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Sanity Shouldn’t Need a Rally

Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity is coming to Omaha
Sanity Shouldn’t Need a Rally
Published on October 26, 2010 : 7 comments

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I live in a house divided, not by football teams or faiths, but by something much more sinister. The depth of the chasm grows with each news cycle, and rare common ground continues to crumble.

My husband, like the largest portion of news consumers, relies on Fox News to supplement his daily review of the World Herald online and a few local and nationally syndicated talk radio hosts.

I relish my time in the car listening to NPR, reading blogs, enjoying the conversations on Twitter, and falling asleep after Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have their fun.

While our different preferences should open the door to robust discussion where the merits of competing ideas are evaluated for the sheer joy of the intellectual sparring, instead our conversation map is filled with land mines.

To our credit, our 14+ year marriage has always been infused with a healthy sense of humor, and we’ve grown enough to anticipate a potential explosion in time to avoid it.

Unfortunately, too many people lack not only that sense of humor when it comes to challenging issues, but the willingness to throw out the script propagated by their chosen gurus and start the discussion anew.

Jon Stewart, for reasons that could be noble or not, has launched what he is calling The Rally to Restore Sanity, scheduled to take place at the National Mall in Washington D.C. on Saturday, October 30. His comedic sidekick Stephen Colbert launched a counter rally—same time, same place—which he called The Rally to Keep Fear Alive.

Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore SanityStewart’s Rally to Restore SanityHere’s how Stewart describes the purpose of his rally:

We’re looking for the people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive, and terrible for your throat; who feel that the loudest voices shouldn’t be the only ones that get heard; and who believe that the only time it’s appropriate to draw a Hitler mustache on someone is when that person is actually Hitler.”

He goes on to say:

If we had to sum up the political view of our participants in a single sentence…we couldn’t. That’s sort of the point. Think of our event as Woodstock, but with the nudity and drugs replaced by respectful disagreement.”

I’ve never been motivated to attend a rally before, but I’m going to this one, at least vicariously. Omaha is hosting a local version of the rally at Memorial Park on Saturday beginning at 8:30, and then the D.C. rally is being shown live on Comedy Central later in the day.

I hope attendance at the national rally, as well as the many local rallies all around the country, is high, just to demonstrate that a lot of us aren’t red or blue, right or left, conservative or liberal, but are instead somewhere in the middle.

…We reside in the gray areas because we don’t believe the big issues that need
attention have a clear right and wrong approach.

…We think posturing and pontificating wastes valuable time and intellectual capital.

…We aren’t afraid to hear—and even consider—an opposing point of view.

…We are happy to agree to disagree, and can still respect and appreciate those who have a different perspective.

…We are disheartened that millions of anonymous dollars can fund the ever-increasingly nasty political commercials making outrageous claims that too many accept as fact.

…We don’t want to yell or ridicule or slam our fists on the table.

Instead, we want to roll our sleeves up and use our incomparable American resources and creativity to discover solutions, and then make them happen.

The tragedy is the perception that we’re the silent minority. I’m more optimistic than that. I think we’re actually the majority, but you don’t see our provocative signs or our fists shaking in the air because we’re too busy…busy making ends meet, raising kids to be thoughtful and responsible citizens, keeping our business afloat so our employees stay employed, attending church and/or volunteering to make a difference in our own small ways.

And we’re also busy listening. And thinking. And researching. We’re busy forming opinions and plans of action based on what we’re learning and seeing from multiple, diverse sources. We’re looking for evidence and appreciate analysis delivered rationally with supporting evidence.

I’m disappointed that sanity with regard to the marketplace of ideas is something that needs to be restored, but I want to lend my support, not to a political platform or public figure, but to a swing back from the edge of bitter, blaming, and fear-inspired commentary to a commitment to having a decent, respectful conversation.

If you decide to join me on Saturday, you shouldn’t have trouble spotting me. I’ll be a face in a crowd of people who are laughing good-naturedly and talking earnestly to one another. It should be a nice change of pace!

Why are you going to attend Saturday’s rally? What do you think of the US political climate as we approach the midterm elections?

SNBairdSusan Nellson Baird Communication Evangelist @snbaird


AnnDbugz says:

October 26, 2010 : 13 years 37 weeks ago

AnnDbugz's picture

This is a good place to mention that Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 2nd. Our votes do matter and will help restore sanity.

SNBaird says:

October 26, 2010 : 13 years 37 weeks ago

SNBaird's picture

Ann, thanks for being my very first comment on EVER! :)

I wish a new set of personnel would be all it would take, but I think the issue runs much deeper. It’s about how we talk about divisive issues and how we entertain diverse viewpoints with respect.

You’re right, though, that participation in the political process, distasteful and frustrating as it might be, is essential if we hope to be a part of any solution!

jordy says:

October 26, 2010 : 13 years 37 weeks ago

jordy's picture

@Susan And I’ll be your second! Great article, but I get the feeling that you’re incredulous about the rally’s motives (at least the DC version). Do you think it’s going to do more divisive harm than spotlighting good?

SNBaird says:

October 27, 2010 : 13 years 37 weeks ago

SNBaird's picture

Jordy, I’m an optimist and I choose to believe that Jon Stewart really cares about making a difference and trying to counter all of the negativity with a satiric attempt to make a statement. So I think his motives are genuine.

However, I know there are lots of skeptics out there who may think otherwise, and I didn’t want the question of Stewart’s motives to get in the way of the primary point of my message, which is that if we have to try to reclaim sane, rational discourse because it’s no longer the mainstream approach, we’ve got bigger problems.

Thanks for a fantastic editing job on this, with great links and graphics. I’ll be more help next time with that aspect. You make me look very good! :)

anybody hu says:

October 28, 2010 : 13 years 37 weeks ago

anybody hu's picture

Great article Susan! I look forward to reading your future contributions to the site.

The rally in Omaha should be a fun, positive event because I think the people attending will make it that. Obviously John Stewart is a thoughtful and intelligent guy, but I honestly don’t see what the point of this national rally is. In order to be noble there has to be a point. Other than using the Glenn Beck rally as a foil for a giant visual gag and an occasion to celebrate Stewart and Colbert’s popularity, what exactly is the desired outcome? Sarcasm as a vehicle for elevating political discourse just doesn’t seem credible to me. This is probably pure entertainment; the political gathering as a construct, the sacred historic site as signifier, a grand setting for a very special episode of your favorite TV show.

There may even be a parallel between Comedy Central viewers, who get all of their news laced with sarcasm, and the Tea Party. Both seem to believe that no one in politics has any integrity and the whole system is rigged. They’re probably right, but irony and anger are not solutions. As perhaps Susan is implying in her article, we should be in the rolling up our sleeves phase by now. We laugh down our noses at an unprincipled media and an inept ruling class, but is it really all that funny?

SNBaird says:

October 28, 2010 : 13 years 37 weeks ago

SNBaird's picture

Great points, Brendan! I guess I’m looking at the rally as an opportunity to illustrate Arsenio Hall’s catch phrase: “Things that make you go hmmmmmm…..”

I don’t expect life, or the media, or even the state of political discourse to change, but I’m hoping (and I choose to believe, naively or not, that Stewart and Colbert would agree) that if, in the midst of the satire and the fun, people are reminded that things don’t have to be black and white, most people serving in Congress and elsewhere are good people caught up in a cracked system, and that disagreement is healthy.

I want people, whether they attend or not, to step back and say… “You know, I guess I have been immersing myself in media coverage and discussion primarily with people who provide support for what I believe, and may have unintentionally demonized those who don’t share my perspective. I probably won’t stop doing that, but I’ll try to remember that there’s value in hearing other sides and in seeking common ground rather than viewing our democracy as a grown-up version of Red Rover: either come all the way to the other side or don’t, and when you come, try to break us, and if you can’t break us, convert to our side.”

I’m probably too idealistic!

Thanks Brendan for participating in some great discussion!!

Markus Davi (not verified) says:

June 17, 2012 : 12 years 4 weeks ago

Markus Davi's picture

Gday. I was considering adding a hyperlink back to your site since both of our websites are based around the same niche. Would you prefer I link to you using your site address: or website title: Thoughts on Omaha’s Rally to Restore Sanity | Be sure to let me know at your earliest convenience. Thanks!

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