The driver of the Sanity Bus almost drove me insane. I’m a pedal to the metal kinda gal, and I don’t think he broke fifty the entire way down to DC. This, combined with the fact ours was one of the few in the Huffington Post convoy of 200 buses going to Comedy Central’s Rally for Sanity/Fear that didn’t have a john, meant a necessity for pee breaks that ended up causing us to arrive at the rally two hours after it started. But hey, you get what you pay for, right? It was going to cost almost $1,000 for boyfriend, son and me to make the round trip via Amtrak for the day, so a free bus ride seemed like a pretty good alternative. Thanks again to Arianna Huffington and the rest of the HuffPost team.
So we missed a lot of the music and we missed most of the comedy. No worries. We can get the DVD or catch that part online. What we did experience was the joy and the wonder of being in our nation’s capital with over 200,000 people, who all, as one sign put it, wanted to “End the Uncivil War.”
You knew there were going to be disputes about the number of us who were there. Jon Stewart even joked about it during the event. A CBS News estimate by AirPhotosLive.com put the crowd at around 215,000. An estimate done by the same organization for Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally in August put attendees at 87,000, a number that was hotly criticized by conservatives for being too low.
We can quibble about aerial photos, but here’s one objective fact: the DC MTA announced that Saturday broke a 19-year record for Metro ridership, with 825,437 metrorail trips taken, surpassing the previous record of 786,358 set by the Desert Storm rally in June 1991. All I can say is that as someone who was teased mercilessly with that Randy Newman song about Short People, I couldn’t see anything except the back of tall folks’ heads.
So why did I think it was worth prying my sleep-deprived 17-year old son out of bed on a weekend morning, spending 10 hours on a bus, all for what ended up being about an hour of being at a rally? We could have seen and heard it all better on TV from the comfort of our living room sofa.
I guess I can sum it up from the sign I carried, which read: “I remember when being an intellectual was a good thing.” When my great-grandparents and my grandfather immigrated to this country from Austria, Poland, the Ukraine, they had nothing in the way of material wealth but they had the dream common to all immigrants to this great nation of ours – that they would be able to make a better life for their children.
My ancestors knew there were two tools to creating that life: hard work and education. I come from a family and a culture where the educated are revered and respected. It not only angers me but quite simply repulses me to hear any politician mocking the “educated elite” as if it is a bad thing to be smart and well-read.
As I continue the tradition of teaching my children the importance of a good education, as I tell him how critical it is to study history and how they should take at least one macro and one microeconomics class in college so they understand what’s going on in the world around them and can make rational decisions about their lives, I infuriates me to hear politicians dumbing down the discourse and mocking those who seek to converse in more than soundbites.
Here’s a recent example: we were at the 4th CD debate in Wilton and Dan Debicella kept repeating the GOP’s “business is good, government is bad” meme. Jim Himes pointed out that several innovations that have revolutionized our society originated from government research – the Internet, for one. Debicella sat on stage insisting “free enterprise created the Internet.” My friend, an entrepreneur who created a successful web business – just the sort of “free enterprise” Debicella claims to represent- sat next to me, shaking his head in disbelief.
What we saw at the Rally for Sanity were people who recognize that while our government is certainly imperfect, it isn’t inherently evil. It was a crowd of people who, as one sign said, “hate paying taxes but love having roads and fireman and police and schools so pay them anyway. ” People who understand that the healthcare system is broken, and that while the new reform bill is by no means perfect, it’s a starting point.
If you want to know what the Rally for Sanity was all about, beyond the comedy, beyond the funny signs, beyond the Peace/Crazy/Love Train, it’s this, from Jon Stewart’s closing speech:
“We hear every damned 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.
The truth is, we do! We work together to get things done every damned day! The only place we don’t is here (in Washington) or on cable TV! But Americans don’t live here, or on cable TV. Where we live, our values and principles form the foundation that sustains us while we get things done—not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done.
Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives. Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do. Often something they do not want to do! But they do it. Impossible things, every day, that are only made possible through the little, reasonable compromises we all make.”
Amen to that. And now I have to run, because I’m a little bit late for the carpool.