I got up at 6:40 AM this morning. I figured that if I was going to be on my feet all day, I should start the day off right. I had an omelette, fruit and copious amounts of coffee, then took a shower and dressed for cool weather and walking. I actually left a bit later than I had planned, but that didn’t matter, as it turned out that my friend Nick K. and his gaggle of (very, very cool) friends were running significantly later.
Even with my late departure, I was at Glenmont Metro station by 8:45 AM. That’s when I began to understand that my conceptions of this rally were … a bit off. I’d anticipated maybe 50,000 people – a comfortable little event were we wouldn’t have a major problem seeing the stage. Well, the Glenmont Metro Station – which is one of the least busy endpoint stations on the system – was packed. There were people all over the platform.
By the time I reached our meeting point at Gallery Place / Chinatown, I had gotten used to the idea that I was going to be standing all day staring at a JumboTron. I camped out on the steps of the National Portrait Gallery and waited on Nick and his crew. He showed up before long with Krispy Kremes and some great posters: “Say NO to NUTS! (well, unless … of course … you’re into that kind of thing),” and “Everything is good in moderation. (except sex, and chocolate, and beer, and …).”
I love that guy.
The ladies decided they wanted coffee with their Krispy Kremes, and so we spent an hour (no joke) waiting on them to get through the line at Dunkin’ Donuts. We could see the exit of the Gallery Place / Chinatown metro stop from our perch at the gallery, and it was pouring fourth a non-stop stream of people. After the coffee was successfully acquired, a few more people showed up, and we joined the throng headed down to the Mall.
Once we crossed Madison Drive, we managed to make it onto the mall proper, and move forward all of 200 feet toward the nearest – and last – JumboTron and speakers. For the next 4 hours, we stood shoulder-to-shoulder with other rally-goers and .. well .. had a blast.
One of the most fun parts of the rally was the Myth Busters segment. They had Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman there, and they conducted fun “experiments”. The first was examining how fast The Wave propagates through a crowd; it took almost 60 seconds to travel from the front to the back, which should give you an indication of just how big the crowd was. Next they had everyone making noises – cheek pops, crying, laughing like a mad scientist, etc. The best one, though? They had us make an earthquake. All 200,000+ people jumped into the air at one time. It sounded like distant thunder. Apparently, though, it didn’t make much of a quake (lol).
The music was kind of hit-and-miss. I mean, the names were… well… legendary: John Legend & The Roots, Ozzy Osbourne, Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens), Sheryl Crow, Kid Rock, and more. The problem was their song selection – it wasn’t up-tempo enough. The performances, though, were very good (with one or two exceptions).
I actually don’t watch either Stewart or Colbert. I’ve never been much of a late-night comedy fan. My daily dose of non-fiction programming consists of Maddow & Olbermann clips on MSNBC. I have to say, though, the guys were funny. Personally, I enjoyed Colbert more than Stewart, but that might have been a one-off thing. They started the rally by showing how it ended up being one rally instead of two (that was a fiction, of course). Then, Stewart came out on stage and welcomed The Roots. John Legend joined them a few minutes later. After their first set, Stewart had to coax Colbert out of his “fear bunker, 2000 feet below the mall.” Colbert came up to the stage in a “Fenix” capsule, wearing a super-hero suit.
They battled it out over Fear and Sanity for the next couple of hours, victimizing Ozzy Osbourne, Yusuf Islam, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, R2D2 and many others in the process. Colbert handed out “Fearies” (think Emmy) and Stewart gave “Medals of Reasonableness”. The highlight of that segment was when Colbert gave a “Feary” to the major networks who
refused were too afraid to cover the rally – a brave, 7-year-old girl accepted the honor “in their place.”
At the end of the rally, Stewart took a few minutes to actually give a speech. As one of the other guys in my group said, he undercut himself a bit by injecting to much humor – but then, he is a comedian. What he had to say was exactly why I went to the rally, and exactly what I was trying to say in my earlier post on restoring sanity to political discourse. Here’s the meat of it:
I can’t control what people think this was. I can only tell you my intentions. 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..
[This] country’s 24-hour, political pundit, perpetual, panic conflict-inator did not cause our problems. But its existence makes solving them that much harder … If we amplify everything, we hear nothing..
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..
That’s what this was all about, and quite honestly, this rally restored my hope that a return to sanity is possible. For over 6 hours today, I and my friends stood surrounded by thousands and thousands of other truly decent people. I spent 3 hours jammed up against 3 guys and a tiny little Asian girl that I’d never met before in my life, and at the end of the day, if they’d needed a place to stay, I would have offered. Every person I saw in the crowd was someone I ended up respecting, or at least understanding on some level. If you doubt the truth of that, you should have seen the condition of the National Mall when we left – it was spotless. There were literally people walking around begging to take your trash and recyclables.
After the rally, we sort of camped out on The Mall for a while – trying to get to a Metro station would have just been maddening. We chatted, rested our weary feet, and admired other people’s signage (personally, I thought Nick’s signs were the best). A few choice ones:
- They told me there would be Justin Bieber.
- Every word on this sign is spelled correctly.
- You seem nice, but if Zombies attack, I’m tripping you.
- The rent is too damn high!
- Palin Voldemort 2012. Keep Fear Alive!
- Fear is the mind-killer!
I’d thought about going to the meet-up with Joe Jervis and the readership of Joe.My.God. at The Green Lantern, but I
chickened out decided that I need a wingman for my first visit to a gay bar. Since everyone else had plans, we went our separate ways around 5:30 PM. The trip home was uneventful, other than pleasant encounters with other sane people – including the total cutie who very, very politely asked to sit beside me on the jam-packed metro. I’m now sitting at my desk drinking fluids and soaking my feet… and feeling rather alone. Being one in a crowd of 200,000 must impact you on levels you don’t expect.