Rally to restore sanity?

Did I mention the crowds?

I arrived at Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity just as it started. It was huge, so thronged with people that we weren’t anywhere near speakers, and couldn’t hear a thing on the stage. The Guardian estimated that  250,000 people turned up but there may have been far more.

I’m not yet sure what I think about Stewart and Colbert’s comedic call of the American people toward reason. In many ways it was a historic event. It was stunning to see such a crowd, and the fact that so many people turned up is in itself a statement, for humour reflects a society’s fears (as any student of Aristophanes could tell you), and clearly a swathe of Americans is against political polarization.

It was also intriguing and somewhat sweet to see who participated. The group was mixed, including older people and young. Could it be our Woodstock, as one commentator suggested? It seemed rather more tame. The atmosphere was carnivalesque and festive, the mood benign.

An Obama supporter

The middle-aged may have been the most under-represented group. Stewart had said he wanted to reach people who don’t usually have time to attend rallies, “normal” people with kids and families, who are just living their lives (“not so much the Silent Majority as the Busy Majority,” he wrote on Facebook). The day before the rally I chatted to just one such person: a married man with two children, who lived in Washington. He was interested in the rally, but didn’t have time to go.

I watched Stewart’s twelve-minute peroration on Youtube afterwards, and although he criticized the media (which is fair enough) it had no real political or activist element. For that reason I doubt if the rally will give much of a boost to the Democrats. There was no talk of voting or participation. This is a pity, perhaps even a tragedy. The next day Obama was in Cleveland, Ohio, for his own rally, speaking before a thin crowd. I wonder how historians will assess these events in years to come.

Comedy is important — it tells us a lot about ourselves. At a time like this, it seems a way of shirking responsibility, revelling in a temporary retreat from the world. The Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert rally was certainly fun, but it occurred on a weekend when there really are things to worry about. Without being too scare-mongery, there simply are things to fear.

My pics of the day are below. Another blogger, Nua Eabhrac, sent me this link, which has many more great images.

A comment on healthcare: one of my favs

A sadder comment on healthcare

St. Jon

A gorgeous day

Actually risking life and limb

I've never seen so many people in trees

I sort of liked these guys


Pointed signs

Religious groups were present in large numbers

9 Responses to “Rally to restore sanity?”
  1. What a great insight into the pros – and significant cons – of this rally. It does feel a bit like preaching to the converted or a giant party, and what a shame to have taken people out of action. I find the US system deeply confusing; read a comment from some Democrat pundit that said that having Congress controlled by Republicans could be a positive for Obama as it would give him a sparring partner a la Newt Gingrich. Makes no sense to me!

    • Frieda says:

      Thanks for the comment, QoP! The US system is really crazy and impenetrable — I’m only beginning to understand it. According to some (real) clips shown on The Daily Show, some Democrats were actually boasting that they’d voted against Obama, in order to distance themselves from him and seduce voters … I’m not sure if they were referring to the 2008 election, in which case they’d have chosen not to vote for their own party, or to the primary contest with Hilary Clinton. Either way, such open disavowal of their leader — one who is quite impressive — seems rather tragic to me.

  2. Paul says:

    I imagine the opposite rally in Ireland – a call to getting angry, polarized, and less middle of the road?

  3. nuaeabhrac says:

    excellent! how I wish I could have attended!

  4. Frieda says:

    Hello Nua Eabhrac! It was fun, and a pity you couldn’t attend. It’s only a four-hour ($35) bus journey from New York to Washington. The fashion wasn’t much to write home about (though there was some great fancy dress), but the signs were fun.

  5. Frieda says:

    Those buzzfeed photos are great! Thanks for passing on the link, I’ll add it it to the main body of my blog. I assumed you lived in NY because your website said you were at NYU (I also studied there for a while) …

    • nuaeabhrac says:

      glad you liked the link! I lived in NY for two years and just came back, did a Master’s in NYU (isn’t it fabulous…) and now I’m really beginning to miss it. For the moment, though, I’ll content myself with living vicariously through your blog posts 🙂

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