Restoring Sanity

The Professor and I are huge Jon Stewart fans, so when he announced the Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington, DC  our interest was piqued.  We had never been to DC and the entire premise of the rally was appealing: a day for like-minded, intelligent and moderate people to gather together to demonstrate that there are a whole lot of us who oppose the shrill and meaningless crap dished out by mainstream media.

The day after the announcement a Rally Facebook page appeared and it became clear that this gathering in Washington was generating a lot of interest; people from all over the country began posting their intention to attend, making the Fox News prediction of eight or nine thousand people seem rather short sighted.  In the weeks leading up to the rally I began to realize that we were planning to attend not just a comedy show, but an event of historic significance; it was apparent that even Comedy Central had no idea how big this thing would be.

We decided to fly to DC rather than do seven hours on the train and it turned out to be a good decision; train tickets for that date were scarce and hotel rooms were vanishing faster than a snowfall in May. When we arrived at the airport it was fairly apparent that there were a lot of people going to the same place, but the sheer numbers of people heading to the National Mall was not evident until we tried to catch a bus to downtown DC. There was a massive line at the Ground Transportation area of Dulles and dozens of van and taxi drivers cashing in on this influx of people. We opted for the bus and a cheery bus driver lady accommodated as many people as she possibly could by packing people sardine style into the bus; I’m pretty sure it was well over the legal limit for riders. We had fun chatting with some of the people heading to the rally on the 40 minute ride to DC and I was fascinated by the diversity of the group; there was a group of students from the University of Kentucky, a woman from Cologne, Germany, a pair of MIT grad students and a mother and son from Maine to name a few.

Arriving in downtown DC a couple hours before the rally we decided to leave our backpacks at the hotel and then wander to the National Mall. We located the Phoenix Park Hotel a few blocks from the Mall and they were kind enough to let us check in early; after freshening up we headed for the rally and for the first time realized how huge this event was. There were people everywhere! Great masses of people were pouring from Penn Station and emerging from buses of every kind.

Once we were on the Mall it was a crush of people. We tried to get as close to the stage as possible or at least near a Jumbotron, but it was obvious that there were people who had claimed their spots very early on. I have never seen so much humanity in my life!  In order to get a good view people resorted to climbing the trees, sitting on top of the porta-potties and one young man who perched himself on a traffic signal. We finally resigned ourselves to checking out all the wonderful signs people were carrying and not dwelling on the fact that we really couldn’t see anything. There were signs expressing sentiments of every possible kind but the common theme was one of moderation, tolerance and peace.

Normally I hate throngs of people and avoid them at all costs, but this mob was different; no one was cranky, rushed or drunk. People were smiling, considerate and calm in spite of the throngs of people. The one observation I kept making was that it was an intelligent crowd of 250,000 people; a rarity in this time and it was refreshing.

In spite of the crowds, the lack of cell service and the huge lines at restaurants I’m really glad we went. I felt like we were really a part of historical gathering together of sane, hard working people who just want our country to return to something we recognize and can be proud of.  If that was Jon Stewart’s goal then it was accomplished.

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