I wasn’t exactly sure why I felt compelled to join this Rally to Restore Sanity. But since Jon Stewart has kept me from going crazy in what, at times, seems like a Bizarro World, I felt I owed it to him to show up.
First, let me say that the rally was a phenomenal experience for me. Just being around that many (mostly) sane people who, like me, would like to change the tone in this country away from the extremist, angry, ‘us-them’ sentiments that are currently prevailing our public discourse was rejuvenating.
Jon’s message was to take it down a notch. He also reminded us that people of different faiths, ethnicities and even political parties can and often do get along better in real life every day than one might be led to believe in the media.
But Stephen had a great point too. Fear is a powerful force. And of course there are times when it is absolutely the correct response. But because it is hard to judge reasonable fear from over the top hysteria it becomes either a tool to signal real danger or a danger signaled by real tools. The fear that has taken hold of much of the rhetoric these days is the latter and is now being used to justify dividing, demeaning, dismissing and denying reasonable thoughts and differences.
At the rally, we were part of a giant Mythbusters experiment to push against the seismic wave of fear that is out there right now so that our country can move in a direction that makes more sense to us. A rational place where insanity does not reign supreme.
The vibe was inspiring. 150-215k people NOT being hostile toward each other. But now the harder part begins. Can we carry this message out to the world? Can this rally take on the energy coming from fear and reactivity and division so that we can set a new tone for this country? I hope so. But we do have to be careful not to become the very reactionary, fear-based movement that we are repelled by. What kind of energy will we use to counter this wave? Will it be reasonable, wise leadership that moves us to a new place or just a louder us to their them?
I hope some great thinkers are out there working on that question right now. For my part, while I consider myself a good thinker at best, I will contribute my thoughts on that as well. As I hope others do because we are going to need every sane person there is.
To sum up though, I found this rally to be a very hopeful start. In fact, the ultimate validation for going to this event came from one of my teenage sons whom also attended. On his facebook post the day after this rally he wrote:
Yesterday was one of the coolest experiences of my life. I saw Luigi taxiing people around in a bike cart, met the Flying Spaghetti Monster, found Waldo, was part of the Mythbusters’ largest experiment, and best of all, I got to take the pulse of sanity, and find that no, it’s not dead in some attic somewhere, and that yes, there is more to America than what the media amplifies. Happiness.
That, in and of itself, told me that it was worth the trip.