I promised to blog about the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, and I sincerely thought I’d be able to do it in real time (or at least “day of”). However, the trip was so different than I ever imagined it would be and I simply was unable to post anything but the most cursory blogs because of the major travel issues (and, therefore, time issues) that we encountered. So much happened, and so many blog topics are awaiting their turn, but first I want to talk about the Rally itself, the show that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert put on, because that was the reason for the trip, wasn’t it?
I sort of feel that, since this is being written so many days after the fact, everything that can be said about the Rally has already been said all over the ‘net and the media. Everyone who cares about it knows what happened and how it went, so all I can really talk about is my own experience. And my experience was mostly the backs of other people’s heads (I’m very short, only 5’2”). Once in a while the guy who stood directly in front of me (after I had already been there for hours and could see fine until he got there AFTER the show started—but I’m not bitter) would move his big fat head and I could see, but those precious moments were rare. In fact, the view of the back of his head is burned into my retinas. But that’s a story for another blog.
After realizing that I would never be able to take pictures without being able to see what I was aiming at, I stumbled upon a trick that you’ll see in this picture of the O’Jays. (If you click on the thumbnail, you’ll see where they are onstage, because I circled them in red.) I had to hold my camera above everyone’s heads and I had no idea what it was aimed at. However, there was a space in the trees just above the JumboTron, so I tried to aim my camera at that light blue space and that’s how I knew I was in the general vicinity of getting a picture of the monitor and, hopefully, the stage. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not so much.
But back to the show. As I mentioned, we got there VERY early, like 9AM-ish and the people were just beginning to filter into the Mall. It was a very cold morning, but our Sanity and Reason kept us warm. At around 10, the pre-show started on the JumboTrons that were placed all over the Mall. The pre-show consisted of all of the Daily Show/Colbert Report segments from the past few weeks where they talked about the upcoming rally, as sort of a build-up to the big day. We were all getting a little antsy, mostly because we’d been there so long. Finally, at 11:58, the JumboTron showed a countdown of two minutes. Yay!!! We all started counting down the seconds with the monitor. One minute to go! Yippee! We can’t wait! Bring on the Sanity and/or Fear! Go! Go! Go!
At straight up noon, the show began and the crowd went wild. But then we all realized, “Hey, that’s not Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert. That’s a band.” I don’t know about anyone else, but I felt like Ralphie in A Christmas Story reading his coded message, “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine.” Rats. A crummy commercial.
The band played forever and ever and ever. Yes, they were good. No, I had no idea who they were, at the time. I found out later it was John Legend and The Roots. I still don’t know who that is, but apparently that’s because I’m old, not because they aren’t well known.
Once they were finally done playing (again, it’s not that they weren’t really good, it’s that I came to see Jon Stewart) the Mythbusters, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, came out for a while and did a few crowd experiments, like seeing how long it would take a crowd this size (the official count was 215,000) to do the wave. That was actually a lot of fun, because we could see on the JumboTron (this was while I could still see it) what it looked like as the wave rippled across the crowd. They also had us all jump at the same time to see how much we could make the earth move. Adam estimated that “20 million pounds of meat” would be hitting the ground when everyone landed. The seismograph showed that our jump was “14 trillion times weaker than 1906 earthquake in San Francisco” or “100 times stronger than a 35mph car collision.”
Stephen, of course, played the fear card and made his entrance from below the stage through a tube like the trapped miners used. Funny, but even funnier, to me, was his Greatest Poem Ever Written, as read by Sam Waterston.
For me, however, one big highlight of the show was when Jon announced Yusuf Islam (forever known to me as Cat Stevens) to sing Peace Train. Although it was very funny when Ozzy Osbourne interrupted—in answer to Colbert’s request for a fearful song (Crazy Train) to derail the Peace Train—I was really bummed out because I wanted to hear Cat Stevens!!! How often does one get to do that anymore? Well, at least the O’Jays got to sing Love Train start to finish.
At the risk of making this blog too long, I’ll just post a few more pictures that I managed to snap over the heads of the tall people (at my height, that’s pretty much everyone). I got a fairly clear shot of Sheryl Crow, who sang a few songs with Kid Rock. I did not, however, get anything but a JumboTron shot of John Oliver dressed as Peter Pan, trying to bring Jon back to life with our clapping, after Stephen announced him dead and defeated with his video montage of the scare-tactic media, telling us about all the things that can and will kill us and/or our children. Funny stuff. (BTW, this is the reason I quit working in the news. I got tired of hearing the anchors using the phrase “… to keep you safe” when teasing their upcoming stories, and having to filter it out—because of my distaste for fear mongering—before I posted the news on the MSNBC site.)
I think we were all amazed to see the show wrap up with living legend Tony Bennett’s acapella version of America the Beautiful. He hit every note, right where it should be. Lots of tears were flowing by the time he was done.
Overall, I think it was an amazing show, considering how little time they had to put it together. I’ve done standup comedy (seven years on the road) so I know how hard it is to do untested material in front of a live audience. Even Broadway plays are taken on the road before they debut in the Big Apple, in order to get it just right. These guys didn’t have that advantage, and they still pulled it off, with only a couple of minor hiccups and glitches. They talked briefly about this issue in a fascinating press conference, after the show, for the National Press Club.
The best part of the show for me, even beyond Cat Stevens, was Jon’s “Moment of Sincerity” speech at the end. If you have watched none of the other videos I’ve linked to on this blog, please at least watch this one, if only to hear him deliver the magnificent line, “If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.” Wow. That hit me as one of the wisest things I’ve heard in years. I even made a point, then and there, to pull out a pen and paper to write it down.
In my opinion, Jon Stewart is a very funny man, but more importantly he’s a rational thinker. I love his centrist, moderate tone and calm reaction to the shit that life throws our way. The Rally to Restore Sanity was the sanest thing I’ve seen in a long time, and that’s why we made such a gargantuan effort to get there, to show our support for that message. There is no need for shouting. There is no need for rancor. In the words of another famous gentleman, “Can’t we all just get along?”