By now there have been numerous radio shows, TV news programs and late night shows, blogs and other websites that have reported on Comedy Central’s funnymen Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and their weekend “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear”. Most of the Right has written the rally off as a “lefty event” while many on the Left have praised it as a tour de force that had greater attendance than Glenn Beck’s August “Rally to Restore Honor”. I’m sure each perception had its agreeing population and while much can be said about what is was and was not, there remains the fact that sanity’s stock went up if but for a brief moment in time. In the final analysis, the rally was a total success as an event that was very entertaining while presenting a satire on political extremes.
People see what they want to see and many on the right may see a performance that belittled them and their allies. As much as it may offend right-wing extremist the truth is that there has been more visible vitriol and polarizing manifestations from the rallies staged by Tea Partiers and FOX commentator Glenn Beck. The biggest distinction between these rallies and the Rally to Restore Sanity (RRS) is that Stewart and Colbert’s efforts weren’t not meant to be taken seriously. The message, if any, was that people of all political persuasions need to chill out in their political rhetoric and work more towards finding common ground than building barriers. This may seem out of reach for extremists on the fringes but the crowd on the Washington Mall this last Saturday clearly set the tone for those contrasts to modify their hate.
The bulk of the RRS rally was pure entertainment with music and comedy skits. Legends like Yusif, formerly known as Cat Stevens, Mavis Staples, the Ojays and Ozzie Ozbourne co-mingled with today’s musical sensations of John Legend, Jeff Tweedy, Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow and the band “Roots”. Awards by both Stewart for his Sanity theme and Colbert for his Fear premise were presented to people who represented practices that reflect both things that unite and divide us. It was an appropriate appeal to our nation where the polarization between Americans is perhaps greater than it was during the Civil War.
If there was a focus of someone or some thing where scorn was aimed at, it was the media itself. Rightfully so too because as it turned out mainstream media news outlets like ABC, CBS and NPR refused to cover the story for fear of how it would be viewed by their audiences. And yes, they were one of the recipients of Stephen Colbert’s Fear awards. A montage of news clips was displayed during the program showing the coverage of events throughout the last two years that broadcasters and pundits presented in hyperbole form, one trying to outdo the other in fantastic style, with no doubt the aim being to score in the ratings markets.
The end of the event was closed out not by a kumbaya moment or a charged atmosphere to “take our country back” but what came across as a rationale appeal for all of us to measure our commitment in terms of sensible reality rather than emotional zealotry. Feeling strongly about something does not require irrational behavior and character assassination towards those we disagree with. An honest person will concede that there will always be differences between people, even those who they tend to be on the same side with. But that same person will realize that extreme measures usually are more defeating than successful. Stewart’s most salient point to sum up what this rally symbolized was when he said “If we amplify everything, we hear nothing”.
It’s a cogent point and illustrates that though most of our confrontations originate out of fear they are enhanced because we simply don’t listen closely to how and what people are saying. Too many tend to reserve their patient mode only for those whose job it appears to be to perpetuate our hate and ignorance of things we feel threatened by. In this regard the media has become a co-conspirator in the discord that has grid locked our legislative bodies and fostered a dark mood so deep among some people that “taking up second amendment rights” seems to be the only option left.
Many may disagree that this was not a promotional effort to get people to vote for one Party over the other. I suspect this view will be voiced most by those who feel threatened that reason and logic will subtract from their message of hate. Sanity is not a political Party however. It merely suggests that you make decisions based on facts that can be verified and take actions that help more people than they hurt. This will require time away from the usual crowds that you associate with but history has shown us that when people are motivated by fear and hate their own survival is put at risk and reclaiming the values of justice and equality are lost for very long times, if regained at all.