On Thursday, three friends and I will road trip 17 hours and over 1,000 miles to Washington, D.C., to participate in Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity. Celebrating level-headedness and civil discourse, we’ll be joined by hundreds of thousands of other reasonable people holding signs that read, “Death to nobody,” or “I disagree with you, but I’m pretty sure you’re not Hitler.”
Although Stewart’s rally will most likely involve humor, the crux of his message should be taken seriously—the hate-filled rhetoric that clouds our country’s political discourse is steadily deterring levelheaded people from the democratic process.
By just watching five minutes of cable news or picking up a newspaper, you can see that Americans are upset and rightfully so. People are losing their jobs; soldiers are dying in a decade-long war; the environment is being destroyed in the name of short-term corporate profit.
And all while this is happening, cable-news talking heads and desperate politicians spend their public time blaming familiar scapegoats, calling each other names and injecting fear into the conversation. Even when they claim to talk about the issues, conversations end in a virtual shouting match. This is the absolute wrong way of solve our national problems.
We should be able to trust our politicians to make the best decisions collectively for all Americans, while also trusting our news outlets to deliver information without bias. Unfortunately, there are countless examples of where disagreement has gone too far, and no one’s hands were clean in these situations. Both political parties and the media forgot the meaning of a healthy dialogue or what bipartisanship really means. We let our emotions get the best of us in this difficult time for our country.
We can look at the ignorant ways people have described our president—as a Kenyan Muslim fascist socialist—which has furthered racial and religious tensions in the U.S.
Or we can look at our elections. I went home to Chicago last weekend and was appalled by the political ads running on TV. “Mark Kirk is a liar.” “Alexi Giannoulias is a bigger liar.” “Pat Quinn is a Chicago crook.” “Bill Brady is a Tea Party extremist.” The commercial break for SportsCenter was more stressful than my midterms back here at Drake.
We can even look to politicians using absolute statements or broad generalizations of people in the hope of swaying voters’ opinions. These disingenuous generalizations help no one in the end. Not all Muslims are terrorists, not every Democrat loves taxes, not every Republican is a Christian fundamentalist, and not every Tea Partier is a racist. It is quite simple, really.
Our country is not unfamiliar with loud, apocalyptical and impassioned demagoguery that we see today. Busing protests of the ‘70s, Iraq War protests of recent years and many others have often crossed the lines of sane democratic discourse. I have nothing against protests for causes. I have issues when shouting and hate replaces peaceful demonstrations.
It’s not even new for the world. Go to the BBC or Reuters websites and you can see violent protests in France after the government voted to raise the country’s retirement age, or see protestors take over the Acropolis in Athens over unpaid wages.
So, with all of this virtual white noise that surrounds us—through cable news, in Congress and across the Internet-—it makes sense that Stewart’s rally would gain so much popularity. It made a lot of sense to my friends and me who are making the 17-hour drive to D.C. And it surely makes sense to the people attending the 800 concurring rallies happening in 67 countries around the world.
Legends on Court Avenue will also hold their own viewing party/rally that day from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Talking with my friend Kate who is going on the trip to the D.C., she said that this is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stand up for levelheadedness. It’s also the first satirical rally that comes to her mind.
We don’t know what to expect from the rally, but we do know we will have some laughs and gather on the National Mall in the name of sanity. Hopefully, our rally will send a message that Americans are tired of the hate and fear mongering in our country’s politics and ready to have a respectful and productive conversation on solving our nation’s problems.
Vasilogambros is a senior politics and news/Internet double major, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.