by Joe Shea
October 30, 2010
SANITY AND/OR FEAR
BRADENTON, Fla., Oct. 30, 2010 -- The biggest joke was the size of the crowd. I've seen a million people crowded into Washington for a May Day anti-war rally during Vietnam, and there weren't a million people there.
But there sure were a lot more than 150,000, as the show's hosts said again and again. My guess? A half-million people - 500,000 real as opposed to corporate persons - showed up on the National Mall from over the country today to celebrate at The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on the National Mall, sponsored by Comedy Central, Volkswagen and the comedians that emceed the event, Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show" and Stephen Colbert of "The Colbert Report.
I laughed my head off, prayed, cried and watched in stupefaction and awe - all at the same time. Seriously, it was an amazing, blessed and beautiful work of art graciously unattended by NPR and other news media who feared contaminating the narratives of pure bullcrap they stuff into our hapless homebound sausage skins every day.
Only plain old Americans qualified to be there, and they came by bus, plane, train and boat from every direction on the continent, reflecting every color and creed and country of origin that creates our wonderful diversity as one nation. The show inspired, relieved, refreshed and renewed people that a video litany of talking heads insisted is on the brink of collapse, madness, destruction and Hell.
The Rally gave the lie to the Big Lie itself - that we are two people, in either red or blue states, Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, Judeo-Christians and non-Judeo-Christians, working people and lazy people, strong people and weak people, religious people and faithless people, patriots and anti-Americans. Yes, we do have two eyes, two hands, two ears and legs, yet we are not two people: we are one people, caught as Jon Stewart said, in "hard times, not the end times."
The upwelling of fresh spirit, the profound vein of freeing humor that is as much a part of our heritage as rhetoric and angry speeches, awakened millions at home watching it on Comedy Central and on C-SPAN, which - not being a corporate-ground, bone-dead, brain-dry commercial network - showed it from beginning to end.
On this show, the shutting up of Juan Williams by NPR was not bruited about to the exclusion of Rick Sanchez, fired from CNN: both got their moments of requital as equally-savaged victims of political correctness - and they got it from Jon Stewart, whom Sanchez called a "bigot," helping him get fired from CNN. If you can't read between the lines, what that means is that Stewart, too, came into the moment of unity and reconciliation he helped create there in the glow of the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, a place where humor and feeling and real Americans - real persons - can live.
By the way, General Motors, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and I were heading down to Dick's Pub the other day, and I said, "Hey guys, let's shoot some pool!" And those people are such jokers, you know. Bank of America said, "What's pool?" and GM replied, "It's a place to throw bad mortgages!" And Goldman Sachs laughed, "Any kind of mortgages!" Would you believe not one of these persons knows how to shoot pool? Well, they're big guys. It's hard to get them into the pub at all.
But corporate persons* were not on the Rally's agenda Saturday, and the only willing sponsor was a German person, Volkswagen, that was originally the name given to a squashed-up little car actually designed by Adolf Hitler. Go figure. They've come an awful long way.
The entertainment was terrific. I will never forget Tony Bennett's a capella version of America the Beautiful, or the joy of seeing my former fave, Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf, singing "Peace Train." And like every great occasion on the National Mall demands, there was a great, ringing speech, clarion cry for equanimity in our political life - and for humor, civility, freedom and care - by the great Jon Stewart.
*In a recent Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, allowing unlimited anonymous contributions by corporations to political campaigns, the Court ruled that for purposes of political speech, corporations are "persons" who enjoy all the rights real flesh-and-blood American persons fought and died for. Go figure.
Joe Shea is Joe Shea, so get over it.