorrow, we have a Congress run by polar opposites, who run around opposing each other, and would rather be jerks and not get anything done than compromise.
Stewart had it right when he pointed out that everybody else compromises all the time. We compromise in our jobs, in our relationships, in our lives. That's how we get things done — we are sane, and we are reasonable. But that's not how Congress operates, and I think it's the source of everything from the Tea Party to deflated Democrats.
So what this rally was about, at least for me, was admitting that things are screwed up, and we don't know how to solve them, and when you feel the sense of desparation that comes from that, it's nice to have a laugh or 56. And if there's one thing Jon Stewart does — in the rally, and on his show — it's pointing out when media personalities and elected officials are being ridiculous. Although he does it for the purpose of a punchline, he holds their feet to the fire more than the mainstream media. And that's why more and more people get their news from The Daily Show.
If Stewart attacked anyone, it wasn't the right, or the left — it was the media, and they deserve it. And generally, the media response seems to have been "Wait. What? Us? Uhhhhh.....THIS RALLY WAS A FAILURE!" Try to be a little less transparent, guys, really.
David Carr of the New York Times wrote:
"Media bias and hyperbole seem like pretty small targets when unemployment is near 10 percent, vast amounts of unregulated cash are being spent in the election’s closing days, and no American governing institution — not the Senate, not the House of Representatives, not even the Supreme Court — seems to be above petty partisan bickering. Mr. Stewart couldn’t really go there and instead suggested it was those guys over there in the press tent who had the blood of democracy on their hands."
Well, David Carr, like it or not, Jon Stewart is still a host for a show on the Comedy Channel, whereas you are a columnist for the newspaper of record. It's not actually his job to "go there." It's YOURS.
Because it's not just the "24-hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator" that's the problem. It's journalists who don't even deserve the term, and not just the cable ones.
You — the real news journalists, not the comedy news ones — were supposed to be the "fourth estate," the one that pointed out when the other three were failing. You used to be watchdogs, and now you're more like poodles, yipping at Jon Stewart.
So, for me, going to the rally was acknowledging that things are broken, in politics, and in the media, and the "We" of "Yes We Can!" don't know how to help fix them. It was a chance to go be out with 200,000 or so other people who — I think — feel the same way, and commiserate and laugh with them.
Now I just wish we could figure out where to take that energy, that silent majority understanding that we need to compromise to get this country moving in the right direction. Sanity Party, anyone?