Jon Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" Saturday (October 30) was a smorgasbord of the satire and send-ups of pundits, politicians and public issues Stewart's "The Daily Show" has specialized in for years. However, at the end of the three-hour event at the National Mall in Washington DC, Stewart used that same incisive humor to drive home the point that Americans aren't as crazy as the media would have us believe, and that the everyday triumphs that don't make the news are truly representative of the American people.
Stewart kicked off speech by addressing the question that was likely on many attendees and viewers minds: What exactly was the point of the rally? Stewart ventured to answer the question, suggesting, "Some of you may have seen today as a clarion call for action." He also considered the possibility of wayward tourists getting caught in fray, joking, "Clearly some of you just wanted to see the Air and Space Museum and just got royally
Then Stewart broke down the intentions of the rally, which he maintained was not simply about poking fun.
"This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith, or people of activism, or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument, or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times," Stewart declared, to the roar of thousands of attendees swarming the site.
He went on to examine the role of the press in exacerbating conflict among Americans.
"The country's 24-hour, political pundit, perpetual, panic conflict-inator did not cause our problems. But its existence makes solving them that much harder," he said. "If we amplify everything, we hear nothing."
Stewart cautioned listeners about buying into propaganda that may obscure the real issues citizens should be tackling.
"Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Party-ers, or real bigots and Juan Williams or Rick Sanchez, is an insult, not only to those people, but to the racists themselves who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate," Stewart said, referencing former CNN anchor Sanchez, who was booted from the network for his unsavory comments about Stewart and other Jewish Americans. "Just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe, not more."
Stewart maintained he feels "strangely, calmly good" because he doesn't take media portrayals at face value. Yet, he conceded he understands how certain representations can hinder honest, straightforward dialogue about significant issues.
"The image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us through a funhouse mirror ... the kind where you have a giant forehead and an ass shaped like a month-old pumpkin," he said. "Why would you reach across the aisle to a pumpkin-assed, forehead eyeball monster?"
Stewart said he knows that most people reach across the aisle when it matters, saying, "We work together to get things done every damn day! The only place we don't is here [points to Capitol Building] or on cable TV."
"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 [are accomplished] every day that are only made possible through the little reasonable compromises we all make," he said.
Referencing a screen playing footage of cars slowly inching through traffic, Stewart used the image of the highway as metaphor for how Americans make those compromises, ceding the road when necessary and recognizing that everyone is headed toward a similar goal. He also touched on the diversity of drivers on the road, noting that the cars could be steered by anyone from a mom with two kids to a "Mormon Jay-Z fan."
While Stewart opened his speech outlining the messages he wanted to relay through the rally, he closed by explaining what the event meant to him.
"Sanity has always been in the eye of the beholder," he said, "And to see you here today, and the kind of people that you are, has restored mine."
Did you attend Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear"? Let us know in the comments!