Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sanity Rule (one day)

Lordy, Lordy, you should have seen the Rally to Restore Sanity & Keep Fear Alive hosted by comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. It was a sight to behold. I've been to many of the big events in D.C. – the Bicentennial Celebration in 1976, every presidential inauguration, Folk Life Festivals, and Indian Pow Wow's – but the Rally for Sanity was the mother of all events ever held on the Washington Mall. No contest.

Many of my friends from Annapolis were on the road before the sun in hopes of finding a parking place somewhere near the monuments. No one wanted to try Metro because it broke when the two trains collided last year and no one has figured out how to put it back together.

We got a late start and drove in via Kenilworth Avenue and East Capital Street, past all of the busses that were parked at RFK. There was no traffic and we snagged a free parking place on C Street right next to a neighborhood market where we bought snacks and sandwiches. Then we walked down the west side of Capital Hill to the Mall as people of all colors, ages, shapes and sizes poured out of Union Station. When we finally got a clear view of the spectacle below, we could see the entire Mall was filled from the Reflecting Pool to the Washington Monument.

It was beautiful fall day. The large Japanese Pagoda trees and oaks ringing Capital Hill were turning golden and a piercing blue sky tinged with cathedral light made the white Capital Dome seem almost mythical in its majesty. I kept pinching myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming.

Everyone we encountered from beginning to end was smiling. These were not angry teabaggers, looking for a fight. The vibe was laid-back and totally chill.

It looked and felt like Woodstock and the signs of freedom were everywhere.

Americans For ... Oh Look, It's A Puppy
Discourse then Intercourse
Reality Has a Well-Known Liberal Bias
Relax, People, I Think We’ll Be OK
Kittens Scare Me - Kittens Are Taking Over Our Government - Kittens Are EVERYWHERE - RUN!
Team Sanity
Leave Scary to Halloween Not Politics
[Citation needed]
I Can See Sanity From My House
Uncle Sam Wants YOU to Stop Being Afraid of Other Americans, Religions, Classes, Nations, Ideas. You’re Americans - Act Like It!
Things Are Pretty OK
Yes We Can ... but
I Think We Still Could
I Think I’m Right ... but
I Love Being Right So Much I Change My Mind When I’m Wrong
Separation of Corporation and State
Keep It Sane Stupid
I Hate Pointless Signs
THEY Took Our Jobs!
I Was Told There Would Be Cake
I Support Signs
Don't Be A FOXhole
FOX News - Keep Fear Alive
Jesus Died 4 Our Signs
Palin/Chaney 2012 - The Mayan Prophecy Fulfilled
Libraries are Prisons for Books
Bacon is Good For Me!
America – Let's Take it Down A Notch
Death To All Fanatics!
This Sign is Too Damn Big.

We couldn't get near the stage area and there were fences to herd the crowd into the Mall at 7th Street. People sat atop every porto-potty and perched in the trees to get a better look at the stage – it was a total free-for-all zoo.

We couldn't stop laughing. Everywhere we looked was something amusing. It was like the zany creative spirit of America had been unleashed upon Washington for a mind-blowing throw-down party.

Halloween was the next day, so many people were in costumes. There were the usual political masks, werewolves, vampires, and other grisly ghouls, but some people really pulled out all the stops.

There was a toaster carrying a sign that read Toasters United Against Teabaggers.

A Flying Spaghetti Monster kept letting people rub their heads on her springy foam pasta while a nearby human vacuum cleaner with flood lights guarded one of the food tents.

Space aliens surrounded a giant walking Statue of Liberty.

An old man in a tweed suit stood silently with a sign that read Retired CIA Analysts for Sensible Drug Policy and at his feet was a huge St. Bernard, sporting a Canines for Cannabis sign with a whiskey barrel around its neck covered in pot leaf decals.

There were jugglers, unicyclists, colonial patriots, and various comic book super heros,

There was a woman in Colonial garb with a sign that read Party Like It's 1776 standing next to a red-lipped zombie in Colonial dress with a sign saying I Can't Die - I'm Different Than You.

There were lots & lots of animals: bears, dogs, cats, big pink PETA pigs, chickens, ducks, and chipmunks.

Pot was very popular, both in signage and substance. We especially liked the fellow with the Nixon mask covered in cannabis leaves carrying a sign that said Cannabis Causes Violence, Deafness, Blindness and Absence of Taste.

A real show stopper was the a huge walking head of the Iranian President, sporting a sign that said I’m GAY for the USA and there was woman leading him along carrying a sign that read Do We Look Brown? Should We Show You Our ID’s?

One guy hung out the entire time, walking up and down the steps of the National Gallery with a bulging pair of pants and carrying a sign saying I Have a Pre-Existing Condition In My Pants. We figured he was just trying to get laid.

We liked the Roman gladiator who was waving his sword and sporting a ballistic missile coming out of his forehead like a unicorn.

Several American Indians carried signs saying Take Back America?

There was a person dressed like a yellow-headed, smiley-face robot and on his chest plate it read FCK H8

There were Guantonomo prisoners in orange jumpsuits parading back & forth in chains. They were at the Obama party on January.

One of the more amusing sights was a couple standing next to one another. The guy held a sign that read Aimee Will You Marry Me? And she stood there proudly with a big engagement ring on her finger.

There was a crowd of people being lectured to by a guy dressed like a master chef, and one of the onlookers was wearing a jacket draped in chains and penises.

There was a happy couple in full-on Islam garb, sitting in lawn chairs and carrying a sign that read Where Are the Moderate Muslims? (with an arrow pointing down at their heads).

The Blue Men were there.

We spotted lots of people dressed like Jesus and priests –- maybe they were the real deal. Who could say for sure?

And one guy in particular weirded us out. He had fashioned a costume after a Southpark episode and had a snarling baby zombie coming out of the right side of his head. He carried a brightly-colored sign that read This Is Not A Good Sign.

Interestingly enough, there were very few police and the ones that were there were either on horses or segways. They seemed to be having a ball and everyone wanted to get their pictures snapped standing next to them, which they gladly obliged.

Most folks were using their phones as cameras and the cell phone network shut down well before the show began because everyone was trying to send photos to their friends, tweeting, texting, or just trying to find their lost compadres. It was very easy to get separated.

We walked over to the National Gallery where the steps were filled with happy people, packed in like spectators at a wondrous stadium. When we got to the top of the museum, we walked out onto the edge of a flat platform on the wings of the ornate building where we had a panoramic view of the Mall. The scene before us literally took our breath away. The costumed crowd was packed like sardines on the grassy interior of the Mall, a seemingly-endless mass of comical patriots, watching the Jumbotrons and hooting it up. People danced and pranced below us on the street and it was a never-ending freak show.

We did the Wave across the entire length of the Mall, arms stretched to the sky and rippling like human corn. We practiced animal noises and jumped up and down in a synchronized move like there was an earthquake.

The official show began promptly at noon. We could hear it, but the stage was out of sight. It didn’t really matter that we weren’t plugged into Stewart, Colbert and the various bands – The Roots, Kid Rock, Cat Stevens, Ozzy Osborne, Sheryl Crow, Mavis Staples, and Tony Bennett. The real show were the people, and they paraded below us like a non-stop carnival. Several times I found myself on the verge of tears – proud, glad to be an American, tears.

The creepiest sight I saw was a guy carrying a big black & white American flag. It took me a second to realize what it was. At first, I thought the sun was playing tricks with my eyes. But when I realized what it was, a chill went right up my back. It sent a very strange and compelling message indeed.

Several things jumped out at me during our travels. The first was how happy people were. There was no anger of hostility. People were there to have a good time and blow off some steam in these times of great tribulation. And people had come from all around the globe. We met folks from almost every state and country, carrying their home flags.

The crowd was mostly white and young. But there were plenty of grey hairs like myself, along with grizzled Vietnam Vets, straight-looking geezers, and grannies on motorized wheelchairs. It was like every kind of American had eaten a hippie pill and were high on life.

The prime time show ended at three, but the fun and games continued for many hours as people roamed around the Mall, taking in the sights and sounds. No one wanted to break the magic spell by leaving. One guy took off his clothes and went skinny dipping in the frigid Reflecting Pool. Many people picnicked in the grass or basked in the warm sun like lazy lizards. Many people openly smoked pot. It was an irregular hootenany.

As the sun began to set, we decided to head over to Eastern Market to grab a beer and some food. At the Japanese Memorial, we picked up a sign that was in a garbage can. It read: Blame Canada, with pictures of Nickelback, Celine Dionne, and Justin Bieber. Inna and I took turns carrying the sign the rest of the day and wherever we went –even into stores and restaurants – it was a huge hit. Everyone got it.

And I think that’s the key. You either understand that America has made some really bad mistakes, but is still the best place on earth to live, and that we will only get out of this mess if we can come together and embrace our diversity and ingenuity; otherwise, we’re all doomed to be forever pissed off at dark-skinned people and everyone who isn’t Christian, conservative, and homophobic.

My feelings about the rally can best be summed up by the fellow who was carrying a sign that read Can’t We All Just Smoke A Bowl? He was standing next to a Park Police car, with his arm around the cop who was flashing the peace sign.

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