Remember Sanity | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Remember Sanity

When I was given the opportunity to go to Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity this past weekend, I jumped at the chance. I went to school in the Washington, D.C., area, and cut my activist teeth on Vietnam War demonstrations in the nation's capital and Equal Rights Amendment marches down Constitution Avenue to the west side of the U.S. Capitol building.

The sheer numbers that greeted us at the rally have somewhat restored my faith in America. By 10:30 a.m. the area between 3rd and 7th streets was filled. The metro ride into the city was so jammed that the conductor had to empty one of the trains I rode on because he couldn't close the doors, his frustration evident when he announced, "I told you and told you. Now they're taking the train out of service."

The event, put together by Comedy Central, had an air of a good party. There was a slate of awesome musicians and comedians, and the day had few serious political moments. The rally was, after all, a direct response to the pseudo-political Rally to Restore Honor just a couple months ago. Glenn Beck is no more a serious political analyst than Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert, though you wouldn't know it by the way some people talk.

During the course of the day, I met a diverse group of people—in age, ethnicity and religion—from all over the United States. Folks came from Alaska and California, Maine and Florida, Wisconsin and Texas, and all points in between. I didn't see one sign calling tea partiers or Republicans Nazis or Communists, although I saw a few allusions to their general lack of spelling skills. And though the space allotted was nowhere close to a comfortable fit for 220,000, people weren't pushing, shoving or rude—at least not to me.

In discussions with fellow travelers, one thing was clear: What could have been a mess wasn't. And we talked a lot about fear. Ultimately, we recognized that fear is not a useful, productive emotion. Should we be fearful of the times we live in? Perhaps. But maybe we would all do much better to avoid the "fight or flight" syndrome fear precipitates and learn exactly what's going on to find a better path. No one makes rational decisions when they're afraid, and that's exactly what some conservative leaders count on.

Toward the end of the rally, Stewart became serious: "This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith, or people of activism, or 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, political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator 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, ... 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 dangerous, unexpected flaming ants epidemic. If we amplify everything, we hear nothing."

I'm writing this on Election Day, not knowing what the outcome will be. Chances are there will be far fewer Democrats in the U.S. Congress come January. Let's hope we remember those words as we pull together to emerge from these hard times.

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