On September 16, 2010, Jon Stewart finally delivered his long-anticipated ANNOUNCEMENT to end all announcements, unveiling the Daily Show Rally to Restore Sanity scheduled for October 30th, 2010: a day when perfectly reasonable people and Daily Show fanatics from round the world will unite on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. for what will, obviously, be the greatest rally of all times. The cause is worthy, the principles just. And we the soon-to-be-ralliers aren’t asking for much. In fact, our request is pretty simple: it’s a plea for the restoration of some respectable degree of sanity and intelligence to a national news frenzy that we find riddled with disturbingly-influential pockets of polarized madness.
Except maybe it’s not just “riddled,” and maybe they aren’t just “pockets.” It’s probably more accurate to say that our whole American conversation has been overtaken by Madness – Madness that aims to get people riled up, that aims to instill fear. Madness driven by shaky facts, even shakier (if any) logic, hyperbolic claims, downright asinine “conclusions,” and a focus on issues of the least practical or political importance to anyone or anything. I (along with my fellow ralliers-to-be) am pretty sick of this fear-mongering exaggeration and of media figures who use the assumptive authority of their position to play off the fears and stupidities of the (shockingly numerous) people who take them seriously. We’re sick of all these tactics and manipulators – but we’re not ready to follow in their stead and act like they’re bringing on the apocalypse because, let’s face it, we’re just too reasonable to believe that. Or…are we?
I, for one, am starting to wonder. While I liked (and laughed at) most of the sample cardboard rally signs that Jon flashed in front of the camera on his big ANNOUNCEMENT day, I’m not sure I agree completely with the one that said: “I’m not afraid of Muslims/Tea Partiers/socialists/immigrants/gun owners/gays…But I am scared of spiders.” Mine might have to say: “I’m not afraid of Muslims/socialists/immigrants/gun owners/gays…But I am scared of spiders/Tea Partiers/Fox News/Sarah Palin” (/roaches…let’s face it, I live in New York). To be sure, I’m not scared of what the TP’ers and Foxers want me to be scared of (Muslims/socialists/immigrants/gun owners/gays), but I’m starting to fear the fear itself—the fear that they play up and play upon so apparently effectively.
For a long time I’ve joined the considerable rest of my generation in practical worship of The Daily Show and its supremely worship-worthy host, finding in the show a daily dose of just what we’ll be rallying for on 10/30: sanity. Hilarious sanity. And finding something more than that too – something refreshing in the way that letting out a breath you’ve been holding until you almost pass out is (uh, would be) refreshing: it’s the practically visceral relief of hearing someone say, finally say, to the world, what you’ve been thinking (or, even, trying to get across), for what might just feel like forever. Jon and his Daily Show crew are the ones who have the wherewithal to look at people squawking away about gay-marriage and flag-burning and abortion and, instead of getting caught up in the argument, respond with the true voice of reason: “who gives a fuck?” Because really, we’ve got bigger problems. While poverty continues to run rampant and the world’s resources rapidly run out, focusing on polarizing “social issues” for the sake of furthering the egos and power structures that are behind the Madness in the first place is pure insanity.
And yet the greatest insanity of all – brilliant and worship-worthy a satirist as Jon may be – is that it even takes any particular wherewithal to deliver his reasonable messages night in and night out, that we even have to contend with people who make a big deal out of practically inconsequential “social issues” and throw around Hitler analogies like ping-pong balls. What Jon and his team convey in such a smart and funny way is basically common sense. So even as I get out of bed every morning and do my daily dance of thanks to the Gods for giving us all the Daily Show, and much as I’ll rally passionately (but not, you know, too passionately) behind the cause of simple sanity, I also have to admit that the very need to rally for simple sanity, and the very need for an icon like Stewart to stand up for something so basic, is actually pretty scary. It’s scary that people who seem bent on being dumb can gain so much power, that other people will follow them in sufficient numbers to get George Bush elected twice (once was bad enough), and that someone like Sarah Palin (just when I thought Bush was the ultimate colossal embarrassment) could get close to the White House. (If she ever actually lands in it, I will leave the country, even if that means prematurely ending my love affair with New York City.)
This is all to say that, while I will be rallying heartily for sanity in two weeks, my motivation will be partly rooted in fears of my own. And now before I get too carried away with unsubstantiated hyperbole of my own, I’ll sign off with a couple more rally sign revisions:
I disagree with you,
but and I’m pretty sure you’re not Hitler himself, but sometimes I wonder about your ancestry.
Got Competence? (Got brain?)
9/11 was an outside job (with inside help)
Legalize pot, and outlaw Fox.