Monday, November 1, 2010
Rally to Restore Sanity
I attended the John Stewart and Stephen Colbert Rally to Restore Sanity this weekend in downtown Washington, DC. It's not my first foray to the National Mall for a political event though the general atmosphere for this was quite different. When Stewart encouraged "indoor voices" at the event, people did abide by that recommendation. There was no yelling or fist pumping of any kind. Statements were made by signs or simple claps of agreement during various portions of the Rally.
Attendance wildly exceeded my expectations. Streets had to be closed and metro ridership increased by 330,000. In fact, here's a picture of a major downtown street, completely shut down by human traffic:
And here's one of the crowd:
Overall it was a great day. Cat Stevens played "Peace Train" while Ozzie Osbourne tore through the stage and began playing "Crazy Train" as a kind of musical counterpoint. Kid Rock was there to sing a duet with Sheryl Crow and The Roots played, among others. The weather was beautiful and sunny and in the backdrop was the Washington Monument.
John Stewart and Stephen Colbert were their usual hilarious, witty, and intelligent selves. They boasted this of the rally: "Think of our event as Woodstock, but with the nudity and drugs replaced by respectful disagreement." And they had an important parting message: don't forget to vote.
In addition to standing on museum steps and lining the National Mall, attendees climbed trees and perched on traffic lights for a better view.
While laughing at Stewart's American flag Snuggie or their duet about how they represent everyone "from the gay men who like football to the straight men who like Glee," I couldn't help but take a step back and be amazed at just how active--and vocal--the public has become. It's a beautiful thing to see so many young people throw away complacency and become involved.
And as people emerged from the crowd back en route to their homes, signs that were previously tucked away to enable better visibility during the rally emerged en mass as a kind of silent protest--and closing arguments. Some were controversial, some were very politically loaded, one said, "Stop Justin Beiber" (which made me laugh though completely off topic), and others were general comments to the government at-large regardless of your affiliation like this one (another personal favorite of mine).
If you couldn't attend, you were missed. If you were there, I'm sure you'd agree my photographs can't possibly convey the general energy in the air and the palpable excitement of what's possible when people become proactive rather than reactive. I have to agree with Stewart and Colbert and say that this enthusiasm needs to be translated into tomorrow's election regardless of where you stand on the issues. Get up, go out, and vote! The general consensus of the rally was that there is nothing more American than this: the ability to peacefully assemble and the right to vote. Sure Colbert suggested the ability to eat hot dogs at baseball games and watch TBS marathons were also purely American pursuits but they won't create change.