In Sanity

31 10 2010

I had been planning to attend the big rally Saturday, but the logistics didn’t work out for me. This is a pity, because what I saw of the event on TV and online looked like a total blast.

In the aftermath of the rally, the usual suspects have been grousing and complaining about ephemera in a vain attempt to discredit the rally and any potential political impact it may have on Tuesday’s election. These people are either partisan hacks, have no appreciable sense of humor, or completely missed the point of the rally- or maybe all of the above. These same people who complain about the current administration and refer to the President in spectacularly pejorative terms also objected mightily because Jon Stewart called the President “dude” on the air last week. Based on this, I’ll venture a guess that the partisan hacks who are demonstrably unaware of their own hypocrisy would be similarly immune to the message from yesterday’s rally.

There was, in fact, a message for those who could unclog their mental arteries to hear it. Several messages, really. The biggest message came from the stage, of course, but a large number of smaller messages could be found in the scads of silly posters and signs held up by people in the crowd. For one thing, those signs were properly spelled. For another, the signs were usually funny.

Back to the message. Jon Stewart ended with a wonderful speech, which I reproduce here (thanks to Di Atribe from FARK for the transcription) with a couple of highlighted phrases I think are significant:

So. Here we are. We’ve had some really incredible musical performances here today. I hope you’ve enjoyed them. We’ve had what some would classify as comedy, as well. And now I thought we might have a moment, however brief, for some sincerity. Uh, if that’s OK. I know there are boundaries for a comedian pundit talker guy, and I’m sure I’ll find out tomorrow how I have violated them. I’m really happy you guys are here. Even if none of us are really quite sure why we are here. Some of you may have seen today as a clarion call for action or some of the more hipper, more ironic cats, a “clarion call” for “action.” Clearly, some of you just wanted to see the Air & Space Museum, and got royally screwed. And I’m sure a lot of you are just here to have a nice time and I hope you did. I know that many of you made a great effort to be here today and I want you to know that everyone involved with this project worked incredibly hard to honor the effort that you put in and gave you the best show that we could possibly do. We know your time is valuable and didn’t want to waste it. And we are all extremely honored to have had a chance to perform for you in this beautiful space… on the Mall in beautiful Washington DC.

So uh…. What exactly was this? 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 or 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 conflictonator did not cause our problems. But its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying glass 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 or 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 it overreacts to everything, we 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 ass shaped like a month old pumpkin and one eyeball. So why would we work together? Why would you reach… 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 stuff done. The truth is, we do. We work together to get stuff done every damn day. The only place we don’t, is HERE [motions to 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 foundation 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 they don’t want to do. But they do it. Impossible things every day that are only made possible through the little, reasonable compromises we all make.

Look… look on the screen. This is… this is where we are, this is who we are, these cars. That’s a school teacher who probably thinks his taxes are too high. He’s going to work. There’s another car… a woman with two small kids, can’t really think about anything else right now. There’s another car… it’s swinging, don’t even know if you can see it. The lady’s in the NRA and loves Oprah. There’s another car, an investment banker, gay, also likes Oprah. Another car is a Latino carpenter. Another car, a fundamentalist vacuum salesman. Atheist obstetrician. Mormon Jay-Z fan. But this is US. Every one of the cars you see is filled with individuals of strong beliefs and principles they hold dear. Often principles and beliefs that are in direct opposition to their fellow travelers. And yet these millions of cars must all find a way to squeeze one by one into a mile-long, 30 foot wide tunnel, carved underneath a mighty river. Carved by people, by the way, who I’m sure had their differences. 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? Ah. Well that’s OK. You go, and then I’ll go. I’m 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 you wanna know why I’m here, and what I wanted from you, I can only assure you this: You have already given it to me: your presence is 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 you are, has restored mine.”

Can somebody please tell me why we have to hear this sort of positive message from a comedian and not our chosen representatives? Why can’t our political class be more like these two gentlemen instead of fear-mongering twits?

Perhaps it is time to do without a “political class”- by which I mean the professional politician. Far too many of our elected representatives have never held a job outside politics. We could still hold elections, but the pool of candidates would be selected like a jury pool from among eligible voters. Make public funds available for political advertising, divided equally among the candidates. Build a series of barracks in the Capitol for our elected representatives to live in when they’re working, and reduce their pay to the national average income. Forbid elected officials from accepting any gifts of any sort from anyone while in office, and apply strict term limits to all offices, to ensure regular turnover in the government. It would not be perfect, but would help rid us of the scourge of the professional politician.

Then, perhaps, we would no longer need a pair of comedians to hold rallies to highlight the general insanity of our current political system.

Current status: Amused

Current music: Numb by Linkin Park

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