The Rally to Restore Sanity

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? 

Nothing, yet!

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.

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Having Character vs Being a Character

Someplace along the line having character and being a “character” has become confused and even interchangeable.   This is seen in the world of entertainment naturally; however, politics, and even the clergy seems to have joined in.

 Lady Gaga is the prime example in the entertainment industry.  She represents a trend in society that is questionable but not a new thing.  Her skills as a singer are marginal and the lyrics to her songs are superficial at best; however, in the true tradition of the “bad boy, bad girl” image she is tops.  From singing on stage skimpily clad while hanging upside down from a trapeze to accepting awards in a dress made of meat, shock image is the most important part of her presentation.  Shocking, not really–absurd and adolescent, yes.   Even her claims that the dead artist, Andy Warhol, is speaking with her from his grave and directing her life is a ploy to increase her fame through shock value and it seems to be working.  Her following is huge and her MTV awards are plenty.  Being a “character” works for her because a good number of people who follow her are at an impressionable age and are battling with the issue of whether to have character or be characters.    And of course there are those who dig her because she is so far out that she’s the in thing.  However, being the in thing does not equate to excellence.  Speaking of meat, MacDonald’s Big Mac was the in thing at one time but nobody would pronounce it as excellent or memorable.

 Time is the true test of excellence.  If I mention Lady Day, Billie Holliday is instantly remembered.  Her drug addiction is a sad sidebar to her career while the excellence of her music is the primary reason she is remembered.  “God Bless the Child” is a classic and always will be and “Strange Fruit” is a powerful social commentary that Billie adapted to music from a poem.  Her music was entertaining and more.  If I say Joni, Joni Mitchell is instantly brought to mind.  “Big Yellow Taxi”, “Both Sides Now” and “Woodstock” are a permanent part of the music world.   Her inteeigent lyrics, unique singing voice and ability to do a variety of types of music add to her persona.  There was no need for breast exposing outfits and other forms of sensationalism to make her a musical name.  Unlike Lady Gaga, both Billie and Joni have a distinctive voice that separates them from the pack and makes them emulated by others.  On the male side, Bob Dylan who was a “character” with character will be remembered long after the Gaga era has passed and the only thing she is remembered for her meat dress, if even that.  Plainly, there is no reason to go gaga over Gaga as an entertainer and she definitely does not present herself as a Lady. 

 In the political arena, Sarah Palin is the perfect example of someone who’d rather be a character than have character with the end goal of garnering notoriety and wealth.  Her run for the vice-presidency as well as her half term as the governor of Alaska was her stepping stone into the world of money and fame, or infamy depending on your point of view.   Once again the question becomes, how does somebody as blatantly self-serving as Palin become the darling of even a small percentage of the people; darling enough to sway voters and even to have a clone in the likes of Christine O’Connell?  With the hallmark of shallow thinking, superficial ideas, cutesy remarks, smiles and even a wink, Palin reveals her true lack of character in her ceaseless, almost racist attacks on President Obama in the past and at present.  From her remarks during his presidential campaign about Obama “palling around with terrorists” to her “It’s time to take our country back” tea party rhetoric in reference to his presidency, Palin manages to infer that a man who is her superior in terms of intellect, concern for the common person, and concern for the welfare of the country is unfit to be President because he is not an American-just one of those people.    Her constant invoking of God as her co-conspirator is at best tiring and at worst hypocrisy.  Her Christian values are sketchy at best, that is not unless twisting the truth or outright lying have become a part of the doctrine and the cross was recently changed to a dollar sign as a symbol of Christianity. 

 Christine O’Connell is just as bad.  She is more interested in making a name for herself than representing the people of Delaware.  Additionally, she has probably alienated Woody Allen as a supporter because of her position on masturbation, one of the hot political issues of the times.  Allen who once said, “Don’t knock masturbation; it’s sex with someone I love,” would probably have a hard time supporting her.

 The nut cases who lack character are crawling out of the woodwork these days in the quasi news world.  From Hannity to Limbaugh to Glen Beck take your pick.  The story is always the same with a few twists and turns to add spice but Glen Beck, another would be spokesman who has been ordained by God to save the world, is the epitome of the lot.  His recent gathering at the Lincoln Memorial entitled “Restoring Honor” which was according to Beck unintentionally scheduled to happen on the forty seventh anniversary of the Martin Luther King “I have a Dream” speech was initiated by God.  According to Beck, he had no idea that Dr. King gave his speech on that day in 1963 and he claims it was “divine providence” that he chose that day.  Considering the theme of his gathering, “Restoring Honor,” and the fact that he has accused President Obama of being a racist and a non-Christian, and his further claim that he was trying to “reclaim” the civil rights movement, it is hard to believe that the event was nothing more than Beck’s ploy to gain more notoriety and fame at the expense of others.  Character be damned.  Accompanied by Sarah Palin and 70,000 or so members of the Tea Party, Beck’s lack of character was clearly shown.  When Dr. King spoke, his speech was for a just cause and his words were heart felt.  Beck’s cause of “reclaiming the civil right movement” coupled with the Tea Party’s “take our county back” refrain clearly defines Beck’s motives and lack of character.

 Invoking God as the mover and shaker behind actions that are questionable is not a new thing.  It is a convenient thing, especially if you are a minister of a small Protestant parish in Florida who for some reason decided that being a character is more important than having character.  Terry Jones invoked the will of God as his motivation for announcing that he would burn a Koran to protest the evils of terrorism and Islam and his threat caused a worldwide stir.  Many feared that this burning would provoke further terrorist actions and more deaths.  Jones made his threats shortly after the publication of a book he wrote entitled Islam is of the Devil, a blatant attack on Islam which according to many critics is not only inaccurate in its facts but is poorly written in general.  Cynics might connect the book’s publication and the Koran burning stunt as an effort to increase sales and notoriety.  Some might say, it’s sort of like wearing a “meat dress” to garner attention.  But would a man of God do something as low as this just for money and fame?  Ask the others of his ilk.

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