Yesterday, I attended the Keep Fear Alive / Restoring Sanity rally on the National Mall with my friend Pete, his girlfriend, and some of her friends from college.
We got up early, went to brunch in DuPont Circle, and because we heard of massive Metro over crowding, decided to walk down to the rally. My friend Shane tried getting on the Yellow/Blue at Crystal City and the line to get in went all the way up the stairs. He and his girlfriend walked across the bridge. Either there were tons of people, or a fair amount that had never used metro before. I witnessed the confusion at Huntington earlier in the morning, so my guess is that it was a combination of both.
Since I am sure that many of you who watch the Daily Show and Colbert Report who do not live in D.C. did not attend, I figured I’d give a post detailing my perspective on it.
Now, I have been to a few of the tea party events on the mall when they were held during the week. I attended the 2009 Inauguration. This was pretty big. To give you some perspective, here is a shot I took from the steps of the National Gallery. (Another one is here.)
A whole bunch of my friends attended, and I wanted to meet up with them, but it was far too crowded for that to be possible. Since I didn’t attend any of the weekend tea party rallies (how many have there been now, like 4?) I cannot compare this event to any of them in terms of size. After Peter and I got home, we watched the local news coverage. One of the shots of the mall had huge green open spots amongst thousands of people. Why? Grass restoration projects that hampered softball games all summer. I saw that a few rebellious attendees decided to jump the mesh fence and sit there anyway. Keep on fighting “the man” kiddos!
Interesting side note: while I never saw any official merchandisers, I saw people brandishing buttons, stickers and other paraphernalia that I assumed were being sold by guys on the street without a license and likely don’t report any profits as income. Now, libertarian leaning individuals like myself question the need for a license to sell such stuff, but report profits? Sure. Isn’t paying taxes patriotic, as Vice President Biden famously remarked? Of course it is. I only saw one black-market vendor the whole time, however, but I wasn’t really in the market and am sure there were more.
What about the official vendors? The Christian Science Monitor notes that both Colbert and Stewart picked charities for the profit of the sale of goods to flow to. Obviously, this is a really nice gesture. What’s nicer about it, at least to me, is that Jon Stewart’s charity of choice is The Trust for the National Mall. It’s nice to see how private citizens and corporations can lessen the need for government to cover the costs of running the National Mall. Bravo.
If you came in town for the rally, my guess is that you left a bit disappointed. Due to the size of the crowds, speakers, echo effect of the sound, you could only get a clear view and decent ability to hear what was being said in a few places, that I am sure were packed since the early morning. Otherwise, it was a nice people watching opportunity, which is what we did. Just like the inauguration, if you really wanted to get the best experience, you should have stayed home and watched in on television, unless you were a hoighty toity VIP.
I’ll get to this later, but there was a VIP section near the front, and it was really entertaining to watch kids and mildly drunk adults try and sneak in, only to be stopped by a volunteer with a clipboard, or a US Park Police officer with an M4, complete with ACOG sight. But, that’s where we holed up and watched people from. Since I’ve seen how blogs only highlight the worst of the signs from Tea Parties, I figured I might do some of the same, along with sharing the good and funny signs, since I know for a fact those signs are present at tea parties yet are rarely covered.
Before we go any further, I am a Republican that likes The Daily Show and Colbert Report, even though the hosts and I are likely to agree on maybe 20% of policy. I ran into Jon Stewart at the Republican Convention in 2008, we chatted for a bit and I got a picture of me with him. He’s really a nice guy.
The way the local FOX 5 reporter described the rally is that, for the most part, it was political. I’d say about 55% of the signs were political. 45% were either flat out hilarious, satirical pokes at the fringe elements of the tea party, or completely incomprehensible.
“RESTORE SANITY FAUX NEWS CHANGE THE CHANNEL”
This guy had some other choice signs, some of which I couldn’t get pictures of without being obvious. Keep in mind, I had a McCain/Palin shirt on.
“TEA, THE NEW KOOL AID.”
Now, I must respectfully disagree with this sign. Anyone who knows their history understands the frustration that colonists had with Britain over the tax on tea. The way I remember Mr. Thompson describing it, was, that they needed some new revenue and thought we were great candidates to supply it. When governments stop using a model that effectively and fairly taxes citizens, people get pissed off. I guess I’m one of those people. I’ve never tanned before in my life, at least commercially, or sat down at a pool with intent to tan — but a 10% excise tax on tanning in the health care law, really?
“HEALING TAKES TIME — NOT TEA.”
The author of this sign fails to understand that people at tea parties aren’t pissed off that what the President and Congress are doing isn’t working fast enough or effectively, they specifically do not like what has been proposed to fix it.
“FREE THEM NOW”
I only googled the first and largest name, Sakineh Ashtiani, who is an Iranian awaiting a sentence of death by stoning/hanging for adultery under Sharia law. I saw another sign that said: “Afraid of Sharia law? How about the separation of church and state?” I wonder how a talk between these two would go! Now, I’m no fan of the Iranian government, nor the idea of Sharia law in the U.S., but how does this fit at a joke rally that is meant to show that there are sane, funny people out there who come from all walks of life? Her “City Bikes” bag indicates she is likely a local, but it begs the question, how do we “free them now?” Is she implying support for military intervention in Iran? Doubtful. But a diplomatic solution from the US side for a non-US citizen is likely to be a complete waste of time. Why not ask those two Americans in jail how well diplomatic routes are working out for them? And they were just hiking!
“STOP LEGAL TREASON.”
Ok, now this one will require multiple comments. I apologize for having to parse this down by the issue, but this sign is too complex and wrong to ignore.
“SELLING OUR PORTS.”
Presumably, this guy is against a proposal during the Bush administration to sell the management (not ownership) rights of six U.S. seaports to a Dubai-based company, Dubai Ports World. The spokesman for DPW was a member of my fraternity from St. Louis University, and the whole matter was blown out of proportion over legitimate national security concerns. The ports themselves, however, were never for sale. This guy is grossly misinformed, and maybe if he were pissed we were giving the Panama Canal to Panama, I’d agree. But what an odd thing to protest about at this rally.
“SUPREME COURT + CITIZENS UNITED = LEGAL TREASON.”
Really? Here’s another issue that most people don’t know anything about, Citizens United. Read up. Do you really categorically disagree with this decision? Maybe you do, but treason? Again, treason being:
“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.”
Legitimate disagreement? Sure. Treason? That’s a stretch.
“KARL ROVE + SECRET MONEY = TREASON.”
Again, a stretch of the imagination. I bet he’s referring to Rove’s involvement in the political group “American Crossroads,” which he obviously mad about — because Karl Rove is running ads against people he likes/supports. Treason? Not at all. How is this an attempt to “restore sanity?”
“CITIZENS UNITED = BAD DECISION”
Ok, now this one is actually sane. These people, as you can see, are from Cleveland. Many liberals from Cleveland are sane, just not many from Shaker Heights (sorry guys, it’s true.) Legitimate disagreement, but at least he doesn’t allege it’s treason.
Valid sign, but, as the other guy notes, if you don’t like it, change the channel. I don’t tell you not to listen to NPR because it is boring. Then again, FOX isn’t dependent on federal funding for a portion of its budget, but I digress.
More anti-Citizens United propaganda. I wonder how they felt attending a quasi-political event funded by a major corporation?
“MAKE CLIMATE CONTROL A PRIORITY, THEN MAYBE I’LL RECOVER MY SANITY.”
This sign, to me, was indicative of how many people took “restoring sanity” into their own hands. Basically, it goes like this. “Agree with my viewpoint on [issue X] and I’ll agree that we’re restoring sanity to the debate.” Not the point of the rally. As I understand it, it was more along the lines of having sane people discuss the issues, not use their views as a metric for whether or not people are sane in their opinion. Missed the whole point.
“IT’S NOT TEA (it’s kool aid)”
Not to belabor the point, but this person, too, misses the point. Wasn’t the whole “restoring sanity” thing about sane people discussing the issues of contention without casting aspersions or making broad assumptions? Apparently not. I sat down for beers with my friends, and friends from D.C. at My Brother’s Place, and everyone’s views were wildly divergent — nobody made assumptions about anyone (or at least voiced them). Apparently, this person missed the memo about “restoring sanity.”
“CANADIANS FOR A SENSIBLE AMERICA.”
I love Canada and Canadians, but isn’t it kind of a major faux pas (that’s some french for le Quebecque) to write political statements on your (or any) country’s flag? To a more macro level, doesn’t your sign/flag kind of say “I wish America were more like Canada?” I don’t wish that upon anyone, and while I have legitimate disagreements with some of Canada’s laws, I don’t bring the stars and stripes into Toronto and write “I wish Canada were more like us” on it. That’s just what I take from this one.
“NO NANNY STATE [Legalize pot]”
Maybe this guy is a libertarian? My guess is that he’s not totally against a nanny state, depending on his operational definition, but that he just wants to legalize pot. There were many pro-legalization people in attendance.
This one is pretty simple, like the last one. Vote for Democrats. Which begs the question — was he there to restore sanity or keep fear alive? My guess is the latter, since we already voted Democratic the last two elections, and things are just dandy.
“HAVE YOU BEEN ANAL PROBED BY THE GRAYS? CALL 1-800 FOX NEWS, EXT.03 TEABAGGERS.”
Ordinarily, I’d put something like this below in the nonsensical, and maybe even funny column, but since he brought up Fox News and “Tea Baggers” (a slur for tea party rally attendees), I have to rate this political. This sign isn’t funny and makes no sense.
“WOMENS FRIGHTS” (pictures of Republican women candidates and politicians — from what I can tell — Whitman, Fiorina, Bachmann, and O’Donnell.)
Now this sign would still be political if were just Bachmann and O’Donnell, but if you can’t differentiate Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina from the latter, you’re really missing vast ideological differences between these two pairs. Any person with sanity can recognize that.
“REINCARNATED?” and “THE REAL AXIS OF EVIL.”
Hey look! Our first Hitler reference! Sarah Palin is Hitler? Bill O’Reilly is Joseph Goebbels (picture is hard to determine.) I knew I would encounter people like these, and they don’t belong at a rally like this. They should be moving out to Lynchburg, Virginia, to work for Lyndon LaRouche. I am no fan of Sarah Palin (even though her name was on my shirt). I wouldn’t vote for her if she ran for President, but is she Hitler? Come on now.
“VERY LONG SIGN ABOUT TAXES, CLASS WARFARE, ETC.”
I really wanted to talk to this guy, but chose not to. Yet another case of “if you don’t think like I do, you cannot possibly be sane.” I like how he uses the words “goes to” when referring to income. Like it’s a secret cabal of people becoming wealthier at the expense of the proletariat. “Hey Bernanke, how much do the richest 1% get this year?” He obviously doesn’t understand the role of investing, and that many of the so-called richest 1% are people who own dry-cleaners, and other small businesses. To be in the top 1% of earners (wait, people earn — not “get” income?), you basically have to earn between $380 and $414K+ per year. If I did talk to this guy, I would have lost numerous hours of my life with him.
“END GLEE THEME NIGHTS!”
Preaching to the choir, pal. Preaching to the choir.
“BUILDINGS ARE TOO DAMN HIGH”
Now, I realize he’s just joking, but I disagree. Just like arbitrary price ceilings on rent reduce the aggregate amount of affordable housing in NYC, so too, do height restrictions in D.C. effect the price of rent. He is mocking Jimmy McMillan, the non-rent paying gubernatorial candidate in New York who is a member of “The Rent is Too Damn High Party.”
“GOD HATES FIGS”
This one, in my view, is tops. It is a play on the absolute nut jobs at Westboro Baptist Church who protest outside of funerals for soldiers killed in the line of duty with posters that say “God Hates Fags.”
Jim Gaffigan would love this sign. Well played.
“THIS IS THE BACK OF MY SIGN.”
Well of course it is. Funny.
“PASSIONATELY MODERATE! MODERATES DO IT IN THE MIDDLE!”
Thank you. At least one person understood, somewhat, the point of this rally. I’m not saying everyone should be moderate, but can’t everyone have a sane discussion?
“WE DEMAND FEWER DEMANDS (If that’s cool with you.)”
Well, not totally cool with me, but I get the point — quit demanding shit. Thanks for being cool about it.
“I HAVE A SIGN”
Do you now? How good for you! Great point. Just because you have a sign doesn’t make what is on it: relevant, interesting, correct, funny, or cool. Hands down, best sign in the rally.
“LOOK AT MY IRONIC HIPSTER SIGN.”
I did look at it. It was so cool, I took a picture of it. Way to understand the whole point of the rally — fun people who don’t take themselves too seriously. Winner winner chicken dinner.
“END ROAD WORK!”
This guy didn’t bring the sign, but took the time to satirically complain. I guess it’s better than “I’M AGAINST SHOVEL READY JOBS, EVEN THOUGH PRESIDENT OBAMA SAYS THEY DIDN’T REALLY EXIST.” We saw this on the way out. +1,000 creativity points.
I was sincerely disappointed in the large amount of children forced to carry political signage, but this parent was ironic and awesome. No child should be forced to carry signs that contain messages that are incomprehensible to them. What’s even cooler is that they were taking the kid into My Brother’s Place.
“I AM NOT A WITCH.”
Of course not, you’re me!
“YOU’D BETTER CHECK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU WRECK YOURSELF. -ice cube”
No explanation necessary.
WHAT I HOPED FOR/EXPECTED
At the event, I had three really good moments of bi-partisan sanity I’d like to share. The first was when some 18 year old kid tried jumping the fence into the VIP area and got chased out by a cop with a rifle, he said to the crowd “I thought that this was a rally to restore sanity, not to tell people they cannot jump over fences!” I replied “Hey! You sound like a Libertarian!” He stormed off. A couple involved in some PDA laughs and makes fun of the people storming off. This, to me, is what I hoped the rally could be, sans the douchebag kids, obviously.
The second came at My Brother’s Place after a few beers. I went downstairs to the bathrooms, where two stalls (no urinals) exist for each gender. One of the men’s rooms was open, but one was closed. Both of the women’s rooms were open. Given the facts of nature, the men’s room line was moving faster than that of the women’s. One woman suggested that they all start going in the men’s room, which I thought was a bit sexist. There were about 5 women, and two guys (including me) waiting in our respective lines. So, I suggested a compromise. Since women use a disproportionate amount of toilet paper when peeing compared to men, I suggested we form one bi-gender, bi-partisan line, and open up all three bathrooms to both genders. It would alleviate the nature-imposed disparity of bathroom waiting time, and more efficiently allocate toilet paper (since we use less.) The oldest woman of the bunch praised my compromise, and thanked me for restoring sanity. We adopted my proposal. I waited a few seconds while the line reorganized in order of longest wait. Then, I said: “Hey, thanks for praising my idea as a restoration of sanity. I am glad you acknowledged it, because ‘I AM A REPUBLICAN!'” and unzipped my jacket to show a McCain/Palin shirt. She was aghast. After regaining her composure, she saw my jacket was a Cleveland Browns jacket, and my hat represented the Indians. “Where are you from in Cleveland?” She asked. “Shaker Heights.” I responded. She questioned how I grew up a Republican in Shaker, like diversity in that town was a bad thing. I responded that I’ve been trying to restore sanity for years. She thought it was funny.
The last was as we were about to leave My Brother’s Place. One of Peter’s girlfriend’s friends’ co-worker (still following?) said, while she disagreed with everything that my (Republican) party wanted to accomplish policy-wise, that she had fun, and she enjoyed my observations of the rally.
Overall, it was a good time. But, if I wanted to go to see what Colbert/Stewart wanted to say, I should have stayed home.
Peter and I at My Brother’s Place.
It’s hard to get a sense of a rally when maybe 2% of people are opening themselves up to judgement with signs, and people aren’t moving that freely. Further, it was hard to get a “big picture” view because of those circumstances. I had fun, and am thankful that approximately 200,000 mostly left-leaning people took day(s) away from canvassing and getting out the vote to waste their time at a rally they could have easily TIVO’d. We Republicans appreciate it.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Sound off on my discussion board, bomble.net