My wife and I headed down to Washington, DC, for a long weekend to participate in Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity. I’m a big Jon Stewart fan and wanted to be a body in the crowd to show support for sane discussions and “non-extremism” in politics. We didn’t get to the mall early enough to have an up close seat: arriving at 10:30am (an hour and a half before start time) we were so far away that most of our view of the show came from the video monitors. This, however, I took as a good sign as it meant that Stephen Colbert’s early “fear” that nobody would show up for his rally, like most of his other fears, was misplaced.
As is the case for every event I’ve ever participated in that was covered by the press, when I read about the event later on it seems that the media gets so many things wrong. For just one example, I saw reports that “the crowd was mostly young”, which simply isn’t true or is at best misleading. Perhaps up at the very front of the rally (by the press corps), where you had to arrive by 8am to get a spot, the crowd might have been mostly young people. But where I was standing (and we did have to stand the entire time), the crowd was thoroughly mixed with plenty of gray hair and ages that ranged from perhaps 6 months to at least 75 years. At my hotel in Bethesda, the early morning breakfast crowd was entirely full of rally-goers with a similar diversity of ages.
Panorama looking around from our spot, © Andrew Werth 2010
The weather was fantastic, not too hot and not too cold, as long as you were reasonably bundled up. The show was excellent. Some of the musical selections were a bit slow or out-of-genre for my taste, but one of the highlights was the dueling locomotives of Cat Stevens’ (now Yusef Islam) soft “Peace Train” against Ozzy Ozbourne’s demonic “Crazy Train”, brought together in synthesis by The O’Jays’ “Love Train”. Stewart and Colbert really nailed their part of the show. Everyone in the crowd seemed to be having a good time, even as our limbs wearied after five plus hours of standing. Stewart’s final comments at the end were, to me, nearly pitch perfect: he understands who he is and what the expectations are and how his rally might be covered, but he wants to make important points and, dammit, if the “serious” press isn’t going to get it right then somebody has to explain what’s going on.
Panorama looking forward from our spot, © Andrew Werth 2010
The crowd was huge. From my vantage point, it was literally as far as the eye can see. The one problem with having such a huge crowd is that, well, it has to go somewhere once the event is over. It was a long, slow slog through the crowds as the mall emptied out onto the surrounding streets in DC. The Metro line was over-stressed and jam-packed as we waited, packed first like sardines in the train station and then in the subway itself as it took us another hour and a half to get back to our hotel. But at least it was a very “reasonable” crowd — by definition, I suppose — and so it wasn’t really a problem at all.
There were tons of great signs along with quite a few goofy ones. Here are a few that I liked and managed to get photos of.
And perhaps my favorite…
Thanks, Jon and Stephen, for drawing attention to the need for reasonable discussion and for providing a way for moderates to stand up and be counted.