tl;dr – “You go, then I’ll go” is exactly what we need to do to move America forward. Rally to restore sanity, indeed. Fear… not so much.
We all knew Jon Stewart‘s and Stephen Colbert‘s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear was going to be a historical event. Even before the event was officially announced, even before the Internet began its hype machines, many of us already see the two of them as voices of reason from their respective television shows, ironically from a comedy network.
And when the rally finally happened, I found myself confused by the point of it for the longest time. The first few hours was a hodgepodge of musical performances and guest appearances, and as much as I love seeing Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy perform You Are Not Alone [iTunes link], I was afraid that the event was nothing more than an excuse to get people out of their houses.
I can see them perform for hours
“Maybe that was the point”, I thought to myself. Jon Stewart did say he wanted to have a reasonable rally and encourage people to “Take it down a notch for America”, and what better way to do that than with some nice music on a breezy, sunny day? Maybe this is supposed to be a nice, relaxing concert in the fall.As the rally went on, their message became clearer. Their duet (albeit off-key) of The Greatest Strongest Country in the World was awesome in a South Park way, though the battle between Jon Stewart’s sanity and Stephen Colbert’s fear was satirical at best and annoyance at worst. Even then, I pondered where the rally was really going.
In the final twenty minutes of the show, Jon delivered his 12-minute speech (click here to read the full transcript) and it was only then did I finally understand what this rally was all about. And boy did the message hit hard.
To me, the point of the speech wasn’t to push blame on any political party or any particular news network. It wasn’t to criticize how the president isn’t doing enough or how polarized our country has become. In fact it was the opposite of that. It was to remind everyday Americans that America does, in fact, belong to everyday Americans.
And what a great analogy he gave out. It doesn’t matter if you’re a democrat, republican, Afghan, Chinese, female or Jewish, because at the end of the day we still have to work together to get through the day. Most of the time we don’t feel terribly passionate about the things we do, but we do it anyways just so we can move forward.
“Oh my God, is that an NRA sticker on your car?
Is that an Obama sticker on your car?
Ah, well that’s okay, you go, then I’ll go.”
Image from Photobucket
His speech calmed me down and lifted me up at the same time. It gave me hopes that things aren’t as bad as the news networks portray them to be and Americans aren’t as insane as we think we all are. As a nation, there will always be differences between us and there will always be different perspectives among us. That diversity is precisely what makes us Americans, but as a nation we must still be able to compromise, and more importantly listen to one another in order to achieve anything.
You go, then I’ll go.
It’s interesting that while Jon Stewart had to deliver a solid point, as a comedian he also had to deliberately make the speech funny. And while I shouldn’t compare this with other famous speeches, I do think this one hold enough weight to be the speech of this generation. Maybe it’s time to take it down a notch for America after all.
Crowd Estimated at 215,000
Image via Imgur
And now I thought we might have a moment, however brief, for some sincerity, 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 hipper, more ironic cats as a clarion call for ‘action.’ Clearly, some of you just wanted to see the Air and Space Museum and got royally screwed. And I’m sure a lot of you are 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 make sure that we honor the effort that you put in and gave you the best show we could possibly do. We know your time is valuable, and we didn’t want to waste it. And we are all extremely honored to have had a chance to perform for you on this beautiful space, on The Mall in Washington, D.C.
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 and 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, politico, pundit, perpetual, panic conflictanator 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 titles that must earned; you must have the resume. Not being able to be able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Party-ers, 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 actually 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 across the aisle to a pumpkin-assed, forehead, eyeball monster? If the picture of us were true, of course our inabilities 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 things done. But the truth is, we do. We work together to get things done every damn day. The only place we don’t is here 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 do not 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 where we are; this is who we are: these cars. That’s a schoolteacher 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, swaying, I 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’s 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 in direct opposition to their fellow travelers. And yet these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze one by one into a mile-long, thirty-foot wide tunnel carved underneath a mighty river. Carved by people who by the way 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 okay, you go, then I’ll go. And 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 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 want to know why I’m here and what I want from you, I can only assure you this: you have already given it to me. Your presence was what I wanted. Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder. And to see you here today and the kind of people that you are has restored mine. Thank you.”
-Jon Stewart at The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, October 30, 2010