Centrists red and blue are expected to take a beating at the polls today. But it won’t be for lack of effort on the part of the Stewart-Colbert Nation, which seemed to be fully represented on the National Mall last Saturday at the “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.”
I was there with wife Laura and brother James, and I can’t even tell you with great certainty why we went. Politically, I’d describe myself as slightly left of center, and although I’ll occasionally defect in favor of a reasonable Repub, I tend to vote mostly Democrat. In Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, author and political pundit Garry Wills drew a hard line with this quote: “You may like a person who is Republican, but if you vote for that person, you’re voting for all the apparatus that comes along with it.” I can’t say I’m there yet, but I can understand the sentiment given the Republican Party’s recent efforts to embrace its wackiest citizens.
So although I was leaning toward going, I was still uncomfortable with the thought of joining a couple hundred thousand people in one location, no matter how noble the cause. And any misgivings I had about the trip appeared to be confirmed when our flight to D.C. was delayed for two hours due to a terrorist threat.
Still, we arrived without a hitch at BWI and caught the first train to the Capital, where the spirit of “reasonableness” seemed alive and well – at least for one weekend. In the end, it felt good to be part of an event that thumbed its collective nose at the likes of Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and the true purveyors of fear at Fox News.
If there was a unifying force at this gathering, it was a shared aversion to political bullies of any stripe (“Use your indoor voice” read one of the better signs). Beyond that, a sense of cartoon-like anarchy carried the day, which made the event seem more like a Tea Party gathering – without all that right-wing doomsday rhetoric.
Jon Stewart said it best at the close of the rally: “We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is, on the brink of catastrophe, torn by polarizing hate, and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day. The only place we don’t is here or on cable TV.”
So in the best spirit of the rally, I’ll let James’ photos describe what it was like to share the mall with a fairly respectful mob of people who generally agree that President Obama is not Hitler… and that grandma’s fate won’t be determined by a Death Panel. A Apolitical Blues/Little Feat
All photos by James Quine.