Observations from the Sanity Rally (Part I)

On Saturday, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert brought their comedy shtick to our Nation’s capital. Their invitation to us, the nation:

“We’re looking for people who think shouting is annoying, counter productive, and terrible for your throat; who feel that the loudest voices shouldn’t be the only ones that get heard. Ours is a rally for the people too busy to go to rallies, who actually have lives and families and jobs (or are looking for jobs) – not so much the Silent Majority, as the Busy Majority. If we had to sum up the political view of our participants in a single sentence… we couldn’t.”

Attendees tried to capture that non-sentiment in handmade signs. Messages included statements like “This sign is spelled correctly,” “Palin/Voldemort 2012,” “I am not Hitler,” “Hey, take it easy America!” “and “What’s next? Marriage for Sock Monkeys?”

While covering the rally, and in the hours that have since followed, the mass media markets have struggled to explain what exactly this gathering of 200,000 people was all about. Occurring just days before the election, many tried to find a reason to call the rally a Get Out The Vote push for a purportedly apathetic millennial generation. In truth, this was not a GOTV rally. Not a single word about the election came from the stage. The GOTV push was left to the dozens of non-profits that came out to plug their message. There were petitions for reforming marijuana legislation, stickers from Planned Parenthood and TheBallot.org spoke directly about voting, megaphones from Yahoo! sported the slogan “You have a voice, use it,” clusters of Human Rights Campaign folks started conversations, and pigs milled around asking you to join PETA and eat vegan. But what was it all about? Why did the Busy Majority show up?

It was, and has always been about public discourse. Sane, civil, public exchanges of ideas by rational people. Stewart and Colbert carefully crafted vignettes that re-enacted the rancorous debate our media outlets exploit into madness.

“If we amplify everything, we hear nothing,” Stewart addressed the crowd. His goal to speak to the middle, the people not willing to shout but willing to talk, the place where the majority of us reside, was to simply ask us to continue the discourse with each other from the place where we can hear all sides of the conversation.
From his closing remarks:

“Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats or 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 that they don’t want to do – but they do it – impossible things every day that are only made possible by the little reasonable compromises that we all make.”