by REBECCA REDSHAW
For the Sequim Gazette
Jon Stewart, comedian and political commentator/host of "The Daily Show," along with Stephen Colbert, comedian and political commentator/host of "The Colbert Report," predicted "The Rally To Restore Sanity and/or Fear" in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 30 would be similar to Woodstock, only without the drugs and mud.
Stewart couldn't have been more wrong. There were so many differences. The most obvious, and possibly most important difference, was the diversity of the hundreds of thousands in attendance.
Unlike the aforemention-ed musical extravaganza experienced by now aging baby boomers, the rally's attendees included newborns in strollers, teenagers climbing trees for a better view, generations X-ers, baby boomers in far different garb than the '60s and seniors who wouldn't think of missing the event.
"I couldn't see anything. I couldn't hear anything. I was still glad to be here!" said Norma Sue Madden, a senior who heard Martin Luther King deliver his "I Have a Dream" speech at the same location.
With an azure sky, 60-degree temperature and a majestic backdrop of the Capitol building, the stage was set. Three Jumbotrons were placed on the mall with a massive sound system.
There was good news and bad news for the event organizers. The good, maybe great news, was the size of the crowd. Delays getting to the rally were common at the Metro stations where sardine-packed trains sped by crowded terminals. By the time ralliers walked several blocks past the Washington Monument and the Smithsonian, the crowded sidewalks were a mass of people herding toward the distant dome.
Crowd estimates vary depending on the spin of the news network as Stewart joked there were "dozens of people on hand." (I estimate the crowd was closer to 150,000).
"It was an amazing experience and great to see so many people, particularly of my generation, that were being involved," said Antoinette Davis, a recent college graduate.
The bad news? The sound system wasn't strong enough.
The production team could have used twice as many Jumbotrons. Rather than become frustrated or angry, the crowd collectively (and tacitly) adopted plan "B." While occasional roars from the audience wafted back toward the Washington Monument beyond hearing distance from the stage activities, people walked and talked to one another. Some dressed in costumes to emphasize a point or just for fun (it was the day before Halloween). Many carried handcrafted signs, some with political sentiments, many humorous, none mean-spirited or profane.
"I was astounded so many people could be so attentive and so well-behaved," said Janice Ramey, a technical writer and active senior.
The "official" start time of the rally was at noon, yet those who were within reasonable sight of the stage had arrived at dawn. (I also started to go to the event pre-dawn by boarding one of 10 chartered buses from Pittsburgh at 5 a.m.). Televised on Comedy Central, the three-hour event featured a variety of entertainers. "The Star-Spangled Banner" was sung by vocal quartet 4Troops, actor Sam Waterston read a poem, Sheryl Crow sang along with Kid Rock, and, of course, there was plenty of the usual banter between Stewart and Colbert.
"Would I do it again? Absolutely!" said Hope Alcorn, a medical professional, creative jewelry-maker and baby boomer.
"I wanted to be part of the 'busy majority' to show my support and to be visible."
Stewart, who started out in stand-up comedy years ago, delivered a heartfelt message about acceptance and reason that was the essence of bipartisanship. No, it was the essence of congenial human understanding. Because, even though Colbert and Stewart's shows are considered "liberal," the message of "The Rally To Restore Sanity and/or Fear" was not a political one. There was no bashing of ideologies, no character assassinations, no chastisement of differences. There was a call for fairness, for understanding, for thoughtfulness.
Postscript: Major news outlets including ABC, CBS, The New York Times, AP and the Washington Post refused to cover "The Rally To Restore Sanity and/or Fear" rally. My thanks to the Sequim Gazette for acknowledging the importance of this human-interest story.