Restoring Sanity in D.C.

January 04, 2011

After stocking up on sign-making supplies, travel snacks and a renewed sense of political enthusiasm, I hopped in a van with five friends for a road trip to Washington, DC. We were headed to the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, led by Comedy Central hosts Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

The rally took place on October 30, 2010 on the National Mall, and drew a couple hundred thousand attendees from around the country. The idea for the rally stemmed from Glenn Beck’s conservatively-themed “Restoring Honor Rally,” which took place a couple months earlier. The purpose of the rally was to provide a venue for the average American to be heard above the high-profile and extreme views from both sides of the political spectrum.

Getting around DC this particular weekend was a challenge in and of itself as the rally coincided with both Halloween and the Marine Corps Marathon. The massive crowd extended from the Capitol building to the Washington Monument and was broadcast live on Comedy Central. It was nearly impossible to see the stage from our position in the middle of the crowd, but there were projector screens set up along the sides of the Mall. In order to get a better view, many people in our area began to climb to the top of nearby trees.

The rally began with performances by The Roots and the hosts of the popular cable series Mythbusters. Stephen Colbert made a dramatic entrance by emerging from his “fear bunker” in a capsule reminiscent of the recent Chilean miners’ rescue. Colbert challenged Stewart point by point on various political topics, usually claiming victory. Satirical comedy was woven throughout the rally, as both hosts wore outrageously patriotic costumes.  In ceremonial fashion, Jon Stewart gave “Medals of Reasonableness” and Stephen Colbert gave “Medals of Fear” to individuals deemed worthy of the titles, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Steven Slater, the infamous JetBlue flight attendant. Other musical performances, including John Legend, Sheryl Crowe, and Ozzy Osbourne, were intertwined with the comedic parodies.

One of my favorite parts of the rally was reading the amusing slogans on rally signs made by attendees.  Many created signs to show their support for reasonableness, such as “Somewhat irritated about extreme outrage” and “I politely request satisfaction” and “I’m mad as hell but mostly in a passive-aggressive way.” Other amusing signs had no political relevance whatsoever, such as “Has anyone seen my keys?” and “I already regret choosing to carry a sign around all day.”

Overall, I had a great time at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. The hosts effectively used humor and common sense to settle heightened emotions and transcend stereotypes with a digestible message. A wave of positivity flowed throughout the crowd and the entire city. Despite long lines at the porta-potties and overcrowded Metro trains, people were genuinely kind and considerate to each other.

Attending this event renewed my faith that a good number of Americans really can agree upon the same principles and be reasonable with just a little encouragement. As Stewart said in his closing speech, “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 they do not want to do. But they do it. Impossible things, every day, that are only made possible through the little, reasonable compromises we all make.”

Photo Credit: cliff1066™

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