On Saturday I went to The Rally to Restore Sanity. Which may seem less than sane, considering I’m a Canadian citizen living on the west coast of British Columbia – but it was one of the best decisions I’ve made recently.
Aside from the Rally itself, I absolutely loved DC as a city. I acted like a complete and utter tourist, and went to as many places as I could – The Air & Space Smithsonian, The Museum of Natural History, The Jefferson Memorial, The White House, The Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam & World War II Memorials, Washington Monument, Museum of the American Indian, The National Archives, The Canadian Embassy, The Capital Building, The Supreme Court and I added Maryland & Virginia to the list of states I’ve visited!
Saturday, the day of the Rally, we got up early and left Maryland by 7:30am to get one of the first Metro trains (the trains are carpeted, not even kidding) into The District itself. After stopping at the Starbucks at Union Station, which was filled with other Rally-goers, where I was struck by our collective need to stop and get a latte before rallying on The National Mall for hours, we got to the National Mall around 8am. We then proceeded to collect free stickers and Rally Tea Towels, take pictures of signs, and talk to the Rally-goers around us. Many of whom were amazed at our “Canadians for a Saner America” signs. We are in a lot of pictures.
They showed clips of the lead up to the Rally Announcements, and had quizzes and games on giant Jumbotrons for us to look at starting at 10 am, and then at 12 noon The Roots took the stage, quickly followed by John Legend. What followed was a seemingly never ending list of guests – people we knew ahead of time would be there, like Sheryl Crow, and people that were a complete surprise – like the mythbusters, Ozzy Ozbourne, Kid Rock and the guy from Law & Order. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert gave out awards for Sanity, like Jacob Isom, who stole a Quran from would be Quran-Burners in Texas, and awards for Fear, like to Anderson Cooper’s tight black t-shirt.
And after John Oliver appeared in a Peter Pan costume, and Colbert brought out a giant Colbert-Puppet, Jon Stewart got serious, and spoke without his usual tongue-in-cheek manner, about the real reason for the Rally.
He spoke about how every day people in America, who have different view points on polarizing issues get together and get stuff done. That the only place that this doesn’t happen is on Capital Hill and on 24 hour cable news. He talked about how when people are telling you day and night that those across the aisle from you are Marxists or Fascists or Racists, then why on earth would you want to work with them? That people who see differently on issues aren’t evil, and that we need to get back to talking civilly about the issues that confront us every day. And get stuff done. It was very well said.
There are many news articles and blogs out there talking about the relevance or impact of The Rally, and you can read those to see it lifted up or torn down. But what I will take from this experience is the energy I felt on The National Mall amongst 200 000 people. We were polite, we were orderly, we talked to those around us. Leaving The Mall amidst thousands in costume, holding signs, and all trying to get into the same Starbucks or Metro station, no one pushed or shoved, and you could talk to those around you – not something I expected from DC. But we were all there for the same reason, because we think that something in government needs to change, and that we can be the ones to do it. (Although not necessarily me – the Canadianness gets in the way of voting in the US Elections.)
I’m so glad that I made the decision to go, and I will choose to believe that on any given day in Washington DC you can see that many people in full Stormtrooper gear, or assume that those in front of you at the line in the airport are reasonable people, even when your flight is cancelled. That people are decent, and we can all get along.