My wife and I liked the idea of the "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" so much I used one of my precious personal days off so we could attend.
The National Mall appeared to be packed from the front all the way to the Washington monument. The event coordinators must have underestimated the crowd size as the Jumbotrons stopped midway across the Mall.
We arrived just in time to stand within earshot of the last Jumbotron. We felt sorry for the crowd packed in behind us as they must have been unable to see or hear.
Though the crowd did lean left politically, it was of mixed demographics and looked like a large collection of boringly normal people. There was a sentiment of anti-partisanship within it, but I saw few posters vilifying either the Democratic or Republican Parties themselves.
There were signs that vilified certain candidates. The majority of signs voiced either humor or moderation. My sign read, "The Constitution was framed on Compromise."
Posters poking fun at the tea party and its candidates were common. The people attending this rally and the tea partiers both have in common that they are frustrated with the nation's present political course.
I asked a few people what they had against the tea party. Typical responses were that they felt the tea party was trying to force its own ideals on the nation or they felt it represented a partisan agenda based on fear that neither represented most Americans nor allowed for compromise.
Jon Stewart was host of the event. I wondered what brought this entertainer to act as an activist. In his closing speech, he railed against infotainment, about how our news outlets rouse our emotions to get us angry at invisible enemies both left and right and create fear in general. News has become more about entertainment than actually reporting facts.
He also contends that we need to get past the media hype designed to attract viewers that divides us politically. He pointed out that in everyday life people of different ethnicities, creeds and political affiliations cooperate to accomplish goals of mutual interest. This should be possible in politics as well.
Justifications for Stewart's concerns are found in literature. In "Amusing Ourselves to Death," Neil Postman compares the concerns of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley. Both worried that mankind was unable to remain free. Having seen the rise of the Third Reich and Stalinism, Orwell feared authoritarian tyranny. He feared truth would be forcibly concealed from the people. Fear of tyranny is rightfully echoed by libertarians and constitutionalists.
Huxley thought humanity more likely to be lured into slavery by their emotions and pleasure drives than by violence. Regarding civil libertarians and others on alert against tyranny, Huxley states that they "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions."
As Postman points out "Huxley did not fear the truth would be hidden. He feared it ‘would be drown in a sea of irrelevance.'" He feared people wouldn't notice the truth, either because they were distracted by entertainments and pleasures such as the latest celebrity gossip, or having become addicted to the emotions created by entertainment they may focus on irrelevant news that created emotions instead of real news and facts.
Those of us vigilant against tyranny are targeted by entertainment news which elicits fear by reducing the political left and right to villainous caricatures of themselves. People can easily find themselves believing they are well informed while in reality they are listening to hype and buzz, all the while missing the real news which requires critical inquiry of all sides of an issue.
News and talk radio is the new arena using Democrats and Republicans as its gladiators. A show like "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central is an appropriate forum for infotainment to hype up such a contest.
What the rally attempted to accomplish was to show that politics shouldn't be a gladiator pit, nor does responsible journalism make it appear that way.
As Stewart said at the rally, "We live in hard times." Our problems are too important to reduce the debate to a right or left divide.
Though I laugh, for I've not a tear left to shed, Stewart no longer appears to find it a laughing matter that a comedian is more legitimate than the news which pretends to report it.
Our nation isn't all on the right or all on the left. We aren't even split down the middle. There are plenty of moderates and people sprinkled all across the political spectrum.
At the rally I asked a few people what they wanted from their politicians. The common reply was that they wanted civil dialogue and for our politicians to work together.
Sadly, two parties working together won't sell as many tickets to the arena as fighting to the death.
Brandon Givens is a Gainesville resident and a special-education teacher.