Hello friends. As usual my duties as Prince of the Internet are eating up absolutely all of my time, but this is why I maintain a cadre of Correspondents to do my dirty work for me and keep you entertained. Today State of Affairs brings you the story of one geek on a trek to restore sanity and/or fear with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Correspondent Will Perkins serves up his experiences at the rally. Will can usually be found editing and contributing to the fantastic nerd-themed blog DorkShelf, so when you’re done here, go check him out there. Without further ado, we proudly present…
A Sane Canadian goes to Washington (An SOA Guest Post)
I had only been in Washington for about twelve hours when we piled back onto a bus bound for Canada. Dazed, sore, sunburnt (in October?!) and still tired from the previous evening’s bus ride, I was not looking forward to another night on the road. Mobile night time discomfort aside, my trip to D.C. was well worth taking; it had been a whirlwind day of comedy, satire and music with a little political commentary thrown in for good measure.
A decidedly left leaning crowd of over 200,000 people packed the National Mall in D.C. for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. Young, old and everyone in between were there with hilarious signs in hand and smiles on their faces. The event‘s intent, if any, was to enfranchise the quiet majority of rational and reasonable Americans who feel they have been alienated by polarized politics, and the 24 hour news channels that has enabled a culture of fear to dominate the airwaves. An admirable reason for the gathering, but it still didn’t answer the question of why I was there. Why am I here? I asked myself that question standing amongst the throng, a confused Canadian in a crowd of concerned US citizens.
As a Canadian, my main exposure to American culture is through their media, particularly television. I’ll admit it, I watch CNN quite a bit – the same CNN that Jon Stewart calls part of the problem – which is maybe why I was compelled to go to Washington for the rally. Whether or not the network realizes it, they paint a pretty grim picture of the United States: the deficit, the housing crisis, unemployment, the wars, the tea parties, the election and more, cycling over and over again ad nauseam. The talking heads prattle on with a smile, acting as though their fear-mongering is actually a service to the viewer. It is a picture which could very well be exaggerated for all I know, but it’s the only portrait of the nation I’m exposed to with any regularity.
A quick flip of the channel over to Fox News and things quickly go from grim to apocalyptic, with Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly shouting at guests and patronizing viewers, and Glenn Beck pontificating vile nonsense and preaching paranoid conspiracy as genuine fact. Many CNN and Fox viewers lap up what they see and hear on these news networks as the whole truth and nothing but the truth, when the reality is that some of it couldn’t be further from the truth! With TV like this, is it any wonder that the US is a nation divided?
But it wasn’t just what I was seeing on TV that made me go. I have friends and family in the United States: all of them rational, reasonable, nice people. I think the real reason I went to the rally was in support of them. It was the least I could do, and I got to see an awesome five-hour variety show for my troubles. Win-win! The Roots opened the event with an amazing 40 minute set, which Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert followed up with a hilarious cavalcade of comedy and guest stars. Where else could I have seen Cat Stevens… err… Yusuf, Ozzy Osbourne and the O’Jays battle it out to see whose train was worth riding? Personally, I’m a big fan of the “peace train”, the “crazy train” and the “love train”, so it was a tough call.
Stewart summed up the rally nicely in his closing remarks, stating that “we can have animus and not be enemies”. It’s not just a lesson for Americans, but for everyone: you can disagree on an issue without vilifying those you disagree with. It was the most sane a response to the political climate in the US I’ve ever heard. I guess I went to Washington to try to make a difference. I went to stand side-by-side with my brothers and sisters to the south, to oppose the insanity and to stand up for reason and enlightened discourse. Well…Those reasons and that the bus tickets were only $50 for a round trip to D.C., so why the hell not?