Monday, November 1, 2010


On Saturday, the "Rally To Restore Sanity (and/or Fear)" was held on the Mall in Washington, D.C. Sponsored by Comedy Central, its figureheads were Jon Stewart of 'The Daily Show' and Stephen Colbert of 'The Colbert Report'.

According to CBS, the rally tally estimate was numbered at about 215,000. (Although, as comedian Andy Borowicz posted on Facebook yesterday, the FOX News estimate had the crowd reaching a total of seven.)

One of my dearest and bestest of friends, Ivy, and her husband Gene attended the rally. And she sent me the following report of the day's proceedings:

And now, I turn this post over to Ivy:

I wouldn't have missed this for the world, and having done it, still wouldn't have missed it for the world. Wish we were still there. The vibes were that good. BTW, because it figures in the stream-of-unconsciousness ramble below (rallying is hard work!), Gene's sign was "Chai Party!" and mine was "Tune out Foreign Owned Xenophobes" --with the F O X part in larger, red letters -- "Tune in Hannity" -- with the H crossed out and replaced with an S, and the second N crossed out entirely. With a postscript in the corner, "Yes We Can" in a circle.

Oh yes, we rallied and restored sanity and a sense of humor to DC yesterday. And it was awesome. No other way to put it. As you can see, there were a LOT of people there -- we arrived at 10:30 a.m. and could only get as close as the very last Jumbotron screen area, and so far off to the side of the screen that we saw almost nothing of the show. They were also having volume issues from that far away, and so the audio took a while to adjust to a level we could hear well. The Four Troops, BTW, sounded wonderful. And audible, too. But, for example, we've only just learned that Tony Bennett was there.

From what we could hear, though, the comedy part was kind of lame. And somebody really needs to retire Father Guido Sarducci. The Roots were great.

It seemed clear that they had underestimated the size of the crowd, because we were in the last section they expected to use, which was full by 11 a.m., and a solid 25% of the audience wound up behind us. As we approached the Mall at 10:30, from every street in every direction, you could see a thick, orderly, and cheerful crowd of people, all heading to the same place. That was pretty amazing.

Cops had to come over to our initial spot to ask some ralliers to get out of the tree they'd climbed for a better view. No problem for the ralliers, who scurried down right away, helped by a human wave of people -- like an aerial mosh pit. Even the cops were smiling and in a good mood.

We wound up pretty hemmed in and yet never had the sense that "being hemmed in" might be a bad thing were some kind of argument to erupt. Not with this crowd -- no worries there -- young guys behind us made plenty of space for the 75-ish woman who'd come by herself, and pretty much adopted her for the afternoon, etc. This by itself was something rare.
Our spot (by the porta-potties, where there were no lines) having gotten too close to breathe in by 2 p.m., we took to the street, where a large and very friendly, mellow, and festive crowd was walking around, looking at all the signs -- and each other -- and high-fiving and thumbs-upping -- people taking loads and loads of photos of signs (This is going to be one of the most well-documented events in history if you count everybody's photos) and enjoying the beautiful day and equally amazing company. We were all kind of wandering around, or looking around, with a bit of a sense of wonderment at the wide-ranging demographic of the crowd, and how nicely everyone was behaving, and how many many ralliers there were!

Gene's sign turned out to be a real winner -- there must be a hundred (at least) photos of him/it/him and it photographed with complete strangers/film, and two interviews -- one by a blogger and the other for The Baltimore Sun (along with Peter).

My sign got loads of photos, too, and a lot of thumbs ups, oddly a large number of those from older women, who seem to particularly detest FOX News. People came in groups of generations -- parents with their kids, and their parents -- babies to people in their 80s, some of whom just wheeled themselves across the lawn. This was astonishing, not only not an audience of college students, but not even close. The over-40 group was represented to a jaw-dropping degree -- people you'd NEVER EVER expect to see at a rally. Ever. For any reason. And they came from all over the country -- we saw signs from Seattle and Iowa, Texas, Florida, Maine, and even Canada. Ran into a group of half a dozen 65-ish women in the rest room of a turnpike stop in south NJ this morning -- they'd all been to the rally -- they were a book discussion group who drove en masse from northern Massachusetts. We saw a car this morning, painted up with "Rally To Restore Sanity Or Bust" and two little old ladies in the front seat and a young guy in the back. Lots of grandparents with their teenaged grandchildren. Loads of families with small kids. The kids had some of the best signs. Pinned to a baby backside "My diaper and Glen Beck are full of the same thing." And on the two-year-old, "I Cry Less Than Glen Beck Does."

Saw a really great sign: "Where are the moderate Muslims?" With an arrow pointed down to the middle-aged couple holding the sign. Was it a political rally? Comedy Central claims that it's not, but to the crowd, it kind of was. There were a lot of people there who probably don't even watch Stewart or Colbert. There was a lot of support for the president. You'd have been hard-pressed to find a conservative in attendance, and the nature of a lot of the signs were clearly of a liberal and reasonable bent. Lots of Republican trashing signs, mostly in a mocking vein. And lots of "Legalize Pot" signs. We have a photo of a guy dressed as marijuana. So many of the signs, and tee shirts, and costumes were clever and really intelligent and/or really funny -- this was the rally for smart people. I saw more than one sign that said, "I See Smart People." It was also telling that people had taken a good deal of time and effort in drawing up their signs -- as we did on Thursday night in an hour-long session with markers and poster boards. This was an event that both Gene and I were very happy to have attended. It was a once-only opportunity, perhaps. But it does give me hope that the country is not going to hell in a handbasket. And it seemed clear that a lot of other people came away with the same kind of hope.

We have never ever been part of such an exceptionally nice, low-key, pleasant and polite group -- which, of course, was the point. People were going out of their way to be pleasant. Which gave the whole thing a wonderful, contagious energy. Once the rally broke up, everyone hit the streets of downtown DC, and in a very friendly, cheerful and respectfully celebratory manner, walked around with their signs, clogging up every food joint in the city within half an hour. Terrified receptionists urging people that they couldn't fit anybody else on the wait list (one poor girl looked like she was about to burst into tears over the stress of a hundred people walking into her restaurant inside of half an hour), and people just saying, "Sure, OK," and walking out, smiling at people. Even little hole-in-the-wall salad places had lines out the door. Au Bon Pain ran out of coffee. Hot dog vendors sold out everything they had, down to the last bag of ancient cashews.

After trying for about an hour and a half of astonished wandering around, and camaraderie with total strangers, our lunch consisted of Doritos bought from a bodega. They'd sold out of water. I don't think DC was prepared for the size of this crowd either. We were up at 8 a.m., and people were already streaming toward the Mall in numbers.
And indeed, since we didn't see much coverage of it last night, this is the first I'm seeing of just how large it was! Wow! We really did something here!

Thanks, Ivy!

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