Reno held it’s own satellite Rally to Restore Sanity at Nu Yalk Pizza yesterday. We had Lady Democracy handing out pocket Constitutions, a poster contest*, and three hours of cannoli, coffee, pizza, and fun.
Sweetie had originally planned on going with me, but he had carpentry plans (building a winter shelter for the dogs on the deck), so before heading out to Reno I set the DVR to Comedy Central, so if he decided to step away from the television, or things went haywire in Reno, we’d still be able to watch the rally together later (which we wound up doing anyway).
The rally did not disappoint. I think the best review I’ve read of it so far, has been Mary Elizabeth Williams’ spot on analysis over at Salon.com:
The most spectacularly memorable bit of the event came far too early, but it was still one for the books. It would have been enough had it ended with Stewart bringing out Yusuf, the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens, to lead a lilting rendition of “Peace Train.” But the ante upped when Colbert had the audacity to cut him off to trot out Ozzy Osbourne to thoroughly bring it with everyone’s favorite ringtone for their designated lunatic, “Crazy Train.” But then something truly amazing happened. Stewart cut the action off again, and somewhere in the distance, the sound of “People all over the world …” was heard. It was the O’Jays, a little vocally worse for the wear but bedazzled and funky as ever, to finish off the greatest train-song medley trifecta in recorded history. “Love Train” was a punchline, yes. But if you didn’t feel a lump in your throat watching thousands of Americans on the Mall soulfully command us to join hands, then I feel sorry, sorry for you. That sweet, funny moment was what the day was about. My fellow Americans, if we don’t have love, we’ve got zip.
Ah yes. The cacophony of the musical duel between Yusuf and Ozzy Osbourne was a pitch-perfect demonstraton of our current political discourse. It was hysterical. And true.
But when Stewart and Colbert took their podiums for a mock debate, the message began to come back into focus. Stewart astutely pointed out that we can’t condemn all Muslims when “There are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world,” but the point really resonated when he trotted out beloved basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to bring it home. Is Roger Murdock a terrorist? Then shut up, haters. Colbert then mock countered by unleashing a giant, Colbert-shaped “Fearzilla” to unveil a brilliantly terrible montage of mainstream media fearmongering. Suffice to say, the phrase “in YOUR town” featured heavily. Lessons learned from the Rally: Both your flip-flops and your television remote are trying to keeeeeeeell you.
I loved it that Stewart and Colbert pointed their laser beams at both the right and left media. With clips from NPR to FOX, no one was spared at least a grazing blow.
Jon Stewart, in his closing remarks yesterday (video):
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 ass 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 assed 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 [pointing back to U.S. Capitol building] 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.
Look on the screen. This is where we are. This is who we are. (points to the Jumbotron screen which show traffic merging into a tunnel). These cars—that’s a schoolteacher who probably thinks his taxes are too high. He’s going to work. There’s another car-a woman with two small kids who can’t really think about anything else right now. There’s another car, swinging, I don’t even know if you can see it—the lady’s in the NRA and she loves Oprah. There’s another car—an investment banker, gay, also likes Oprah. Another car’s a Latino carpenter. Another car a fundamentalist vacuum salesman. Atheist obstetrician. Mormon Jay-Z fan. But this is us. Every one of the cars that you see is filled with individuals of strong belief and principles they hold dear—often principles and beliefs in direct opposition to their fellow travelers.
And yet these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze one by one into a mile long 30 foot wide tunnel carved underneath a mighty river. Carved, by the way, by people who I’m sure had their differences. And they do it. Concession by conscession. 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.
And sure, at some point there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the shoulder and cuts in at the last minute, but that individual is rare and he is scorned and not hired as an analyst.
Because we know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together. And the truth is, there will always be darkness. And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land. Sometimes it’s just New Jersey. But we do it anyway, together.
“If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.” ~ Jon Stewart.
More Mary Elizabeth Williams:
What this crazy, not entirely well-thought out, quasi-free-for-all was about, it turns out, was we, the people. The proud, generous, spirited, non-yelling and non-bullying real Americans who know that “If we amplify everything we hear nothing.” Having 4Troops perform the national anthem and Tony Bennet belt out “America, the Beautiful” was not irony. Even Father Guido’s rambling benediction that ended with a “Thank you, and we really mean it,” was sincere. Because the ultimate metaphor for who we are, in the competent words of Stewart, is our nightmarishly daily, eminently Yankee commute. The NRA members and the Obama voters. The soccer moms and the immigrants. And somehow we all generally merge into one harmonious lane. It’s true that as Stewart explained, “Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land. It’s just New Jersey.” But when we practice compassion and community, when we remember that the loudmouths are not a true picture of who we are, we can heal a nation, fly to the moon, and even get to work on time.
I’ve already read that some think Jon Stewart was calling for all of us to roll-over and compromise. I heard nothing of the sort. I saw him shine a true mirror back on us. He told us what we know to be true, even in the midst of this insane political season. The vast majority of us are sane, reasonable people who are just trying to get by and who can, believe it or not, talk to their Republican neighbor, or Democratic co-worker. Who can disagree and still manage to get on with their day and pull together that project that the boss is breathing down their collective necks to have on his desk by end of business.
Maybe I’m just a sucker. Maybe I’m too easy. Maybe I’m just sick of the screaming.
Here’s the thing. I live in a state that is this close to sending Sharron Angle to the U.S. Senate. We are on the brink of sending to Washington a politician whose entire campaign has been one long “Harry Reid sucks and hasn’t done squat for Nevada” fact-deficient chain email. Is Harry perfect? Far from it, and regular readers know I’ve certainly had plenty to say about him. He’s far too conservative for my liberal-progressive-lefty-whatever-label-you-want-to-pin-on-me taste.
However, I will not reward someone who can only throw stones; who says it’s not her job to create jobs and then hypocritically bashes Harry Reid for Nevada’s unemployment rate; will not tell me what she will do for Nevada until AFTER she is elected; has shown zero ability to work with others; will not speak to the press; who sees nothing wrong in bashing government, but has spent a great deal of her adult life at what she would probably refer to the government trough: from her work as a substitute teacher, to her stint in the Nevada legislature, to her health insurance plan through the federal government. Don’t get me wrong. She has every right to partake of all those things, but she should not be given a pass when she is determined to turn around and pull up the ladder for anyone following behind her.
We’ve got big problems, and yeah, we are losing our country to the corporations who appear to own our media, our government, and our politicians lock, stock and barrel. But the solution is to fight THAT, not each other. And if we believe that fun house mirror caricature of ourselves, we’re toast.
Jon and Stephen, thanks for holding up the real mirror.
*My prize-winning poster