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Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear Inspired

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I’d like to tell you what it felt like to be at the Rally to Restore Sanity and / or Fear, but it’s difficult to convey in words. I’m sure by now many of you have seen the bad reviews. As I had a hard time seeing and hearing things at the rally, I watched my TiVo recording of the entire thing last night, and was disappointed by much of the content. Yep, it was boring, at times awkward, and mostly music. I could give you the rundown on everything that happened, but you can find that elsewhere. Suffice it to say, if you were judging on the event only on what went on onstage, you would be disappointed.


But as usual, the truth is far more nuanced, and this was one of those occasions where you just had to be there. To be packed in with 215,000 other people was amazing. The excitement was thick. Everyone was smiling. No one was shoving. People were polite and reasonable, as the Jon Stewart asked them to be. Some people brought signs and stickers that they were passing out free to others. It was a big feeling of community. You really got the sense that the attendees were there because they believed in the Sanity message, not Fear, and certainly not some overly radical political agenda.


Sure, that number of attendees has been debated. Estimates range for 200,000-250,000, though 215,000 seems to be the number most media outlets have gone with. I’m sure FOX puts it at much lower number. Their reviews talked about ‘political radicals’ and ‘backlash against the tea party’. Sure, I only saw a small fraction of the crowd, but I can assure you, most signs were not politically motivated on either side. Most were just plain fun. Throughout this article, you’ll see some of the pictures I took, and they are much more representative than what you may have heard from that famously-biased news network. Ok, let the negative commenting below begin.


I can tell you, the spirit of hope was everywhere. It was like the best days of President Obama’s campaign. Eating the provided continental breakfast at the full-booked hotel outside of D.C. (from which it took nearly an hour to get downtown), people all around me were talking about heading to the Rally, and what it meant to them. From first thing that morning, there was already something in the air, and it was coming from that far away.


What was happening onstage wasn’t all bad, though. Jon Stewart gave out medals for Sanity, and he made some really great choices from recent news stories. One went to the young man that took the Koran from the guy who wanted to burn it. Another went to the pitcher who lost a perfect game to a bad call from an umpire.

As some have said, Stephen Colbert’s place, and Fear itself, was for comic relief. While there have been complaints about the reduced, unbalanced role, it was definitely appropriate. Colbert’s show, which I love, is one big joke. He is a satiric pundit, whose purpose is to make one side of the aisle look ridiculous, and play a character with a huge ego. He served that purpose just fine at the rally. Colbert certainly has his place, but if he had been given too much focus, and his character’s opinions (Colbert’s opinions are much more sane) allowed to be legitimized, it would have undermined what was going on there.

Finally, Jon Stewart’s speech was beyond mesmerizing. He really captured the spirit of not only the people gathering in D.C. to see him, but a whole lot of Americans out there fed up with what’s happening. Below is part of the content of that speech, to give you an idea of what his message truly was. After you’ve read it, I’m sure there will be little doubt what Stewart is about, and why the Rally needed to be held at all:

“I can’t control what people think this was. I can only tell you my intentions. This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith or people of activism or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies.

But unfortunately one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The country’s 24 hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying up to our problems bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous flaming ant epidemic.

If we amplify everything we hear nothing. There are terrorists and racists and Stalinists and theocrats but those are titles that must be earned. You must have the resume. Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Partiers or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez is an insult, not only to those people but to the racists themselves who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate – just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe not more. The press is our immune system. If we overreact to everything we actually get sicker. And perhaps eczema.

And yet, with that being said, I feel good—strangely, calmly good. Because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us through a fun house mirror, and not the good kind that makes you look slim in the waist and maybe taller, but the kind where you have a giant forehead and an a** shaped like a month old pumpkin and one eyeball.

So, why would we work together? Why would you reach across the aisle to a pumpkin a**ed forehead eyeball monster? If the picture of us were true, of course, our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable. Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own? We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is — on the brink of catastrophe — torn by polarizing hate and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day!

The only place we don’t is here or on cable TV. But Americans don’t live here or on cable TV. Where we live our values and principles form the foundations that sustains us while we get things done, not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done. Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives. Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do — often something that they do not want to do — but they do it – impossible things every day that are only made possible by the little reasonable compromises that we all make…

[People must get along when traffic merges.] …And they do it. Concession by concession. You go. Then I’ll go. You go. Then I’ll go. You go then I’ll go.Oh my God, is that an NRA sticker on your car? Is that an Obama sticker on your car? Well, that’s okay—you go and then I’ll go…

…If you want to know why I’m here and want I want from you, I can only assure you this: you have already given it to me. Your presence was what I wanted.

Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder. To see you here today and the kind of people that you are has restored mine. Thank you.”


Hearing those words, it was impossible not to be moved. No matter what your political views, most of us are reasonable, and want to find ways to get along. Most of us are willing to work with the other side of the aisle, and most of us do not demonize the people who disagree with us? How can we? They are our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncle, cousins, siblings, friends. My family was almost perfectly split down the middle in 2008. I’m sure it wasn’t the only one.

No one can tell yet what effect the rally might have on today’s mid-term elections. Likely, that effect will never be known. Will Stewart have mobilized millions of people to go out and vote, based on his audience, mostly young liberals? Will he have reached people on both sides to bring the candidate who they feel will most likely bring a real American spirit of compromise? I think the Rally definitely inspired many, although to what extend, I can’t be sure.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com
  • Glenn Contrarian

    Didja hear that pundits on Fox News were complaining about there being ‘more pockets of animosity at the rally than at any Tea Party rally’?

    Actually, there probably was in one (and only one) spot – around the Faux News van, since accuracy and facts are not real high on their priority list and most people there know just how duplicitous Faux News tends to be.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    I envy you for actually being there, Jerome. As you point out, as a TV show it was mostly a snooze — rarely or never the case with The Daily Show or The Colbert Report.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    I’m not trying to piss on your parade, Jerome, but here’s an alternative account of so-called rallies, whether from the Left or the Right.

    If you’ll find it shocking, Jerome, yes, it was meant to be. Advanced apologies to Glenn and Handy, but then again, they no longer expect any better from your truly

  • Christine Tuttle

    The feeling of unity at the rally was visceral. It was exactly what I needed for some sanity and hopefully what the country needed for some healing of the great divide that has pervaded recent times.

    Please look for The Movement to Restore Unity on Facebook. The rally was an experience of Americans who united in support of a civil discourse. We want to take it further and spread the unity. United we stand; divided we fall.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/jeromewetzeltv/ Jerome Wetzel

    I took a look at your link, Roger. I’m not saying there aren’t legitimate arguments in it, because there are, but it’s such a cynical view! Perhaps things will never be the way we want them in politics, but they never have been, either. It’s not something we lost. Any growth has plenty of growing pains. I choose to take the more optimistic outlook that things work out. I’ll enjoy the hamburger and overlook how it gets made, even while advocating for the ingredients I’d like to see used.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Rog –

    Please take this warning that like anything else, too much cynicism is a bad thing. I have yet to see a happy camper who is cynical about much of the world.

    Moderation in all things, Rog.

    As for myself, the glass is always half full, for the world is far, far better than it was when we were young…and if we can avoid or (if we have to) abide overarching dangers like global warming or a similar worldwide catastrophe, the world’s going to get better. Bad things always happen…but so do good things…and the good guys always win eventually.

    Life sucks only when one has no hope. Find good reasons to hope, and your cynicism will lessen…and you’ll be a happier man, I promise.

  • Zedd

    I loved the idea behind this rally. For those of us who couldn’t attend the idea meant a lot. For several years now many of us have been stunned, simply astonished at the strange developments that were unfolding. The consequences of the bizarreness were exploding all around us and the perpetrators stand wagging fingers at god knows who and their supporters actually organize themselves to stand up against god knows what but some how its suppose to mean something great and patriotic.

    So yes, some of us just needed to know that there are others who think “WHAT THE HECK”!

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    I watched much of it on the tube. Some of it was kinda lame. I like Colbert as well, but, I think his right wing persona actually worked against the message – it was more awkward than funny. Much of the writing was uninspired at best.

    I enjoyed most of the music and, of course, Stewart’s speech was eloquent. When it comes down to it, it was really a bigger undertaking than the Stewart/Colbert people were capable of pulling off.

    Nevertheless, I wish my wife and I could have been there. It would have been fun, I’m sure. Just so long as we both had an ample supply of Depends.

    As to the effect the rally had on today’s election? I’d say pretty much none at all. As predicted, the Reps have swept into control of the House. They are all agog. At this juncture (about 10:40PM edt) it appears that the Dems will hold the Senate, but with less of a majority than before. Of course the Reps believe that they are going to march back to DC and undo all of the achievements of the past 20+ months. They may chip away at it, but I can’t imagine that they will be able to muster many veto proof bills. We’ll see.

    Frankly, I doubt seriously that anything will get done over the next 2 years. There will be NO bipartisanship. I also believe that the pendulum will have swung back by then – at least enough to insure Obama’s second term. For that, we will also have to wait and see.

    I hope you righties don’t wet yourselves after drinking all that Kool-Aid – or uh, tea.

    B

  • Doug Hunter

    Idiocracy in action. Why go stand outside to be told what to think by a couple of buffoons?

  • Zedd

    Baritone,

    The Republicans have already told America what they intended to do. They came out with another gimmicky contract (lame) with no substance and all platitudes. When they were begged to come up with a solution for the economy after months of thumbing down at anything that was being proposed, they produced non solutions.

    They have had other opportunities to impact the country and the economy, they never produce. They will spend the next two years talking about Republicanness and probably win more seats (cause we are pretty dumb). They will get all happy and will as much as possible to the free market (their friends) and we will have another mess to clean up a few years later, IF we recover enough. Or they’ll do nothing at all (other than of course scream out the platitudes to keep the dumb masses energized… eye roll) because no one knows what to do to fix this. I am sure they are ecstatic that they don’t have the White House and Congress because then they’d have to fix this mess (that they created).

  • zingzing

    doug, you’ve clearly missed the joke. if someone is going to something like that, do you think they’re going to be told anything new? besides, they were quite obviously there solely to one-up glen beck.

    also, tell the to mlk and all the people he spoke to, but just don’t do it at the same place and on the same date that he did it. then claim ignorance. after you’ve claimed to be a scholar of american history.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    The fact that anyone could believe that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are in the business of “telling people what to think” is baffling and hilarious. Stewart and Colbert point out what is ridiculous in politics [and elsewhere] and invite us to share a joke at absurdity’s expense.

    Stewart did give a ‘serious speech’ at the end of the rally, but it was still full of humor and self-deprecation. And to the extent that some of us have complained about the rally, it was that the content was safe and a bit vapid compared to the often brilliant TV series the two host every night. But not preachy.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Example: in the first 10 minutes of tonight’s show, Stewart accomplished more by finding hilarious election night clips than any of the news networks managed to do, without jokes, in 10 hours or whatever of coverage on Tuesday.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/jeromewetzeltv/ Jerome Wetzel

    Handyguy, you are absolutely right about their wonderful shows. I saw one review of the rally saying that Stewart was there just to raise his popularity. For anyone that has actually watched an episode of Jon Stewart, it was laughable. He seems quite content where he is, and even baffled by his popularity and fame. He will frequently say that he is a comedian, and you should watch ‘real news’ if you want information. The thing is, you get as much real news from him among the humor than from anyone else.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Yet another take on the spectacle aspect of American politics, the comedic aspect, and rallies.

  • Ken

    It was like Woodstock with erectile dysfunction. I couldn’t believe how lame this event was. Good thing I like DC b/c traveling from Texas, as many on the plane apparently were doing, just to see this show would have been a huge let down. If you liked it, you are beyond being a fanboy with cult-like dishonesty. It was a miserable show. The VIP section was ridiculously uncrowded and the rest of us could’t see or hear. I am sure Glen Beck had his stuff together better than this. I was embarrassed for them, especially that God awful Myth Busters segment that had me darting out of the crowd to flee this ridiculous stupidity. By the time I exited the event Ozzy and Yusuf were in thier stupid train fiasco and the Ojays just hit the stage. The only thing good about it was that I got to see probably the best, no-hassel tour of the inside of the Capital one could ever expect. Everyone was outside and the tour was just perfect.

  • Zedd

    Ken,

    Something is suspect about your post. The people that went didnt go to be entertained, they went for the gag or to make a statement.

    I don’t think you are/were a fan in the first place were you?

  • Rob

    The thing that most troubles me, is that too many people will never see that this rally speaks to a deep-rooted American issue. We are so caught up on trees. This politician did this and this one did that. This party believes this, and this party always does that. That was the whole point. Its not about which party is better or not. Its about which people are corrupt and our inability to see past the dog and pony show to recognize it. The smoke and mirrors. The loud voices and opinions. All distractions and misdirection. And what’s worse is that we watch these “conflictinator” news shows and buy in. Sheep forever moving through the forest, unaware of it’s existence, happy to see the trees.