Rally to Restore Sanity
I could write a very, very long post about yesterday, as it was a huge and memorable event. The national mall was completely full, shoulder-to-shoulder with people from the capitol building to the Washington Monument. There were enough people there (initial estimates are 215,000) to completely shut down all traffic on the roads during and after the rally. We were standing so close together that I couldn’t use my camera, take off my jacket, or see my feet. There were about a dozen surprise musical guests. I got to see Cat Stevens sing my favorite song of his. But I’m more interested in briefly discussing the purpose of the rally, and why people were drawn to it.
In the small amount of news coverage leading up to this event, it was billed as a liberal rally hosted by Jon Stewart. It was announced in response to the tea party rally that occurred in September, but it was not a liberal rally. The tag line was “Take it down a notch… for America” and the intent was to tone down all of the extremist rhetoric that is present in typical rallies. If you think about it, most every rally/march in DC represents extremists in some way or another. Signs that say Bush is a Fascist (anti-war rally) or signs comparing Obama to Stalin (tea party rally). These viewpoints do not represent the whole of America. This was a rally for the rest of us… because, why not? Why should the crazies be the only ones to march in DC? This event instead promoted togetherness and cordiality, and I felt that everyone who attended did a very good job of representing that.
Signs were a big part of the event; people were encouraged to bring “signs that show your rationality and civility.” Memorable signs included Agree to Disagree | Give Peas a Chance | I disagree with you, but I’m pretty sure you’re not Hitler | No major complaints here! (thanks for reading) | DON’T SHOUT (it’s bad for your throat) | Speak Softly and Carry a Big Schtick. <---my favorite The message was not "apathy." People don't turn out in droves from across the country to demonstrate apathy. The message was that we're all trying to make our country better, and blaming the people you disagree with for "ruining the country" is not helping anything. This is something I can get behind, and yesterday I found out that there are many more people like me--too many for Washington DC to handle! When I was driving towards DC, I started seeing all of these cars with faraway license plates (Texas, Illinois, Deleware, Ohio, Iowa) just packed full of people. At this point, I started believing the hype about the rally. I had to skip the first couple of metro stations because there was no parking left and the traffic was backed up onto the interstate. By the time I got settled down about 1/3 towards the front at the national mall (an hour and a half later), I was surrounded by people from Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Delaware. I couldn't believe it. It felt like we were sending a message that might actually have an impact on our culture. It wasn't a gathering of like-minded people; instead it was a gathering to show that we are all like-minded in all of the most important ways. We all love our country. We all agree on 95% of the issues… but the other 5% of issues are magnified until we can only see our differences.
When there is an event that is so large, there are bound to be a lot of negative aspects. It took me ten hours to attend a 3-hour event, and I was traveling alone! Even for DC, that is not typical at all. The metro was completely unprepared for the event, and riding it in either direction was more than a little bit scary. Every metro train that came by was already full, and people were getting frustrated and even angry. Some were trying to force their way on while others were forcing them back off and yelling at them (“There are kids in here and this is a very dangerous situation!”). After the rally ended, crowds started moving all in different directions. I headed up towards Pennsylvania Avenue and it took over two blocks before there was some breathing room in between people. This was a massive and diverse turnout. I still can’t even believe it. A sea of people in every direction, and each and every person was my friend, if even for a moment.