*all these photos were taken by me unless otherwise indicated...
[Disclaimer: This post will look like it's heinously long but it's mostly pictures! Large pictures for the purpose of you being able to read the signs! If this post loads annoyingly slow, please tell me and I'll make them smaller.]
At 11:00 at night on the Friday before Halloween, my boyfriend and I boarded a coach bus bound for Washington D.C. The ride would take an excruciating eight hours, but lead us to the promised land: The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. Yes, that rally, the tongue-in-cheek one organized by Comedy Central's own Jon Stewart and Steve Colbert. When Luke and I found out that our college was sponsoring a trip for 57 lucky students, we jumped on the opportunity: something like this, we thought, was a little bit silly, but also an opportunity that comes once in a lifetime. It was a chance to be part of history.
I have to admit, trying to write about the experience now, I feel that words don't really suit it well. There was a lot of waiting, of laughing, of pushing through crowds (but politely-- people were so polite). I had to use a port-o-potty at one point, which was just as pleasant as I expected it to be. But, still, this was a truly special day to be on the National Mall. So this is my mish-mash of words and photos that will hopefully express, even a little bit, how awesome it was to be there.
8 AM: We jump off the bus and make a dash for the rallying grounds. Volunteers are handing out rally towels and looking surprisingly chipper for being up so early. We're surprised to find that there are already a lot of people here-- the pre-show doesn't even start until 11. This is the beginning of seeing amazing signs and/or creatively costumed folks.
8:30 AM: Luke and I decide we don't want to wait here for the rest of our lives and venture off to see the Washington Monument (neither of us has ever visited D.C.). It looked like in the pictures, and it was too cold to want to take ridiculous pictures of us squishing it or pretending it was a penis through strategic angles. We did, however, see a lovely little Smithsonian museum garden that included the Yoko Ono Wish Tree (I wanted to take photos of the wishes but again, it was freezing) and this cool rabbit drummer thing:
9:30 AM: We return to the rally and stake out our permanent spot. We set up right in view of a jumbotron, and close enough that we can see the stage but not clearly make out the people. I take tons of sign photos while we wait for what seems like forever.
The MythBusters come on stage and do an experiment with the entire crowd of-- which, by the way, extends the whole, oh, I don't know, mile to the Washington Monument. The far reaches need to be spoken to via walkie-talkie in order for us to successfully send an ultra-scientific wave back and forth a few times. We also measured the force of 215,000 people (estimated) jumping at once. We were about as effective as a slow-speed car crash.
12:00 PM: The rally starts with an amazing performance by The Roots and John Legend.
Father Guido Sarducci does the benediction. Yes.
We laugh a bunch and then I freak. out. when Yusuf a.k.a. Cat Stevens takes the stage to sing "Peace Train" (which ended up one of the best live versions I've heard). And then I freak. out. even more when motherfucking Ozzy Osbourne comes out and sings "Crazy Train." Say what you will about how Ozzy sounds lately, but he's still Ozzy and I lost my shit. Unfortunately, Stewart and Colbert were doing this bit where they were interrupting the songs, so neither actually got to the end. The O'Jays sang "Love Train," and everyone danced. I took a video of all the awesomeness, but I was jumping around screaming after I saw Ozzy so I found you a much better version on Youtube.
A bunch of other artists perform, including Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow, and Mavis Staples, to name a few. They're all thoroughly great (well, not so much Sheryl Crow, who seems to have a shaky knowledge of the lyrics she's singing, and then singing them a bit above her range). Awards are given out for being remarkably sane and remarkably frightening. For instance, Wrestler Mick Foley came out to accept an award for his charity and work and general niceness. As for the scariest? Anderson Cooper's tight black T-shirt.
At some point, Stewart and Colbert sing "I'm More American Than You." They are both terrible and it's one of the best moments of the rally. Check it out.
Oh, and did you know the Colbert's ability to create fear is actually gigantic and made of papier-mâché?
(Fear not, the monster was slain).
At some point, Tony Bennett demonstrates that old jazz-age crooners never lose their talent with his rendition of "America the Beautiful." He is wearing orange sunglasses to match his orange tie. As someone who grew up listening to Bennett's genre, I get really thrilled to be in his presence.
There were a lot of laughs that day-- and there's nothing wrong with that. The rally was, after all, meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but Stewart ended the day with the message that we all wanted and needed to hear.
It is time to stop being afraid, because fear is getting us nowhere. There are so many forces out there right now that are begging us to be scared of each other, and while there are scary things about the world we live in, about politics, about the future, the way we move forward is with level-headedness and a desire to help one another. Stewart showed a clip of drivers in Washington D.C., probably all annoyed and in a rush, but following the rules and being courteous of one another. Sure, there would be the random asshole that cuts people off or gives them the finger, but that asshole isn't most people. Most of us are compassionate, reasonable people. "You go, then I go," he said. Taking turns is important. Why do we adults forget that so often?
There's this saying that says the squeaky wheel gets the oil-- and I think that's become a truth in American politics. The extreme left and right are the ones getting all the attention, but they don't represent most of us. Most of us aren't extreme liberals or Tea Partiers. Most of us are just regular people who get caught in the middle. We are the silent majority. This rally may have been all in good fun, but the message that it was supposed to get across is an important one: those of us who aren't so often heard still have voices. Let's raise them-- but not in fear or violence. Let's raise them and give voice to intelligent, kind thoughts. We are many and we matter.
So many of us are afraid, but we don't need to be. Maybe the courage to break the silence will be the end to fear.