What drove me to sit in Holland Tunnel traffic for 2 hours on a Friday night and crawl down the New Jersey Turnpike was probably the same thing everyone else en route was motivated by: Passion! A passion for having our voices heard, a passion for making the statement that our country is not controlled by extremists or haters, a passion for openly declaring our love for country, freedom, mutual tolerance and our way of life. These were the lovers that went down to our nation's capital. By all accounts, more than two hundred thousand people attended the "Rally for Sanity and/or Fear"--twice the amount that showed up for Glenn Beck's rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in August. It was good to know that more people attended an anti-hate rally than a pro-hate one.
One of the most interesting aspects of the amazing turnout was its intergenerational quality. Twenty-somethings to sixty-somethings filled the overcrowded Metro and the National Mall. Some said they were liberals; others called themselves conservatives. Many said they were
"moderates" not confined to labels. All were voicing their protest simply by their presence to the heated and empty vitriol currently favored by politicians and pundits. In Jon Stewart's moving closing speech, he echoed this theme:
Most Americans don't live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, Liberals or Conservatives.
Americans live their lives just a little bit late for something they have to do. Often something they do not want to do. But they do it. Impossible things that are only made possible by the little reasonable compromises we all make.
It was the "reasonableness" of ordinary people that Stewart and fellow funnyman Stephen Colbert emphasized. Jon Stewart declared:
Stewart used the analogy of traffic merging into one line to get through a tunnel. He pointed out that somehow despite our differences we work together to get through to the other side:
But this is us"individuals with strong beliefs and principles they hold dear, often principles and beliefs in direct opposition ttheir fellow travelers...
Despite our differences we get through the tunnel:
...concession by concession: you go, then I'll go. You go, then I'll go.
How does this impossible task happen? Stewart points out:
The truth is there will always be darkness and sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn't the Promised Land sometimes it's just New Jersey"But we do it anyway, together.
The theme of the Rally was exactly that--a call to action to work
together to solve this country's problems. The Rally provided an antidote
to those wishing to divide our citizenry by claiming who is a "real" American. Colbert sang a little ditty on patriotic hypocrisy "It's the greatest strongest country in the world"my roll of toilet paper used up 67 trees. There is no one more American than me." The song gently mocked those who claim to "love" the U.S. at the exclusion of anyone who disagrees with their politics. Stewart tells Colbert, "Let's not fight about who is more American than anyone else."
The unity message was interwoven throughout the Rally and embodied in Stewart's speech. He told the crowd: