I’m back in New York after my weekend trip to Washington, D.C. to be one of 215,000 people to stand on the National Mall demanding sanity.
For me, someone so cynical and hopeless, it was important to be around those I rarely see or hear. Those who are rational and who just want things to work out. Those who reject the partisan fighting and the teabagging that has so enveloped our society. Those who, however, remain quiet.
So I left work early on Friday and traveled with my cousin and her fiancee to Washington, to be a part of the Rally to Restore Sanity, because there is very little sanity right now.
On the shuttle bus from the hotel to Union Station, a woman from Banner Elk, North Carolina said she was happy to be with other “independent minded people” because there was no one home she could talk to without getting some nasty response.
Walking near the Dept of Labor building, I met two middle age ladies from Oklahoma who marveled at my cousin’s Stephen Colbert tote-bag (which consisted of a drawing of Colbert, just like those of famous authors you see in Barnes & Nobles). My cousin told her she got the bag at Barnes & Nobles, to which the Oklahoma lady joked “I think we have one of those in Oklahoma City. I don’t know if anyone goes there?”
A woman in a jacket sported a “Bennet for Senate” button. From Grand Junction, Colorado, she told me she drove four days to be at the rally. She just wanted to be around someone who wouldn’t spit on her or call her some vulgar name,
At the rally itself, none of us seemed to mind that we were standing tightly together on the Mall for four hours (I got my first ever October sunburn). The signs made for some quality entertainment.
It was, though, Stewart’s closing speech that seemed to resonate with me, an obvious harsh critic of the modern media.
“These are hard times, not end times”
“The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems and illuminate problems heretofore unseen, or it can use its magnifying glass to light ants on fire, and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous-flaming-ant epidemic.”
These cars — that’s a school teacher who thinks taxes are too high…there’s a mom with two kids who can’t think about anything else…another car, the lady’s in the NRA. She loves Oprah…An investment banker, gay, also likes Oprah…a Latino carpenter…a fundamentalist vacuum salesman…a Mormon Jay Z fan…But this is us. Everyone of the cars that you see is filled with individuals of strong belief 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, 30-foot wide tunnel carved underneath a mighty river…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, an Obama sticker on your car? Well, that’s OK. You go and then I’ll go…“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, and he is 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.
I know tomorrow is going to be ugly. It’s going to hurt. It’s going to make me want to cry, punch, scream, move back to England (not that it’s any better there I hear)
But I also know I’m not alone. That there are others out there who roll their eyes and shake their heads and wonder “what has become of us?” That our wittiness and our ability to make ourselves laugh, and each other laugh, makes life bearable. That doomsday is not around the corner, even though it may feel it.
That at the end of the day, it’s not about what party we belong to or what political movement we align ourselves with, it’s who we are. It’s that I can have a good time with my friends, but when the conversation turns to politics, I’m threatening to hang them by meat hooks at the Hess gas station.
The rally, for the time being, gave me a little boost. We may lose Tuesday, and lose big, but we’ll win again. When they screw up, we’ll take it back, and then get it taken away again. It’s the natural flow of things.
When you come out of dark tunnels, only to see New Jersey so many times, Hoboken becomes the promised land.
UPDATED (11/1 1:07 PM)- Sunday morning, my cousin and I decided to take in some museums before heading home. We found ourselves in the middle of the Marine Corps Marathon that was working it’s way around the Mall. While walking along the Mall, we cheered on some of the obviously exhausted, suffering runners.
It hadn’t occurred me that the people I were cheering on, some of them were probably teabaggers, and it almost certainly din’t occur to them that I was a wide-eyed liberal. In one more adorable scene, a father, a tall-muscular burly Marine stood with his children in front of the Museum of the American Indian. His youngest son held up a sign that said “Go Mommy! We Love You.” I had walked past them at the exact time the child’s mother was about to run past.
“There she is, go! go! go!” bellowed the stern voice of the Marine father.
The petit Asian woman, his wife, ran past with a smile, hi-fiving her two children and her husband.
Was he a teabgger? Was she? Maybe they were liberals. Who knows? At that point, I didn’t care.
That’s how America should be. Perhaps the reason no one wants to get too involved in politics is to keep that America alive.