Rally restores my sanity
If what Jon Stewart was expecting was a sea of people when he took the stage on Saturday afternoon, what he got was an ocean. Any attempt to be within viewing distance of the stage meant being swept up in the undertoe of people trying to do the same, until being met by a stream of people who realized that getting any closer was impossible.
Stewart jokingly announced that there were more than 10 million people in attendance of his "Rally to Restore Sanity." CBS is saying it was more like 200,000, but that count might be missing the people who spent their afternoon perched upon Porta-Potty roofs and in trees to even have a shot at seeing the day's events. Stewart might have been exaggerating a bit, but when traffic into D.C. reaches Baltimore and metro trains are as crowded as University buses on the first day of classes, the numbers become irrelevant. When aerial photography does not begin to show the scope of the event, all that really matters is that you have something big on your hands.
The appearance of each and every performer and special guest that walked on stage was both incredibly fitting yet completely unpredictable. At first I was confused as to why Ozzy Osbourne was on stage, but when he finished singing "Crazy Train," the song never made more sense. Did anyone expect Tony Bennett to sing "God Bless America?" Probably not. Would anyone in the crowd want someone else to sing it? After his performance, I doubt it. If there was one person who could have proven that making blanket statements about any particular group of people is the wrong way to go about things, it's a guy who no blanket is big enough to cover, former basketball star Khareem Abdul-Jabbar.
I think it is safe to say that the rally was a great time for all those involved, even if their Huffington Post bus delivered them an hour late or they were standing in the metro stations watching full trains not even opening their doors. But hundreds of thousands of people and a few celebrities does not turn a country plagued with fear-mongering pundits into a sane one. Whether it was 10,000 or 10 million people that showed up on Saturday, we still have people on Capitol Hill who are more concerned with winning the next election than they are with working together. A rally won't change the minds of people who think Muslims want a mosque at Ground Zero because they need a breeding ground for terrorists. No one who thinks that gay marriage is evil is going to change their opinion because a bunch of people stood on a lawn.
"The Daily Show" cast member Jon Oliver led a chant of "Will this help?" in order to revive Stewart after Stephen Colbert "killed" him, but at the same time, it posed the question that has been on my mind since Stewart and Colbert announced their respective rallies. Will a rally to restore sanity actually restore sanity? I'd like to think so, but after this weekend, Glenn Beck and Keith Olberman will still have TV shows, and the country will move on. Was the rally a step in the right direction? Absolutely, but the 20 percent who have been yelling so loudly lately will continue to do so long after the 80 percent who Stewart held the rally for have gone back to doing whatever it is they do that makes them too busy to go to rallies.
Whether you are part of the vocal minority that has been making sure that the whole country is afraid of death panels and socialism or the silent majority that took the time to make their way to a rally for a cause that they could finally get behind, you have to respect what Stewart, Colbert and hundreds of other people did to make sure the rally went smoothly. In addition to inviting people to come out and support their cause, Stewart and Colbert urged their fans to donate to the Trust for the National Mall and DonorsChoose.org, respectively, and combined have raised over $200,000.
Jon Stewart ended the rally with a "moment of sincerity" about why he put the whole thing together. "We live now in hard times, not end times. We can have animus and not be enemies. Unfortunately one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The country's 24-hour perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder."
His speech was probably the most profound I have ever been present for. His criticism of the media at large was nothing new, but seeing hundreds of thousands of people respond to him so positively made me realize this country might not be as crazy as I thought they were. I guess that was the point of the whole thing.
Andrew Howard is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies. He is the former photo editor of The Daily Targum.