Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

It’s being reported that close to a quarter million people attended today’s rally in DC. That, for those of you keeping score at home, is more than three times the number of people thought to have shown up at the nation’s capital this summer for Glenn Beck’s public reclamation of the American civil rights movement. I’d wanted to be there today, but chose instead to spend the day with my family in Kentucky, attempting, as best I could, to convince them not to vote for Rand Paul. (Speaking of Paul, I got a great idea for a Halloween costume today. I want to go as his personal savior – Aqua Buddha. This, I think, is a much better idea than the one I first had, which was to go as Tea Party folk hero Timothy “let’s stomp some heads” Profitt.) Anyway, here, for those of you who weren’t at the really, or among the millions who watched around the world, is a little clip:

And, here, thanks to someone on Reddit, is a transcript:

“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 Partiers, 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 with 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.”

Thanks to the good people of Reddit who were responsible for making this wonderful thing happen, and to all the folks who made the effort to be a part of it in DC. It makes me incredibly happy to know that all of you are out there, and that, despite the recent advances of the Tea Party, there are still good men and women out there in the world who value sanity and truth.

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  1. Edward
    Posted October 31, 2010 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Not everything was televised.


  2. Edward
    Posted October 31, 2010 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    I didn’t get to watch the whole thing. Was Cat Stevens (performing Peace Train) really followed by Ozzie (performing Crazy Train)?


  3. Posted October 31, 2010 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    I think it’s a great speech, but it’s not what we need. Us lefties need to have some bite, to be able to say that what we believe is right, and that the world will just have to believe us and go along with what we do. Because that’s what’s good for the world.

    I think reaching across the aisle and understanding people who do not share your beliefs is right on a personal level. But politically, it doesn’t work politically.

    We need people to stand up and loudly proclaim that trickle down economics does not work, that the founding fathers did not intend a pseudo-anarchic state where the only function of the fed is to defend national borders, that we do not want a de facto apartheid based on immigration status placed upon people we bring over to work, that Muslims deserve the freedoms that are guaranteed to them by the First Amendment and that the extreme rightist elements that are poised to infest the Congress are completely wrong and dangerous to everyone.

    We need people to show why things like health reform were right, and why everyone will benefit. We need people that will get up and yell, which is something liberals don’t have, which did not get delivered at this rally. It’s the only way we can win.

  4. Posted October 31, 2010 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    And I thank you for spending your time in Kentucky.

  5. Oliva
    Posted October 31, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Yes, yes, Ruth, I second that and really hope Mark was successful.

    C-SPAN showed the entire rally and re-aired it last night, maybe again over the weekend. (I love C-SPAN, felt excruciating yearning as I watched, however, wanted so much to be there on that beautiful day. Giant crowds, when the people are loving and in tune, can be a deeply heartening thing. I really did love the working together in traffic metaphor for the way we live our lives, so of course it’s the case that you get out of the tunnel to the light and it’s New Jersey . . . or Detroit. And we sure are lucky for that.)

  6. wetdolphinmissile
    Posted October 31, 2010 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    I’m with you Oliva, I wanted to there too…

  7. Posted October 31, 2010 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    If you didn’t see it, U-M professor Juan Cole has an interesting piece in which he juxtaposes the Stewart rally with a recent Ted Nugent event.

  8. Tim T
    Posted November 1, 2010 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    Just for fun, after watching footage of the crowd in DC this weekend, rewatch these crowd interviews from the Beck rally. The difference will blow your mind.


  9. Mr. X
    Posted November 1, 2010 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Don’t worry. Over the weekend FOX bought Reddit.


  10. TeacherPatti
    Posted November 1, 2010 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Pete, I agree 100%. I’ve said something similar about the women’s movement (such that it is anymore)…someone needs to tell it like it is. As sad as this sounds, it would be better if the person (for both leftists and women) was reasonably attractive, able to speak to the “masses” (with, IMO, the well placed use of slang of the day) and witty. I’m not sure I have the attractiveness part down, but I’m good with the other two. Too bad I could never be a politican!!!

    PS: I hope no one gets bothered by saying the person should be reasonably attractive…they’ve done study after study that shows that it does make a difference. I see it all the time at school, too.

  11. careyjean
    Posted November 6, 2010 at 4:57 am | Permalink

    WHY BE NORMAL?? normal means having & paying bills, taking care of business etc. if you have a mental illness you can receive a disabiliy check from the government & do nothing. no work-someone else takes care of your bills, etc. it would be like having a rich husband without the headaches of dealing with a relationship & kids. most of those people that came in the mental hospital for treatment dressed better than me-a lowly admission clerk with 3 babies to support after my husband died. careyjean

  12. Oliva
    Posted November 6, 2010 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    Seems like someone who lost her husband wouldn’t use “having a rich husband without the headaches” as an example of conditions for someone with a mental illness. (Would an “admission clerk” really feel this much contempt for the people she’s admitting?)

  13. Stella M
    Posted November 7, 2010 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    Again I’ll point out that an SSDI monthly check is generally about $750, meant to cover everything. With the idea that to be comfortable your shelter costs should be 1/4 your income that means finding somewhere to live for about $170, you know, in order to have $17 available to pay the electric. Even subsidized housing can’t meet that ratio. Also, if someone is acting as your payee and taking care of your bills you generally pay them (about 30 – 40 bucks) for that service out of that meagerness. If that is like having a rich husband then I’m trebly glad I never played that particular game.
    And last I heard (at least for now) having babies is a choice…

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