By Jenny Orgill, staff editor Even Stewart and Colbert underestimated the masses that would pour onto the National Mall for the much anticipated Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. There were not adequate jumbotrons or speakers to accommodate the estimated 215,000 people that stretched from the Air and Space Museum to the Washington Monument. Why had people flocked to the mall in such great numbers?
I think even the Colbert fans in the audience knew that this was all about restoring sanity. However, beyond being frustrated with the polarization of politics in America, I don’t think most of us understood what restoring sanity meant.
Jon Stewart’s closing speech highlighted what restoring sanity meant to him.
“If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.” He criticized his usual target, the media: “The press is our immune system. If it overreacts to everything, we eventually get sicker.”
I agree with Stewart that the media should be held to a higher standard. However, something about being in the middle of those thousands gathered on the mall made me think that we, the people, also had some responsibility in restoring sanity to this nation.
For the most part, people at the rally were promoting peace and tolerance with signs like:
“Say no to hate. Say yes to pancakes.”
“Be excellent to everyone.”
For me, I think this is what restoring sanity is all about. We have reached a point where civility, patience and tolerance of others are not only absent but not expected in both public and private life.
Stewart’s condemnation of the press carried with it a plea to the public not to take the bait. We can’t control what is said on cable news. However, we can control whether to have civil discourse or heated bickering with those that have different opinions from our own. As Stewart put it, “We can have animus but not be enemies.”
Has sanity been restored in America?
Probably not. People will continue to be intolerant. Politicians will continue to be partisan. The media will continue to amplify differences.
The outcomes of the election this week show just how divided and angry Americans have become. I don’t think anyone would claim that the rally added to this deep divide or affected the outcome of the elections in any way. Rather, I believe that the success of the rally is apparent in the many, including myself, who have decided to try to be more tolerant and understanding of different viewpoints. I hope that this tolerance and consideration of others will spread and overcome the bigoted system that America has become.
In the words of Yusuf Islam, a crowd-pleaser at the rally:
“I’ve been smiling lately, dreaming about the world as one. And I believe it could be, someday it’s going to come.”