30 OCTOBER 2010
Our family joined an estimated 215,000 people for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s rally on the Mall.
In our family, we like to talk about politics. However, we have yet to find a single politician or pundit with whom we agree all, or even most, of the time. In the last year or so, many Americans seem to have taken politics too seriously and taken their own positions too far. The Tea Party movement, which originally focused on the idea that the federal government was taxing us too much in order to do things that are not allowed by the Constitution, has gotten a little out of hand. Some members are “birthers,” claiming that Barack Obama is not a natural-born U.S. citizen. Some liken him to Hitler. Some hold up signs with messages to the government: “Get your hands off my Medicare.” Some became convinced that the health insurance bill passed last year involves death panels which will decide when Grandma has to die. Glenn Beck, a commentator on Fox News who is popular among Tea Partiers, had a rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, “coincidentally” on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech in the same location. It was not exactly nonpartisan, nor was the ensuing debate over the number of attendees.
Things were pretty vitriolic for a while. Then Jon Stewart—the “news” anchor on Comedy Central—announced that he would be having a “Rally to Restore Sanity” on the National Mall the day before Halloween. Immediately afterwards, Stephen Colbert—the “conservative commentator” on Comedy Central—announced that he would stage a competing rally called the “March to Keep Fear Alive.” He estimated attendance would be around 400 million. We could not pass up such a historic event, so we rescheduled our trip to Fredericksburg.
Dustin prepared some protest signs for Fiona, based loosely on some ridiculous Tea Party signs we had seen as well as some 2008 campaign slogans. We woke up that Saturday and got ready, then met our friend Yándary to head down to the rally (the two had been combined into a single event). We didn’t think we would need to leave that early, because surely there wouldn’t be that many out-of-town visitors for a rally that was just a joke. Yándary met us at our apartment, Fiona climbed into her baby carrier, and we set off.
We waited at our usual bus stop as several buses—completely full—went by. Finally, we decided that perhaps we should try the subway, which might be less crowded. The inbound trains were just as packed as the buses, so we took an outbound train up a few stops to Fort Totten where the crowds were lighter, crossed the platform, and then got on an inbound train to downtown. It was still crowded, but at least we were able to get on an inbound train.
Once we got downtown, we made our way to the Mall. Posters—funny, ironic, lackadaisical, nonsensical—were everywhere, and many people were also wearing their Halloween costumes. We even saw “Bill” from “I’m Just a Bill,” but unfortunately, we were not able to get a picture with him. Our main goal was to see what other people had done to make fun of real ralliers. Most of the crowd seemed to have the same idea. Thousands of people milled around the Mall, taking pictures of others’ signs. Fiona was a huge hit. Everyone who walked by cooed at her, laughed at her signs, and/or asked to take pictures. We wish there were a way to search the Internet for her face, because we’re pretty sure there are hundreds of pictures of her posted on blogs.
The rally was intended to get people to lighten up. Some protesters seemed to have missed that memo, and had made posters with serious statements on them. We groaned every time we walked by them. In the end, you could say we didn’t even attend the rally, since we never saw the stage or heard Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert. But, in our opinion, we were there for the important part: making fun of people who take things too seriously.