Oct 312010
Authors: Samuel Lustgarten

The Roots took center stage, the backdrop of Capitol Hill framed the picturesque event and The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear began. As Jon Stewart, host of “The Daily Show,” had mentioned on “Larry King Live,” this rally wasn’t about politics. A sense of “reasonableness” was juxtaposed against today’s vitriolic and divisive 24-hour news cycle.

From Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam) to Ozzy Osbourne, the music propagated sanity (peace) versus fear. Yusuf, who was temporarily barred in 2004 from traveling to America for being a Muslim, was a pleasant sight. His story was more telling than his performance. Decades since his original conversion to Islam, he played an important piece of the diversity puzzle.

Just a few weeks ago, Glenn Beck’s rally had invaded the Lincoln Memorial. Imbibing the religious fervor of Beck’s white-power conflation mirrored the social breadth of what was seen this Saturday.

In a powerful way, the action spoke louder than words. Tens of thousands in unison for one thing: reasonableness. They came together, looked at their differences and realized their power as one.

Despite Stewart’s pacifistic pledge to shed partisan polemics, I waited for the opportunity to hear political speak. After about two-and-a-half hours, there was nothing. Most of the time had been spent in a revue of act, play and music. By itself, a pleasant respite from politics, but it left me craving more.

Stephen Colbert’s tiring antics of “fear” were either spot-on or bothersome –– I’m still not sure which. Always chiming in to remind us of our allergies, big brother scares and war, the facade of Colbert’s TV persona never wiped away. He demanded jingoistic patriots –– not those Jon Stewart types.

This analogy of right and left dichotomies was well-timed, as people stood as one. There was no need to prove their patriotism for America. In reality, this isn’t even a question; instead, it serves as a distraction for real problems.

As Stewart took the mic for the final time, he promulgated a righteous message back to center. Fueled by the extremist talk show hosts from Fox News to MSNBC (ala O’Reilly to Olbermann), he implored us to shed these derisive tactics. His answer came in two Obama-like sentences of pragmatism. “We live in hard times, not end times” and “If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”

Capitol Hill and the mainstream media lead to a fractious society. The breakup of America leads to more votes for their respective constituents. Together they’re powerful. The remedy is to read from a more diverse set of influences.

Knowledge gives us the power to understand that right and left aren’t diametrically opposed. The artificial smokescreen that is American political drama is a falsified claptrap. Vote right or left –– the differences are inflated and few.

We don’t live in communist Cuba. As an electorate, we aren’t threatened like Venezuelans by Chavez’s power grab. To exercise your choice by not voting is the ultimate idiocy. We are at war halfway around the world. But that war stretches within our borders. The media has done a wonderful job of accentuating the debate by publishing the words of extremists. This campaign has hindered our ability to think critically and effectively.

Most people don’t have the time to read extracurricular materials like newspapers. Most people don’t make it a priority either. What time they do have is effortlessly evaporated in front of the television –– watching characters verbally dual in a gladiator-like falsetto that isn’t reality.

Truth is in our everyday lives. Stewart finished with an allegory to cars going through a tunnel –– merging. We are those cars. Despite the road rages of a desperate few, cutting in to merge at the last moment, we are a resilient, strong and relatively educated populace. We make concessions to allow traffic to operate. You go. Then I’ll go.

We need pragmatists. When the masses grab their ballots and look for their future legislators, the moderates will reign supreme once again. After all, what we see on cable news isn’t a representative sampling. Vote on Tuesday. Don’t let apathy and cynicism subvert your hope for a better future.

Samuel Lustgarten is a senior psychology major. His column appears on Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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