By Adriene Goodwin firstname.lastname@example.org WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two days ago, I was sandwiched between Mickey Mouse and the Mad Hatter on the metro to Washington D.C. We weren’t on our way to a Disney convention; we were winding towards the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. I have been in love with The Daily Show host Jon Stewart for eight years, and his counterpart Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report has also managed to charm his way into my heart with his satirical, hyper-conservative television persona. It wasn’t my schoolgirl crush on these fine men that compelled me to attend the rally (OK, that contributed a little bit), instead it was my disenchantment with a president I helped elect, my disdain for the mass media fearmongers, and the disturbing increase of aggression and hatred on each end of the political spectrum. I refused to take anymore of this insanity, and I was going to vocalize my anguish with like-minded individuals in an ever-so-polite manner, dammit! So off to D.C. I went! Saturday was as visually insane as one would expect: A variety of costumes and signs — from the political to the absurd to the just plain confusing — colored the National Mall in energetic sprinkles of excitement. How perfect that this occasion fell on the same weekend as Halloween! It’s funny how Halloween is supposed to be a time when we dress up as something silly, something we could never be in reality. At the rally, however, people used the lunacy of their costumes to form a sort of camaraderie amongst each other. There was no rioting, no preaching or condemning of differing beliefs; voices of different walks-of-life were all around me. The conservatives were few and the liberals many, but even then the most extreme bleeding hearts never chastised those around them claiming to be moderate. “I think extremism in any form only serves to do harm,” said Rona Kordestani, a Los Angeles resident dressed in traditional, head-to-foot hijab. Kordestani and her friend Lisette Garcia noted their attire was meant to satirize the fear and anti-Muslim sentiments perpetuated by some conservatives and the infamous Tea Party movement. “I’ve been a hardcore lefty my whole life,” she continued, “but I think when any group takes things too far to one extreme or the other, all it does is give opponents something to point to, and gives them reason to vilify opponents.” Kordestani and Garcia caught my attention with their ‘DURKA LURKA’ and ‘LURKA DURKA’ signs, a hilarious reference to the 2004 comedy, Team America: World Police. Many individuals explained the political significance (or irony) of their costumes, but others simply dressed up to be noticed. “My actual goal is: I want to get on stage!” stated Jim Thomas of North Carolina in his Mickey Mouse garb earlier on the metro. Needless to say, a man-sized mouse was one of the more tame costumes of the afternoon. One of my favorite signs was serious and plain, but still rather effective: “FEAR ME. I VOTE.” New Jersey college student Paul explained: “Only 40 percent of the population is currently voting. It’s sad.” When asked whether the illusion of a vote has any sort of power, Paul went on to say, “There is this sentiment that the Republicans will regain the House and that all progress will stop [But] I voted for Obama, and I believe he’s being criticized because in 21 months he hasn’t been able to inspire a sweeping change. I think a sweeping change would be dangerous.” He went on to defend the president, claiming the country expected change overnight that just wasn’t possible. This was the sentiment of most at the rally, and while I agreed with it to an extent, I could not allow myself to view Obama as a political victim. I thought back to the Daily Show episode Wednesday night. Jon Stewart sat down with the President and flat out asked him about the lack of any real change in the last two years. I was ready to see him play hardball but in the end the episode left me disappointed. The President defended himself and said the same thing Paul and a variety of other individuals claimed. “[Healthcare reform] gets discounted because the presumption is, ‘We didn’t get 100 percent of what we wanted Let’s focus on the 10 percent we didn’t get.’” It was here I agreed with my darling Mr. Stewart. “I don’t mean to lump you in with other presidents,” said Stewart only half-jokingly, “but you ran on the idea that this system needed basic reform. It feels like some of the reforms like healthcare have been done in a very political manner that has papered over a foundation that is corrupt.” For the remainder of the episode, the two mainly focused on the healthcare bill and failed to address the supposed end of the war in Iraq, unemployment, immigration reform, DADT and other aspects of the platform Obama ran on in 2008 that have yet to see any significant progress. Being the gentleman he is, I suppose Stewart held back on attacking these points, and decided to let the American people speak for themselves. On Saturday, I was amazed at the turnout of individuals voicing their frustration, confusion, and determination that we must strive for real reform. Stewart, Colbert, and their team of correspondents did not have to make the rally political to encourage political activism and civil discourse. “We can have animus without being enemies,” said Stewart. He went on to show how much the media contributes to today’s increasing tension and polarization through several video montages. They were both hilarious and disheartening in how dependent they were on fear tactics. Stewart used the allusion of dangerous corbomite (a Star Trek reference not unnoticed by this nerd) found in bottled water to symbolize how media figures scare the public into a corner of fear and ignorance. “You just got scared by something that is not real,” Stewart said to a cowering Colbert. But what are we to do when every social media outlet seems to perpetuate the division of our nation? Return to sanity. Defy the fear. Remember that we as individuals in this country are all human beings despite difference of gender, ethnicity, religion, etc. “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,” said Stewart. I couldn’t help but think he was taking a jab at the elitist liberals, but if he was it wasn’t necessarily unfounded. We as liberals have always prided ourselves on being more open-minded than our conservative counterparts, based on our continuous support of social welfare programs and concern for equal rights. Yet time after time I have witnessed such unforgivable hatred towards the Right that makes me feel so ashamed sometimes. Radical Leftists claim there is no equivalent on our side to Rand Paul, John McCain, Christine O’Donnell, and the Mama Grizzlies simply based on one fact: we are the right ones, and they are wrong and evil. We do not need a face or a name known by the media to have wrongdoers on our side. When UTSA’s Atheist Agenda equates the Bible to pornography, this debases our legitimacy as a progressive and respectable force in this country. When Code Pink protests outside Walter Reed Hospital with coffins, this sends a mixed and extremely harmful message to those inside the hospital as well as out. When progressives lash out against the Right for being anti-Muslim but then regard all Christians as crazy, how does this make us better than those we ridicule? I’m sure I’ll be forced to wear a scarlet letter for saying all that, but it was something I think we all realized at the rally. “We live now in hard times,” said Stewart, “not end times.” We will only make the difficulties of today worse should we continue to let anger and fear separate us from each other. We can have passion and our individual beliefs, but when the choices we make are made with intent to hurt or demean the value of our fellow citizens, then we must act in the name of justice. We cannot let hatred dilute our ability to think and reason with each other. I have not lost all confidence in the ability of our president and government to bounce back and restore their own sanity. It’s fun to imagine Jon Stewart moving to Washington D.C. to keep everyone in check, but it shouldn’t be the responsibility of one comedian to ensure progress and reform: that is our job as concerned citizens of these United States.
---Goodwin is a 22-year-old student stuck in academic limbo at San Antonio College. She enjoys vegan cooking, Charlie Chaplin films, and Transcendentalist literature. She says: "Let's be friends."