The downer for me of course was the huge crowd, but I knew pretty well it would be large and only was hoping that I’d be up to standing for several hours (I was although my feet used language I’ve not heard from them ever before) and craning my neck to see anything at all. They had a large number of giant screen TVs positioned so everyone could see at least part of something, so I had partial views of most of the program.
I enjoyed most of the musical acts (I really enjoyed Mavis Staples at the end, there) and I thought Jon and Steve did a very good job with skits and jokes geared toward their fictitious conflict between political insanity and the other side of sane and civilized discourse. Personally, I thought sanity won out, but I must say there were many people, at least in my immediate vicinity, who were dressed and carrying signs to support fear. My favorite was a trio in bug suits dressed as “Bedbugs for Fear.” I also enjoyed a sign that read: “Modrats Mispel To.”
I was stunned at the turnout. I think the weather was a big contributor -- it was a brilliant sunny day, so sunny that my face got burnt. I’d expect this in California but not DC in late October. It made the day cheerful and helped to make the crowd buoyantly cheerful. There was an uncommon amount of courtesy extended by strangers to each other, and I found this truly refreshing. I probably only muttered “asshole” two or three times the whole day, and a young man behind me did steal my sanity button and pin it on his own chest. My companion was horrified, but in the spirit of the day, we didn’t challenge this kid. I didn’t think it was worth the conflict, besides which, I already had a handout towel souvenir, which I brought home and has now dried numerous dishes and already been laundered.
Kathy and I stowed PBJ sandwiches in our pockets to have for lunch and avoid the food vendors with their lines and greasy offerings. Another great thing -- there actually were enough Porto-sans so you didn’t have to wait an hour to take a whiz. God bless Jon Stewart and his people! They understood what a crowd really needs more than anything else -- a reasonably clean spot to squat.
I would probably only do something like this once. I felt I had to do it -- the message seemed tailored to my needs and intentions -- and I’m happy to have done it. It will take something really major to get me out into a crowd that size again. I don’t imagine a political rally will do it for me. The call would have to extend once again from within a philosophical construct that reaches for the better part of our human natures rather than mere titillation of rage, bigotry, hatred and all that other bad stuff.
The worst part of attending the rally was getting back to the car. We had parked at an outer rim metro station around 9 a.m. and taken the train in to DC itself. There had been a crowd, but it was orderly and everyone got on the train. It was much different coming back. Walking in a multitude is very slow -- I remember a couple next to us pushing a baby in a wheeled carrier. They had a cover over the carriage to protect the baby and in hopes of keeping it calm, but the baby was having none of that and shrieked in frustration and rage all the way up the street. Since everyone was inching forward, that poor baby had about a half hour in which to express his displeasure. We were all so thickly packed, that the mother couldn’t really take the baby out and comfort it. We all just kept plodding along. Our actual travel time in from Baltimore to DC was maybe an hour and 15 minutes. Our trip out took more than 3 hours because of waiting for trains. That night, I slept 10 solid hours and dealt with some muscle aches for the next couple of days.
I think Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert made a solid point about public attitude and behavior that of course pundits and media refuse to acknowledge because such people are paid to whip up discord and keep drama in the public dialogue. The major reason I went to the rally is because I agree with a thoughtful approach to all of this. The rally and the crowd proved you could assemble, take a stance and make a statement without packing iron or yelling at or insulting people who at least deserve respectful attention.