Sane - and Afraid

The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington, D.C., leaves our correspondent hoping for true activism from the alleged silent majority.

But again, what was the point? Was it merely to let a bunch of hipster liberals walk around with funny signs and feel good about themselves? The signage was hilarious, to be sure, and there was an undeniably jovial attitude about the whole affair, but I couldn't help wondering if the whole approach wasn't just misguided.

Is a restoration of so-called "sanity" even possible at this point? If we're defining the word as "reasonable debate and compromise," then no. Nothing that happened Saturday, no sign warning "God hates HMOs," no pithy rejoinder from Stewart, is going to stop the Republicans from taking back the House next week. And the GOP has not demonstrated, at any time in the last 18 years, any interest in compromise or reconciliation. Stewart's "merging traffic" analogy at the end of the day was flawed, because the opposition doesn't want to wave you in as the lanes narrow, they want to run you off the road and laugh as our car bursts into flames. Did the GOP ask for succor after getting their asses stomped in 2008? No, they put their money into things like the Tea Party and reframed the debate: "Obamacare" is a failure; the deficit is the current administration's fault; Afghanistan is "Obama's war;" we have to "take our country back" from the secret Muslim usurper. And so on.

Those in power haven't feared mass public demonstrations in America since the 1960s, because they've realized it's one thing to fly in to Washington to go to a rally, and quite another to translate that action into something meaningful. Which is why I wonder if Jon Stewart himself might consider taking the next step and actually seek out some sort of public office. I know, I know; his increasingly labored claims of "But I'm just a late-night comedian" continue unabated, but statements like this, from his closing speech at the Rally, have to make you wonder:

The signage was hilarious.
Pete Vonder Haar
The signage was hilarious.

This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith, or people of activism, or 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.


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.

I admit, I was really hoping the Boss was going to come out after that segue.

With that, Stewart sounded like a man with his eye on something greater than a late-night cable show, even one regularly drawing two million viewers a night.

The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, in the end, succeeded in its intended purpose: It drew a quarter-of-a-million people (give or take) together on a beautiful day in our nation's capital to share a laugh and make what can only be seen as an honest (if smart-assed) plea for tolerance. But compromise is a two-way street, and activism is about more than sparking one up and watching TDS every night. Whether our politicians and media suddenly reverse their present course and take their request to heart, or those who so enthusiastically participated in the rally put their money where their mouths are, remains to be seen.

Even Jon Stewart doesn't have that kind of clout.

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