Sunday, October 31, 2010

Reflections on the Rally to Restore Sanity

So ... why, exactly, did I go to the Rally to Restore Sanity? The only answer I have is, “Because Jon Stewart asked me to!” For at least the last 6 or 7 years I’ve relied on Jon Stewart and The Daily Show to be the voice of reason and to restore my faith in the general United States population whenever it wavered. When Glenn Beck called President Obama a racist, there was Jon Stewart making it laughable. When Keith Olbermann called Republican Scott Brown "an irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model”, there was Jon Stewart the next night with a parody. When everyone was pointing fingers during the financial meltdown, there was Jon Stewart hammering Jim Cramer of Mad Money who openly encouraged short-selling by hedge funds as a means to generate profits. And when President Obama inexplicably stated that the Cambridge police acted “stupidly” when they arrested Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates as he tried to break in to his own home, Jon Stewart commented, “I also don't have all the facts, but I think it's fair to say that Obama handled that question -- oh, what's the word I'm looking for -- stupidly?"

That’s the truly refreshing thing about Jon Stewart: he plays no favorites. To be sure, he’s a liberal Democrat, but he will skewer anybody or anything that is idiotic, illogical, or just plain stupid, whether it’s the NYC mosque hysteria, the ponderous speaking of John Kerry, Rick Sanchez having himself tased on CNN, John McCain’s willingness to backtrack on any issue in order to stay elected, or NPR’s firing of Juan Williams. After watching an episode of The Daily Show I usually find myself thinking, “Yes! People do get it, they do recognize the insanity! Things aren’t so bad …

So when Jon Stewart suggested a rally at the National Mall for anyone who was frustrated and/or disgusted by the insanity of our national discourse, I knew I had to be there. And I’m damn glad that I went! While it couldn’t possibly compare to the historic Inauguration of Barack Obama almost two years ago, it had the same underlying vibe. The Metro was packed, there were crowds of people marching in the streets, everyone was happy and smiling, and a good time was had by all.

Surprisingly (and noteworthy!), the Rally did not target any specific personalities of the far left or far right. Not Glenn Beck, not Sarah Palin, not Keith Olbermann, not Rush Limbaugh, not Nancy Pelosi, not Christine O'Donnell, not George Bush … not even Joe the Plumber! Instead, ideas were attacked, intolerance was attacked, and inciting baseless fear was attacked, using comedy sketches, video montages and, in one case, a “poem”. Like The Daily Show, it was both funny and deadly serious.

Jon Stewart ended with a short speech that did a great job of summarizing why over 200,000 people traveled to the National Mall on a Saturday afternoon in October. If you haven’t seen it, click here and view it on the Comedy Central website. It's the clip labeled "Jon Stewart - Moment of Sincerity" and it’s worth hearing.


  1. Paul, You are really such a talented author...I did get to watch much of the Rally later that evening on CSPAN. Truly inspirational! I don't know (computerize) if I can print out your blog entry, but I'm going to try. See you on Sara's Baby Shower Day! With much love, Annie

  2. This is why I waited a week, to hear a down to earth, fair minded report of what occurred-which you captured brilliantly. As your report indicated, what occured that day was less important than why. I think the next two years are going to get very ugly. I think there are many people looking for the President to fail, more so they can put him in his place than to gain power. Is it racial, maybe, maybe not. I think some are threatened by the factt that we have an intelligent person who has the capacity to deal with multiple things at one time who is more like a college professor than a rock star. I think this scares people, especially those who want simple answers to complex problems.
    And the writing was a nice piece of work besides....