Thoughts on the Rally to Restore Sanity

Reading time ~12 minutes

As if usual for these posts, this is going to be rambling and train of thought rather than something well put together and substantive. I think what I’ll do is describe my day to sort of recall what happened, and then hopefully the more important part, my thoughts and reactions, will come forward as I do so. Important being relative here, folks, this is my personal blog after all. ;-)

So, the night before as I was coming down on the train, I was following the twitter hash tag for the rally. There were tons of posts going up, and a lot of them were talking about how many people were going to be coming. Then there was facebook; 250k people had responded that they planned on attending. Now, it’s easy to discount a facebook RSVP, especially if you’re older and believe in the flightiness of the net generation. However, I think there is an earnestness to the facebook RSVP that a lot of people miss. It doesn’t mean that you WILL attend the event, but it does mean that you’re going to make a real good-faith effort to make it. Especially for something of this magnitude. This was gonna be huge, and people knew it, and they wanted to be a part of it.

The upshot of all this is that Elly and I were discussing what time to get moving in the morning. She had looked up how long the metro trip and the drive would take in the morning, and then estimated an h-hour from that. I was encouraging we leave earlier. We split the difference, which I wasn’t upset about at all since I’m still not a morning person. We could basically not have left any later and still made the rally. It was that close.

We got up, got moving, I left my camera behind on elly’s floor (mother fucker! I am SO pissed about that. Still.), stopped to eat breakfast at a dunkin’, the got on the road. I realized I forgot my camera about 10 minutes down the road. Elly offered to stop and turn around, but I said we should just press. And thank FSM I did, because an incredible site greeted us as we pulled into the metro station: a line that stretched a full 400 meters, 3-4 people wide, from the gates of the metro station. A line that was growing at about 10-20 meters a minute, even as the front of the line made reasonable progress into the station. I had known the event was going to be big, but this was really the first real indication of how big it was going to be.

We jumped out of the car and joined the line. It was already 50 or more meters longer than when we pulled up. An aging hip hippy came up behind us carrying a two sided sign. One side can be paraphrased as “repeating something 100 times does not make it true”. We had several good conversations, and he and I agreed that the toughest part of the whole thing was coming up with a sign that qualified for Jon Stewart’s version of reasonableness - a topic to which I’ll return.

After about 35 or 40 minutes, we boarded a train that packed itself to the gills, and the station we were at was the very first stop. I took my natural but recently discovered Bostonian assertiveness and managed to snag a couple of seats for us, which proved to be a worthwhile endeavor. More than half of the stations we passed from our origin to our destination were lined with people four, five, six deep. And the trains had filled right from their instantiation. Every now and again we saw people who clearly were just trying to go out about their business, who had no warning that there would be a gigantic event disrupting their lives by stealing away their transportation. I felt bad for them, but was excited and inspired by the sheer number of people headed in the general direction of the rally. Elly started txting her friend Ben, who had been intending on getting up around 10 and wandering down towards the rally to warn him not to bother. It was too late.

When got off the train, we had a slow walk as a single escalator tried to handle the gigantic crowd, further slowed by exit turnstiles that were non-operational, funneling half the crowd, including some folks in wheel-chairs, through a single exit lane that was NOT wide enough for the chairs. I think DC was a little surprised by the size of the event.

We walked down 7th to the tail end of the crowd, and joined the lines for the port-o-johns, which proved to be about a 30 or 40 minute endeavor. After, we joined the surging crowd, trying to get to a point where we could at least see a jumbo tron and hear the speakers. We threaded human needle after human needle before finally reaching a vantage point sufficiently within the audio-visual cone of the nearest jumbotron to catch most everything that was said.

The roots came on. They were entertaining for awhile. Eddie Izzard did NOT perform, which made me sad. The roots were good, but they lasted WAY too long. Next the Mythbusters came out, which was fun, although again, lasted a little too long. It was crazy, standing there and waiting in the crowd, how long the wave took to reach us given how little time it stayed around us. The male/female waves were silly. Elly made the pertinent and appropriate joke about how yes, everyone knows that men take less time than women. The bi-directional wave was pretty cool, especially since we were directly in the middle. I actually thought that the waves had canceled each other out, even though on the stage they were saying that they actually managed to cross. Still don’t know if I believe that, but maybe they fizzled and then reignited. I know I only raised my hands once for two waves. (Well, not entirely true, there were a couple of little bubble waves, but I don’t think they were the entire thing. ) I wondered what would’ve happened on the seismograph if we’d’ve actually set up a harmonic interval for the jumping. I think that would’ve been more fun and more worthwhile.

Some of the comedy skits were a bit lame, some were pretty good. Then the kid rock/sheryl crow duo came on.

First of all, let me just mention up front my feelings about Kid Rock up front. I don’t want this to be the primy focus of this section, so I’ll just say it gently as I’m able. Kid Rock sucks. He’s an idiot with no talent, and while his heart is apparently in the right place, his intellect is about as sharp as a a well sanded, round pointed stick. With padding. His song was all about really shitty false equivilance.

And I guess, in my rambling way, this is what is going to bring us to my biggest complaint about Stewart’s attempts to bring some semblance of sanity and reason back into the national conscious and conversation. False Equivilance. Stewart, as so many other self-proclaimed “moderates” do, always equate the left and the right. And it kills me every time. Somehow, even in the minds of the most rational, apolitical people, wanting to impeach Bush for all the constitution busting illegal things he did that killed people, and tortured people, and stole so fundamentally from our constitution and traditions is equivalent to wanting to impeach Clinton for a blow job. Somehow John Edwards and Elliot Spitzer, by themselves, are the functional equivalent to Vitter, Sanford, Craig, lesbian strip clubs, Ensign, Haggerdy, and the unbelievable hypocrisy of the republicans. Somehow ignoble and ineffective has-beens like James Carville are the equivilant of Glenn Beck. Somehow NPR is the “liberal” equivalent of Fox News. I cannot even begin to understand how anyone, let alone people who are very connected and intelligent can equate things like this. Stewarts montage showing Ed from the Ed show juxtaposed against Beck just rends my heart, because these things are not the same. Rational and logical, but passioned arguments from facts are simply not the same thing as making shit up and crying about it like Beck does. And deep down, it’s clear that Stewart knows this, which is why he spends so much more time mocking the much more deserving of mocking wingnuts. But he keeps trying to maintain this “fair and balanced” image among those who don’t pay attention, and in the end he ends up damaging the argument for rational discourse that he is the only major media figure making.

Then there was some other stuff, then Jon and Stephen had a debate under the auspicious title of “Formidable Opponent”, which is kind of a big deal, because Colbert has never allowed anyone but himself to be the Formidable Opponent. Something else about this. I feel like Colbert put a lot more on the line with this show than Stewart did. I don’t think he’ll suffer any negative effects from it, but the format and script for this is, essentially, that Colbert’s character, Stephen Colbert, lost. And admitted he lost. And for a character imitating the right wing nut jobs who don’t even know what self-reflection means, let alone have an ability to engage in it, that essentially means he broke character. Which is something he’s never done in a public setting, to my knowledge. I hope it was worth it.

Finally, we got Jon’s closing remarks. And this is the part that I really agree with, and it’s the part that I went for. Jon’s castigation was not for the American people, and it was only sort of for “the politicians”. It was very much for the media.

It was also, however, for the republicans. Even though, in his quest for equivalence, Jon would probably say that it was for all politicians, Democrats have bent over backwards, time and again, to their own detriment and flaw, to try and work with Republicans, and the republicans simply don’t give a fuck. They just refuse to do any work. They want everything broken, because that’s their only path to power. They know that no one likes them and no one ever votes FOR them. But they also know that by making democrats ineffective, they’ll get votes anyway. So here’s how “work” happens with republicans in congress, distilled down to the bare bones.

Democrats: “We need something. Let’s put 100 into it.” Republicans: “The free market will handle it, and we need lower taxes, and you’re ugly. 0” Democrats: “The free market needs a hand, and no one likes taxes, and we are ugly, so how about 50?” Republicans: “You look like curious george, and my mistress needs a new diamond ring, so 0”. Democrats: “That hooker of yours looks so good with that ring, your wife doesn’t even mind. And it’s ok you just made a racist comment, that’s just how you are. How about 15?” Republicans: “We’ll come to 5 for you baby killers.” Democrats: “Ok, 5 it is”

Vote happens.

Democrats: “It’s not perfect, but at least we’re doing something! 5 is better than nothing!” Republicans: “No, we wont’ for this. It sucks, we won’t with baby killers, and 5 is too small to do any good anyway” Democrats: “WTF? you said you’d vote for it” Republicans: “And you suckers believe me every time. You think I want this government shit to WORK? Hell no, I told you. I don’t want government to work. I want to kill it. The more ineffective I can make it, the more it proves that it’s ineffective”

And on and on, over and over again. And this is a major point that stewart makes. The rest of us sit down and get our shit done and make our jobs work even when we disagree with the people we work with, even when we could barely have a civil meal with them. But we have to get stuff done, and so we do. They don’t. And it’s hurting all of us, so badly. And then the media comes behind them and plays games and tries to make this look like the natural outcropping of what the rest of us are…but it isn’t. We do our work. We get shit done. The politicians are not us. They are a funhouse mirror reflection, and the media is the funhouse mirror, made by a bunch of evil clowns.

So what good will all of this do? What mass effect will this have?

Probably nothing. I don’t see any road by which this national revelation leads to sanity in the media or sanity in the republican electors. But it was nice to see such a huge demonstration.

What gets me is the gigantic failure of the free market. It is so damn clear that the people of this nation desire a news media organization that works on the same values of truth and fact that Jon Stewart does. And yet he remains the only tv personality with a national audience that actually consistently delivers. Ok, maybe not the ONLY one. Rachel Maddow does pretty well.

So for now, I’m burnt out on this. I might come back and add more later. One final note, for anyone that sees this on facebook: Please, if you get this far, click over to the blog before you comment. It’s not as immediate, but if there are reactions to this post, I’d rather they be captured under MY control on MY blog than on facebook. Thanks!

UPDATE 1: Oh yeah, I also wanted to comment on the relative sizes of the crowds. 215000 people is not just twice as many people as 87000. When you consider the effect of people on the facilities available, 215000 is a couple orders of magnitude more than 87000. DC facilities were stressed, as I understand it, by the Beck rally. They were completely overwhelmed by the Rally to Restore Sanity. There are A LOT of people who didn’t make it to the Rally itself because there was simply no more room, no more transport, and no more way for them to listen. Beck’s rally was as big as it was going to be. Stewart’s is much bigger than it was.

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