I was floored by the Rally to Restore Sanity in DC on Saturday. I'm not sure if there's any precedent for a rally called to protest extremism, nor for hundreds of thousands of people coming together to respond to a call by talk show hosts on Comedy Central. What a day, though! On the way into the throngs of people, we passed a sign saying, "I missed Car Talk for this?" Yes, and it was worth it. (Sorry Ray and Tom.)
Humor and even sarcasm were everywhere. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of people gave up their time, their favorite radio shows, their sleep and who knows what else to make a statement.
What was the statement? Today I heard the criticism that Jon Stewart didn't use his time on the podium to call people to activism. But wasn't the "Rally to Restore Sanity" a clear response to extremism connected to the rise of the Tea Party? Did people need to be told explicitly to follow up and do something about it? Of course we should all vote and remind our friends, neighbors, and colleagues to vote.
In their own ways, people made clear statements about our political climate: I saw signs that said "Be nice," "Fear is the death of reason," and "Defend Obama: Outlaw White Supremacy," each with its own loud and clear message. One favorite had a picture of Mister Rogers, the always calm host of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," and read "Pittsburgers for Sanity: What Would Fred Do?"
The rally was also a collection of people from diverse walks of life with a wide range of viewpoints and priorities. Some signs focused on women's rights, others praised the expansion of health care coverage, still others supported the legalization of marijuana, and there were abundant messages critical of Fox or Glen Beck. In a perfect world, perhaps, there might have been more signs about the courts -- calling for the movement of nominees for the federal bench through the Senate, seeking fairness in the courts, speaking out against Citizens United, or asking Congress to act on the range of decisions in which the Supreme Court has rolled back access to the courts. Given how many of the issues of our day wind up in court -- from the new health care law to gun control, from environmental protections all the way to who was declared the winner of the 2000 election -- the absence of such signs suggests how much more we need to do to raise awareness about the role of the courts.
On this gorgeous day, though, with the sun shining and courtesy at a high point, even though people were densely packed, toe to toe on the mall, it was thrilling to be a part of a democratic movement for reason, a group of people -- indeed, a very large group of people -- who would travel long distances and go out of their way to stand up to hatred.