I was at the “Rally to Restore Sanity.” The crowd didn’t appear to rival the Beck crowd, it was overwhelmingly larger. There were over two hundred thousand people there according to many estimates. People started arriving early in the morning (I arrived at 9:00 a.m. and the crowd by the main stage was already quite large) and continued to stream in well past noon when the rally officially started. The National Mall which is approximately 1 mile by a ¼ mile in dimension was jam packed at the stage/video screen end and just crowded from the middle to the Washington Monument end. The crowd was mixed with many seniors, middle aged people and young people of all races though predominantly white. It was also diverse and sported signs about many different social issues from legalization of marijuana, ending war in Afghanistan, to boycotting the winter Olympics of 2014 in Sochi which will also be the 150th commemorative year of the Circassian Genocide. Their sign caught my attention because I did not know anything about Circassia, where it was even, or the issue, so I asked. These young protestors were eager to help out and explained that it located in Caucasus and was taken over by the Russians in 1863 when the genocide started. They also indicated that holding the Olympics there at this time “represents the perpetual celebration of Imperial Russia’s oppression and systematic murder of the Circassian People. Building the Olympic Village over the mass graves of the victims symbolizes the virtual erasing of this atrocity!” (click here for more information)
I was pleased to see these and the other young protestors there. I was also extremely pleased to see and appreciated the decorum with which the Rally attendees handled the “intruders” from the far right who came wearing their tea bag adorned hats and carrying signs of intolerance and hate with the obvious intent to stir things up. Ignoring blatant provocation shows true character. I am sure that the Tea Party militants were quite disappointed by the lack of enthusiasm for their “bad boy” attitude by a very tolerant and realistic group of people who basically ignored their presence.
The entertainment was fun. The “train” sequence highlighted by Yusuf formerly known as Cat Stevens singing “Peace Train”, Ozzy Osbourne in his rendition of “Crazy Train” and The O’Jays singing “Love Train” was hilarious but really emphasized the Rally’s theme of reasonable behavior between people even if your views are opposite. (click here to view) After seeing this piece (or is it “peace” from my perspective) I thought of the scene at the end of “The American President” where President Andrew Shepherd says:
America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the “land of the free.”
On a personal note about “words make your blood boil,” I was told a “joke” about President Obama by a Tea Party member who I recently met. I mention it here as an example of the hate rhetoric that is unfortunately generated by the extreme right which provoked Stewart and Colbert to stage their rally. The joke goes:
What does Obama have in common with Lincoln and Kennedy?
The teller of the joke was very proud of it because it was his original joke. Needless to say, my level of restraint was tested by this so called American citizen’s creativity. There is no humor in hoping for the assassination of a president, no matter who the president is or what they stand for.
Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert made their point very clear during the rally. Restoring sanity is a must if our country is survive and become prosperous again. Although their agenda for the rally was not to be political and not to use the mid-term elections as a be all and end all imperative for restoring sanity, the feeling I received from speaking with some of the attendees was that to them it was. Some indicated that they had already voted by absentee ballots and had voted straight Democratic even though they normally pick and choose their candidates from both parties. Others said that they were planning on being home by Tuesday to vote and were going to vote for candidates who would help the President with his imperatives.
All in all, the rally was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon especially in Washington DC. Visiting the buildings of the Smithsonian and seeing the various exhibits and realizing that our history indicates that change is inevitable and is a necessity. The forces of the conservative right seem to want things to remain the same and to even go backwards to the “good old days” when things were “right.” Unfortunately, the right they endorse was a right for the few and wrong for the many. The change provoked by the left sometimes goes astray but for the most part in my opinion has been the mainstay of the progress that our nation has made over the years. The change back to sanity that the rally desired to promote is one of those changes that I hope will be looked back at as an important step in the right direction.