Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear Jon Stewart – Moment of Sincerity
Rally to Restore Sainty and/or Fear The Daily Show The Colbert Report
Do you want to know why I am here and what I want from you? I can only assure you of this: You have already given it to me. Your presence was what I wanted.
Sanity will always be and has always been in the eyes of the beholder, and to see you here today, and the kind of people that you are, has restored mine.
With these words, Jon Stewart wrapped up his Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington DC yesterday afternoon.
If images of division were at the root of the political malaise of these times, then Stewart’s rally was a suitable palliative. His metaphor of America — the willingness of drivers to give way to one another as they enter the Lincoln Tunnel — fittingly represents the civility of American society. Indeed, many Americans who travel overseas for the first time may well be surprised to discover that despite this country’s reputation for being brash and uncultured, its population turns out to be among the world’s most mild-mannered as they conduct themselves in daily life.
“The country’s 24-hour-politico-pundit-perpetual-panic-conflictinator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder.”
“If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”
“The image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false.”
OK. So Americans aren’t doing such a bad job at getting along. And the image of American society ripped apart by political polarization is a distortion. Where do these observations get us?
Another way of saying this is to say that Americans no longer live in a representative democracy. We are not represented in Congress or in the media.
But Stewart says he feels good — good knowing that the America he sees, is radically different from the twisted representation that the media conveys. His rally thus ended as an America-affirmation event with the chants “U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A…”
Still, what he, and no doubt many of those gathered with him in Washington yesterday represent, may be a different kind of political malaise: that in which it is possible to make astute observations about the problems we face and yet feel comfortable in doing nothing more than make these observations.
The America that is getting along, dealing with the problems it faces is also an America that has turned away from many of the problems of its own making.
A decade of conflict in which hundreds of thousands have died has persisted precisely because massive slaughter could so easily be shut out of American consciousness.
Assessing the political significance of rallies in Washington invariably comes down to crunching the numbers — doing the body count. The good news from yesterday is that Jon Stewart seems to have much stronger crowd appeal than Glenn Beck — though with New York City so close by, Stewart clearly had a home team advantage.
But for me, another comparison comes to my mind — that being with the only rally I’ve attended in Washington, which happened to be at exactly the same time of year, late October, eight years ago. Fewer than half as many people showed up to protest against an imminent war against Iraq — and that was at a point when the antiwar movement had growing vitality.
How many would show up now to call for American troops to be pulled out of Afghanistan and Iraq? A rally in March drew, by the organizers’ own estimation, a mere 10,000 people.
Is America really at greater risk from the false image that it is being ripped apart by polarization, or, from the fact that its political torpor persists with so little comment?