I didn’t quite make it to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s rally to “Restore Sanity and/or Fear” even though I was in D.C. I was winding up a week-long stay in Alexandria, Virginia, helping to care for my new granddaughter while my daughter recovers from post delivery complications in the hospital (she’s going to be fine).
Between feedings and changings, I watched some of the rally on television, specifically Jon Stewart’s closing remarks, before I left for the airport to return home to Los Angeles. I arrived at Reagan National Airport just after the rally concluded to find quite a few rally attendees easily identifiable by their “Restore Sanity and/or Fear” t-shirts and buttons, also leaving D.C.
Several talked about the event, likening the atmosphere to President Obama’s inauguration, which was also held on the Washington Mall. Their exuberance was contagious – a refreshing contrast to the recent rash of news reports forecasting doom and gloom for Democrats on Tuesday.
They talked about the comedy and musical performances that dominated the agenda for much of the rally but also discussed Stewart’s remarks toward the end, making some astute observations. One observation, in particular, got a lot of discussion — Stewart’s assessment of our ability, as a people, to make necessary compromises in order to achieve individual and collective goals.
In countering the notion that the right and the left can’t work together, Stewart maintained that we work together to get things done everyday. It’s just in Washington and on cable TV that the right and left can’t seem to agree on anything. He used the example of thousands of motorists inching along a four-lane expressway as it narrows to transition to a three-lane tunnel. “People make concessions,” Stewart remarked. “We don’t drive around as Republicans or Democrats, refusing to make way for a motorist because we don’t like their bumper sticker. We let ‘em in and move on. We get things accomplished as a nation everyday.” And, of course, he’s right. We don’t see the kind of paralysis in our everyday lives that we see in Washington — although that’s arguable when you’re sitting on the 405 Freeway in rush hour.
But L.A. freeway traffic aside, we do, as a people, accomplish a lot irrespective of our political leanings. And we’ll likely get through these hard times – intact. Because, as Jon Stewart said, “these are hard times, not end times.” But he also cautioned that there are real issues that need to be addressed — important issues that often get mixed in with trumped-up stories like Juan Williams’ racism.
So even though I left D.C. somewhat more hopeful about the outcome of Tuesday’s election because of the fantastic rally turnout and the image of America reflected there, I thought about a quote from Jared Diamond’s book “Collapse” where Diamond discusses the power of the decision-making elite to thrust a society onto a destructive path. Said Diamond, “conflict of interest involving rational behavior arises when the interests of the decision-making elite in power clash with the interests of the rest of society. Especially if the elite can insulate themselves from the consequences of their actions, they are likely to do things that profit themselves, regardless of whether those actions hurt everybody else.” He maintained that this type of selfishness is becoming “increasingly frequent in the modern U.S., where rich people tend to live within their gated compounds.”
So, in sum, things may look better after you attend a rally like the one yesterday, but in the final analysis, we’ve still got a bunch of insulated decision-making elites who need to be kept in check by the voters. If you haven’t already voted, please do it on Tuesday and encourage all of your friends and loved ones to do the same.
Below is a snippet of Stewart addressing the 150,000 plus crowd on the mall. He’s one smart guy. Enjoy.