Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity Closing Remarks October 31, 2010
At the end of the Rally to Restore Sanity, Comedian Jon Stewart spoke with sincerity and humor to those in attendance. He outlined problems with the media that interfere with Americans ability to trust and communicate with one another across their differences. And he described the actual America that he knows and sees, outside the distorted 'fun-house mirror' we're shown through Cable TV.
And now I thought we might have a moment however brief, for some sincerity. If that's okay - I know there are boundaries for a comedian-pundit-talker-guy and I'm sure I'll find out tomorrow how I have violated them.
I'm really happy you guys are here. Even if none of us are really quite sure why we are here. Some of you may have seen today as a clarion call for action. Or some of the hipper more ironic cats, as a clarion call for action. Clearly some of you just wanted to see the Air and Space Museum and get royally screwed. And I'm sure a lot of you are just here to have a nice time, and I hope you did.
I know that many of you made a great effort to be here today, and I want you to know that everyone involved with this project worked incredibly hard to make sure that we honor the effort that you put in and give you the best show that we could possibly do. We know your time is valuable and we didn't want to waste it. And we are all extremely honored to get a chance to perform for you in this beautiful place - on the mall in Washington, D.C.
So, uh, what exactly was this? I can't control what people think this was, I can only tell you my intentions. This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith or people of activism or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument, 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. And we can have animus and not be enemies. But unfortunately, one of our main tools in delineating the two, broke. The country's 24 hour political pundit, panic inflictinator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems, bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen. Or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire, and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, dangerous, flaming-ants epidemic. If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.
There are terrorists, and racists, and Stalinists and theocrats, but those are titles that must be earned - you must have the resume. Not being able to distinguish between real racists and tea-partiers, or real biggots and Juan Williams or Rick Sanchez is an insult, not only those people, but to the racists themselves who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate.
Just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe, not more. The press is our immune system. If it over-reacts to everything, we actually get sicker and perhaps exe-ma. And yet, with that having been said, I feel good - strangely, calmly, good. Because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political, media process is false. It is us through a fun-house mirror, and not the good kind that makes you look slim in the waist and maybe taller, but the kind where you have a giant forehead and an ass shaped like a month old pumpkin. And one eyeball. So why would we work together? Why would you reach across the aisle to a pumpkin-assed, forehead, eyeball monster? If the picture of us were true, of course our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable. Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one's humanity but their own?
We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is - on the brink of catastrophe, torn by polarizing hate, and how it's a shame that we can't work together to get things done. The truth is we do! We work together to get things done every damn day!
The only place we don't is here or on Cable TV. But Americans don't live here or on Cable TV. Where we live our values and principles form the foundation that sustains us, while we get things done. Not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done. Most Americans don't live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, Liberals or Conservatives. Americans live their lives more as people who are just a little bit late for something they have to do. Often something that they do not want to do. But they do it. Impossible things everyday that are only made possible through the little reasonable compromises we all make.
Look, look on the screen - this is where we are, this is who we are, these cars. That's a school teacher, probably thinks his taxes are too high; he's going to work. There's another car - a woman with two small kids, can't really think about anything else right now. There's another car, swinging, I don't even know if you can see it. The lady's in the NRA and loves Oprah. There's another car - an investment banker; gay, also likes Oprah. Another car is a Latino carpenter; another car is Fundamentalist vacuum-salesman - atheist obstetrician, Mormon Jay-Z fan. But this is us - everyone of the cars you see is filled with individuals with strong belief and principles they hold dear. Often principles and beliefs in direct opposition to their fellow-travelers. And yet these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze one-by-one into a mile long, 30 foot wide tunnel, carved underneath a mighty-river. Carved by people by the way who I'm sure had their differences. And they do it, concession-by-concession, you go and then I'll go. You go and then I'll go. You go, then I'll go. Oh my God! Is that an NRA sticker on your car!? Is that an Obama sticker on your car?! Ah, well that's okay, you go and then I'll go.
And sure, at some point there will be a selfish-jerk who zips up the shoulder and cuts in at the last minute, but that individual is rare and he is scorned and not hired as an analyst. Because we know instinctively as a people that we are to get through the darkness and back into the light, we have to work together. And the truth is there will always be darkness. And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn't the promised-land. Sometimes it's just New Jersey. But we do it anyway, together.
Do you want to know why I'm here? And what I want from you. I can only assure you this - you have already given it to me. Your presence is what I wanted. Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder. To see you here today and the kind of people that you are, has restored mine. Thank you.
Peter Eigen explains how corruption, between the government and private sectors, may be the root cause of most social and economic problems. He describes how his organization, Transparency International, tries to fight corruption towards creating a better world.1 people like this