Originally published in the November 5, 2010 issue
Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are arguably the most notable comedians on the political scene. So when they announced they were holding a Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington at the National Mall the weekend before the election, even political non-enthusiasts were pretty stoked.
Comedy Central estimated around 60,000 people would attend the Saturday event. The air photos calculated about 215,000 attendees. Clearly, the pull of these two comedians in Washington was underestimated.
During the three-hour event, there were supposed nonpartisan satire, musical performances and some Halloween antics. There was even a distribution of the Medal of Reasonableness and the Medal of Sanity.
After months of Red vs. Blue and an unbreakable aisle divider, this rally was about unity for the sake of reason and sanity and about Americans coming together for a rally whose purpose was for the most part unknown. There were obvious jokes and satire that everyone expected from the two men on stage.
But there was also a side of Jon Stewart that really let the audience see his passion for this country.
His parting speech to the crowd made more sense than most heard in the weeks leading up to the election. His main discussion point was the involvement of the media as agenda setters in our lives.
The 24-hour news cycle and the importance that the media places on certain problems do not help Americans become any more informed or give them the information to make educated decisions. As Stewart said, “When we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”
He refers to the press as our immune system, stating that when it overreacts, we get sicker. Americans do not live their lives as Republicans, Democrats, Liberals or Conservatives. According to Stewart, they live their lives doing impossible things and making sacrifices every day.
They drive in their cars, wearing different outfits, listening to different radio stations and traveling to different places. But they are all driving together, regardless of the bumper stickers they are sporting on their cars.
This rally helped to offer a moment of clarity I hope other voters were listening to. The election results mean different things to different people, but it should not serve as an excuse to divide America even further.
And while the real purpose of the rally was unknown, Stewart says he got what he wanted.
“Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder,” he said. “Seeing you here today has restored mine.”