VIDEO: Thousands Flood D.C. To Rally For Sanity
"I was told there would be Bieber," one sign read. Justin Bieber never did show, but judging by the size of the horde covering the Washington Mall Saturday afternoon, the confusion was understandable.
Over 200,000 people gathered together for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's Rally to Restore Sanity/And/Or Fear on Halloween weekend, flooding the area with massive crowds. In an attempt to get a better view, members of the audience jumped on top of the row of porta potties, shimmied up lampposts and climbed trees. From "Palin/Voldemort 2012," to "It's a sad day when our politicians are comical and I have to take our comedians SERIOUSLY" to "Flush the Tea Potty," the signs they clutched ranged from earnest to satirical, much like the rally itself.
Before the three hour rally began, The Roots and John Legend arrived on the mall to play some music and get the crowd into the spirit. Soon after, directives began to appear on the megascreens, telling people to "Laugh," "Cheer," "Jump," and starting a massive collaborative "wave" through the audience. Finally, Stewart came onto the stage to incredible applause.
"We have over ten million people!" he enthused. "A perfect ethnographic sampling. Too many white people at a rally and your cause is racist." The talk show host handed out the microphone to some of the audience members, asking them to identify themselves by demographic. He gave an example, "One Native-American lesbian." After the exercise was finished, Colbert's voice came over the system—but he was nowhere to be seen.
"My fear bunker is 2000 feet below the stage … encased in bedrock," he said. "I'm afraid no one showed up to our rally," he told Stewart. "Are the men handsome? Are the women beautiful? And do they respond to obvious pandering?" After some coaxing, Colbert rose from the ground before emerging from his vessel dressed as Evel Knievel.
The two continued to rouse the crowd, before Colbert announced that he had written a poem called "Are You Sure?" for the occasion. Rather than deliver it himself, he gave the job to Sam Waterston, whom he called "the most reasonable-seeming man in America." The rhyming poem went through a litany of fears: "Can you be sure/ that you won’t get ebola/ from a tainted diet cola/ toxic waste or getting chased/ by a bearded Ayatollah?" it asked.
Afterwards, the hosts announced the first surprise musical guest… Yusuf Islam, better known as Cat Stevens. The artist began to play "Peace Train," before Colbert cut him off and brought in his own musical guest: Ozzy Osbourne with "Crazy Train." As the musical duel grew more and more frenzied, the two hosts finally agreed to compromise, recruiting The O'Jays to play "Love Train."
Soon after, Stewart and Colbert began to hand out awards for "reasonableness" and "fear," respectively. For fear: news organizations (like NPR and The New York Times) that banned employees from attending, Anderson Cooper's black t-shirt and the social media network Facebook. "Thanks to Zuckerberg," Colbert said, "People no longer say you’re crazy when you think someone is tracking your every move. They just say, 'Oh, you’re on Facebook.'" For reasonableness: baseball pitcher Armando Galarraga, wrestler Mick Foley, and Velma Hart, a woman who told President Obama at a town meeting that she was exhausted by having to defend him and tired of waiting for change. The awards were punctuated by a performance by Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy.
The next musical guests were Stewart and Colbert themselves, who squabbled briefly over their matching American flag jumpers before they began to sing an original song about how America is "the bravest, strongest country in the world." They praised "all the men and women and the genders in between," as well as "gay men who like football" and "straight men who like Glee." Despite Stewart's relative tone-deafness, their performance far outstripped Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow who sang two songs together shortly afterwards.
The rally wrapped up with Stewart's keynote address, which devolved into a debate with Colbert featuring Kareem Abdul-Jabar and R2D2 as surprise guests, and a final performance by Tony Bennett. But despite the farcical quality of the event, Stewart had some sincere words to offer. "This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith, or people of activism, or look down our noses at the heartland, or passionate argument, or to suggest that times are not difficult," he said. "But we live now in hard times, not end times." He had harsh words for the contemporary media as well. "The press is our immune system,” he said. “If it overreacts to everything, we actually get sicker. And perhaps eczema. And yet, with that being said, I feel good.” He praised the attendees for their purpose. "Sanity will always be in the eye of the beholder. To see you here today and the kind of people that you are, has restored mine," he concluded. –AMY LEE
Watch video of Stewart's keynote at the Rally below:
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