I lived in DC for three and a half years when Clinton was in office. I spent a lot of that time lost, trying to figure out the crazy radial system of streets designed by Pierre L'Enfant, constantly worried I would wind up in the wrong neighborhood. So to make me feel at home again, we missed our turn, wound up in one of those questionable neighborhoods and spent forty five minutes navigating our way to the hotel with the help of my cellphone and Alexander, the hotel's concierge manager.
But I digress. Yes, the first thing we did when we finally got on the right Maryland Avenue was head to the lobby bar. Over cocktails was the first time we realized we had managed to get ourselves here but had forgotten to organize signs. What we didn't know then was that two women from San Francisco would ask us to take their picture with their signs in front of the hotel Saturday morning. We also didn't know they just happened to have extras they did not want to go to waste. All we needed was some rulers and particle board to staple them to from the CVS across the street, the help of Robert, the hotel manager and we were on our way.
There is something about attending a rally when you are standing amidst 200,000 plus people that are joined because you agree on at least one thing that is immensely gratifying. Watching or in my case trying to avoid the 24/7 news cycle filled with snapshots of rage and anger and fear mongers, I sometimes think that maybe I'm the only one that isn't riddled with fear. That I am the only one who understands that taking an economy back from the brink of disaster just two years ago is not going to be easy or quick. That I'm the only one who wonders what happened to debate, to agreeing to disagree, to being polite and to compromising on solutions.
Saturday was evidence there are others just like me.
The sea of people who surrounded us was not what the research or the pundits would describe as Jon Stewart's audience. They were a mixture of younger and older, men and women, from a multitude of races. They were in wheelchairs and with canes. They didn't regard hope and change as bad words. They want honest discourse. They want to get things done. They were not as some might try to convince us just a bunch of left leaning liberals. As one ordinary white guy in a baseball cap who I could not distinguish from a disillusioned Democrat or a reasonable Republican's sign said "I may not agree with you President Obama, but I don't think you're Hitler." They were interested in change but as another sign held by one of those women they tell us are not going to vote on Tuesday suggested, not in taking "the country back, but in moving it forward." They were not there for a leisurely stroll on the mall on a beautiful October afternoon, although that was a nice touch. They were there to make a statement.
Yes, there were some to just happened to be visiting our nation's capital and stumbled on this event. Like the pretty young Asian woman who stopped us, no microphone in hand, no sign of Candid Camera lurking in the background. She pointed to my sign and asked what that meant, sanity?
Gayle and I knew we were never going to be able to really see this with so many people in front of us, but that was OK. We were here not to see something, but to be a part of something. To make a statement that all this rage and anger and hatred being fueled and incited by a few must stop.
We found a spot close to the stage, even if it was behind it. Gayle spotted a tent with a TV feed that we could stand next to for our soundtrack. The sun was shining, the Capitol was behind us and Cat Stevens was singing Peace Train and yes, I felt like seventeen again.
I live my life believing that out of something bad can come good. Sometimes that is not so easy to see. But Saturday was an example. Out of all this rage and anger being spewed, the fear mongering, the lying, the lack of politeness and civil discourse a wonderful event was created and a powerful statetment was made.
We who were there are the 80% that the cameras never make it to because we are not loud enough, or rude enough or lie enough to stay something stupid enough to make a headline. We love this country as much as anyone despite reports that want to convince you otherwise. Even Saturday, when I had my speech all prepared I never saw a reporter interviewing anyone. I was in fact wondering where they all were.
No one knows for sure what lasting effect if any the Rally to Restore Sanity will have. The 24/7 news cycle doesn't want it to have any. They were right back to doomsday predictions as soon as the Rally ended, dismissing the crowd as nothing more a left leaning group with nothing else to do on a fall Saturday afternoon and deciding this in some way would have a negative effect on Jon Stewart. I beg to differ but then what do I know? I was there.