Anyone who gave my facebook so much as a passing glance this weekend will already know that I went to the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in DC Saturday. You may have also heard me say that it was the Woodstock of my generation; somewhere between 200,000-400,000 people from all over the country came out for a mix of irony, sincerity, and hilarity. That's the way we like our politics.
Gibb and I arrived at New Carrollton around 11 am and parked at a nearby office building (to which parking had already overflowed). We passed by a stream of people who were already headed back to their cars because the lines were so long at the station. We asked ourselves, how long must a line be to deter people who were excited enough to make signs and t-shirts? We soon discovered that the line actually stretched out of the station, wrapped around the parking garage and then back inside the garage. In the end we were in line for about an hour and fifteen minutes, but it didn't feel terribly long because we were surrounded by friendly, excited people and there were plenty of fun costumes and signs to look at. At one point we marveled as a very helpful guy behind us politely suggested that we create a bend in the line so it was less confusing for people looking for the end. I should mention that the line was only for people who were buying tickets. Had I been carrying my SmartTrip card as I almost always do, we would have zipped right past the line. Epic fail.
I was impressed with how helpful and cheerful the metro employees were. Outside, they went around letting people know that if they had tickets the did not have to wait in line. Inside, they were gently directing traffic, and there were people standing at each machine to guide people who had never used the ticket/pass kiosks before. There was even a table where metro workers were selling round trip passes to the rally for those who had cash. In fact, every metro employee, security person, and police officer we encountered was friendly and helpful. After a short wait on the platform we packed ourselves onto a train - the trains were full from the first stop. Crowded though the cars were, the train was filled with excited, friendly conversation.
This vibe continued as we exited the metro and followed the herd to the National Mall. The sea of people that greeted us was a rally-circus-protest-music festival hybrid full of funny signs and costumes (and the odd person who misguidedly came to push an actual political agenda). We had quickly abandoned all hope of meeting up with our other friends, so we picked a spot on 7th St. where we we could enjoy the crowd and (sort of almost see the video screen). I said earlier that the rally was the Woodstock of my generation but it would be more accurate to say that it was the Woodstock of this decade, because there was no majority age group. There were people of all ages from more babies than I ever imagined I would see at a rally, all the way up to lots and lots of grandparent-aged ralliers. No one acted like anyone else was out of place. People were taking pictures for and of each other, complimenting each others' costumes/signs and chatting. I did get a little annoyed with a few times who were talking over the program or unnecessarily blocking the view, but overall the crowd was way nicer than crowds at the average concert or rally.
Because of the crowds, we also couldn't really see or hear any of the actual program for most of the time, but my parents were recording the show at home, so we just appreciated the crowd experience. Honestly, I am struck by how awesome a time I live in. I was able to experience the crowds and the atmosphere - I can say I was there! and then I could go home and see what I missed that was happening on stage. Plus, even though we weren't able to meet up with our other friends, we were able to share the experience via text and even convey what was happening back to other people via Facebook.
My experience at the rally confirmed the belief that I have been holding onto through this election season - that most people in this country cannot be divided into Glenn Beck or Michael Moore's camps. We are sick of mudslinging and crazy oversimplified arguments and yelling and broad generalizations. We are tired of fear-mongering and apathy alike. Most of the rally was an opportunity for a wide spectrum of people to gather together and hang out with great entertainment, while appreciating that we are like-minded (in the sense that we are cool with the fact that we disagree with each other.) Jon Stewart's closing words will probably be picked apart because he dropped the comedian facade and got (sort of) serious and sincere, but he expressed what most of us at the rally have been thinking with increasing urgency for the last few years: we need to find ways to work together despite our political and ideological differences. And Jon appears to be waking up to the fact that he has accidentally become a rallying point for people who have been yelling at their TV sets for a little sanity and moderation in the public discourse.
So on that note, go vote!