Last Saturday 250,000 people gathered on the Washington Mall for the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, hosted by comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. I think it’s fair to say that many of us were not sure why we were there. Were we making a political statement? Were we there to laugh? Didn’t we have anything better to do?
Rally signs were indicative of the unusual and uncertain circumstances that brought us together. Slogans included: “I like Turtles.” “I support the sign I’m holding.” “Say no to hate, say yes to pancakes.”
NPR called it a “Protest of the Absurd” but I think they got it backward. It was an absurd protest for a lot of people who are worn out from cynicism, political attack ads, and a news media that no longer distinguishes between news that matters and news that doesn’t. While the rally was indeed absurd and people attended for a number of reasons, I think there was a very sincere and important critique of the media being made. Stewart said it best when he stated, “If we amplify everything we hear nothing.”
Times are hard. We need jobs. We need to improve the economy. We need responsible media and elected officials. But on Saturday, more than anything, we needed a laugh. And, apparently, we were willing to travel hundreds of miles to get one.
Not only was the rally fun, but it was impressive beyond the jokes and the sheer number of people. The diversity was gratifying – young and old, of all races and religions, from the left, right and center. It felt good to feel some unity.
“We know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light, we have to work together,” Jon Stewart said. “And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land. Sometimes it’s just New Jersey. But we do it anyway, together.”
As my friend Shannon and I were leaving the rally to meet up with friends Lena and Eugene for the ride back to NYC , I was taken with a sign featuring a quote from the farcical 1980s movie Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. It said, “Be excellent to each other.” Silly sign. Strong message. A combination perfectly analogous to the event. Thank you, and be kind.