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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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Rally to Restore Sanity And/or Fear a “Tremendous Success”

SAMANTHA BURKARDT / THE STATESMAN

On Saturday, comedic political satirists Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert hosted “The Rally to Restore Sanity And/or Fear” at the National Mall in Washington, DC. The rally, a portmanteau of Stewart’s Rally To Restore Sanity and Colbert’s March to Keep Fear Alive, drew in a crowd estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands. Announced on Sept. 16, the rally served as a not-too-subtle jab at Glenn Beck’s “Rally to Restore Honor”.

In the days leading up to the event, many major figures plugged the rally. On an episode of the Daily Show, Oprah Winfrey appeared via satellite and, in a semi-spoof of her own show, announced for the audience members to look under their seats to receive free tickets to the rally. President Barack Obama mentioned the rally at a town hall meeting and appeared on Stewart’s show eight days before the rally took place.

The crowd, originally estimated to be 25,000, according to the permit filed, was very active in propagating their own versions of sanity; creating posters and signs critical of the Tea Party and Anti-Muslim rhetoric, among other things.

A major proponent for the first half of the rally was the musical potpourri that came out in support of the rally. Artists who performed included The Roots, John Legend, Mavis Staples, Jeff Tweedy, Tony Bennett, Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow, and T.I., who performed in a taped segment.

The pinnacle of the musical performances, however, came in the form of a medley. Stewart introduced Yusuf Islam, the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens, to sing his 1971 hit “Peace Train.”  Colbert, however, was not having it. He announced to the audience “my train is arriving at the stage now and the conductor has an important announcement to make,” before making way for Ozzy Osbourne and his hit “Crazy Train”. The two artists dueled it out as proxies for the two comedians before they decided to embrace and leave the stage. Left with a no artists on stage, the two pondered about what ‘train’ the audience could ‘board’. “Love Train” cried Stewart finally, “that’s scary, you know, STD’s, heartbreak”, to which Colbert agreed, which led to the O’ Jay’s singing the classic “Love Train”.

Another notable facet of the rally was the banter between Stewart and Colbert. Stewart and Colbert, in their characters, represented the polarization of the masses and the media. Stewart’s personality was representative of intelligent, reasonable discourse and Colbert’s of the excessive, fear-mongering aspect of news journalism.

In one segment, Stewart introduced the “Medal of Reasonableness”, which he awarded to Armando Galarraga, the Detroit Tigers pitcher who lost his bid for a perfect game because of a bad call, yet showed remarkable sportsmanship towards the umpire. Colbert, not to be outdone, awarded his “Medals of Fear” to news organizations that didn’t allow their employees to attend the rally. Stewart gave further medals to Mick Foley, the wrestler who defend a child attacked by gay slurs, to Velma Hart, a regular woman whom was critical, yet fair to President Obama in a town hall meeting, and to Jacob Isom, who prevented an evangelist from burning a Qur’an by stealing it from his hands.

Colbert awarded his remaining awards to Anderson Cooper’s black t-shirt, for always being on the news reporter during a heartbreaking news story, and to Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook billionaire, for his supposed efforts in destroying internet privacy.

But at the end of it all, sanity won out. At the end of the event, Jon Stewart was left with a small block of time in which he delivered an eloquent and beautiful message of connectedness and concession. He put it this way: “This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith or people of activism … or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear.  They are and we do.  But we live now in hard times, not end times.”

In a way, the rally was not intended as a satire of our politics, but as a sobering realization of our reality. Behind the veil of comedy, there was a distinct point, in the notion that our country is not falling from our hands.

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