Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"A thousand people in the street, singing songs and carrying signs"*

Today I exercised the nineteenth amendment and voted. I think it's important to vote every chance we get because not everyone has that opportunity, and I'm always disappointed at the low voter turnout (seriously, our 40 year high in 2008 was 61.6 percent...what was the remaining 38.4 percent doing that day that was so much more important than voting?).

I think the perception of apathy in the nation (and in particular, in those my own generation) was what compelled me to exercise my first amendment rights and join the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear this past weekend. Apparently, I wasn't the only one because about 215,000 other sanity/fear-seeking people attended.

If I had to pick one word to describe the rally: crowded. Above is a small portion of the line to get tickets for the metro. The hubby, the bro, and I waited over an hour and a half to get our tickets and then we had to wait on the platform until we could find a car with enough room to literally squeeze onto the train (note to self: next time buy tickets in advance!).

(Here's my view on the train. I particularly enjoyed the pithy advertisements for deodorant, which included a handy odor-meter.)

Once we finally made it to rally (fashionably late), the crowds just got denser. There were lots of fun signs; people off all shapes, colors, sizes, and beliefs (I picked up some interesting Communist literature); and yes, there was the occasional waft of pot.

My favorite sign of the day was a campaign ad for Palin/Voldemort 2012. I'm of the short variety so I mostly heard the rally and didn't so much see it. I did see a black guy selling t-shirts that had a picture of George W. Bush on them and said "I SCREWED YOU ALL...BUT THANKS FOR BLAMING THE BLACK GUY."

Yes, it was crowded and overwhelming at times, and the truth is, I wasn't really sure why I went. I originally thought it was to have an experience and to observe (which is what I do), and I carried no real expectations at the start. But deep down, going to the rally was more than that; I just wasn't sure what.

Even Jon Stewart, when he took a step back from the jokes and had a moment of sincerity, admitted, "I'm really glad you're here, even if none of us are really quite sure why we are here."

As Jon Stewart spoke his mind, my own mind became clearer. He said, "This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith or people of activism or to look down our noses at the Heartland or passionate argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and we have nothing to fear. They are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times."

Regarding the media and the 24-hours news channels, he said, "If we amplify everything, we hear nothing...the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe, not more. The press is our immune system. If it overreacts to everything, we get sicker."

And then he ended on a positive note (oddly enough, just as most YA novels do), "We know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light, we have to work together. And the truth is, there will always be darkness. And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn't the Promise Land; sometimes it's just New Jersey."

And I think that summed up my whole compulsion to attend: a chance to work together with others, no matter what their beliefs, to see through the darkness to the light at the end of the tunnel.

After the rally, we had a rowdy and fun dinner with my two aunts and cousins (when we finally found them in the crowd...note to self: 200,000 cell phones in a small area will compete for service and none of them will work). It's weird how sometimes it takes over 300 miles of travel to spend some quality time with the people you love. And then the hubby, the bro, and I were 'on the way' home.

Check out the rally's live feed for more coverage of what I saw (or more accurately, heard).

*Buffalo Springfield