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In an attempt to get back to blogging, I’ll offer up my fair and unbiased account of the Rally. For those of you even less exposed to the news than I, there was a rally yesterday in DC, sponsored by John Stewart and Stephen Colbert. The premise was that folks who are not in a lather about all things politics could gather and be chill together. In other words, a protest of protests, a rally for moderation. Because I don’t EVER watch TV news and I don’t even listen to NPR, I don’t know how this is being spun. The Washington Post account this morning seemed pretty accurate to me (the link I posted is to all their coverage of the rally, I couldn’t find was disinclined to keep looking for the article I saw in the front section of the actual paper. Online newspapers confuse and frighten me).
I can’t really compare it to coverage of TeaParty gatherings b/c, as I said, I don’t watch the news. I’ve seen the still photos of scary people with scary signs like “I came unarmed…this time” (Sign at this Rally? “I came unarmed…because I don’t own a gun”), but I’m not so stupid as to think that’s the major sentiment at those rallies. So I figure that Fox is showing the few hateful signs (and seriously, they were FEW. I personally only saw a couple and had to look though the Flickr pool to find more) like “God hates Republicans” or the many signs referring to the poorly spelled signs we’ve seen at Glenn Beck’s rally. Most of the signs were flat out silly.
The crowd was unbelievably polite. I’ve been to many a march/protest/mob in DC and I assure you that this was the nicest group I’ve ever been with. When I was deep in the crowd, cheek to jowl, people trying to move through it were apologetic and people were kind and polite and moved as best they could to let them through. One girl kind of shoved me and said, unconvincingly “I’m sorry.” I said “No you aren’t.” And she stopped and said “No, I am.” I still don’t believe her, but that was as hairy an exchange as I saw or heard.
Was the crowd mostly white? Uh, yeah. America is mostly white. It was, perhaps whiter than the national average and certainly whiter than DC, but there were lots of shades of brown represented. I swear. It would have been lovely if it had looked like the Rainbow Coalition, but let’s face it, that’s not who watches The Daily Show. THAT’s who came. Mostly college-educated or still in college white folk with basic cable subscriptions.
Having the rally the day before Hallowe’en was genius. It made for a grand theater aspect not seen since the Yippies. I only had my phone to take photos, and many of the good ones on Flickr are protected, so if you want to see the funny, it’s out there. I’ll share what I have/can snag from other sites. I did find Waldo pretty frequently:
There were a lot of tea party references, not surprisingly. A lot of signs about “Faux News.” Most of them were lame-ish, especially since you either watch and believe or you don’t. But I’ve said before that rallies, marches, and protests aren’t so much about actually changing anything as about energizing the troops, feeling connected to others who share some of your passions. So the “Legalize Pot” people could find one another and share lighters and the “Don’t Tread on Snakes” people could find the “I prefer coffee” people and be smug and a little wired together. I wanted to follow the girl with the “Sanity Check: Roll d20” sign. D&D Geeks holla! Woo!
Ellen, Steve’s sister, came down from Boston with a friend of hers. The two of them, Bev and her daughter, Blair, and I all went down together. Our plan had been to drive down to the Metro and take that the rest of the way, but a friend warned us away. Not only was a huge mob descending, but Metro was working on EVERY line. Welcome to DC! So I drove in. The first 4 parking garages I found were closed for the weekend, but I finally found one and we joined the throng walking toward the mall. It was really weird and a little thrilling to see people just streaming from all directions, converging in one spot. It was a little sci-fi, really. I had neglected to note exactly where it was even taking place, just “The Mall” was all I knew, so we followed this gent, figuring he’d know what to do:
As Ellen pointed out, “he OWNS that costume. That is not a rental.”
When we passed the White House, this guy was out front:
“Don’t pretend you haven’t noticed that I have a box on my head.”
Anyone who wears a box and opens his website with an endorsement from Kucinich has my respect.
Once we got closer and saw the size of the crowd, I said, “Okay, when we inevitably get separated, let’s meet back at the petrified tree in front of the Natural History Museum at 3:30.” All that chaperone experience paid off because we were separated in short order. Ellen’s friend was a Woman on a Mission and cut through the sea of people like a ice-breaking ship. Bev saw someone she knew and hesitated for the fraction of a second it took us to be lost to her. Ellen and I managed to stay together (“Oh no! Bev and Jas had the Verizon phones! We have AT&T! We’re lost forever!”), though. We worked our way up to Very Far From the Stage and gave up. I took a few of the cellphone-over-the-head shots:
I took more, but of course they all look the same. But check it, you can see at least on Asian and one Black dude. Rainbow.
My other favorite sign:
It’s a picture of Bill & Ted and says “Be excellent to each other.” love. Here’s the T-shirt in front of me:
Shortly after I took this, I started to feel…hemmed in. Before the real panic set in, I said good-bye to Ellen (who only lasted about 15 more minutes in the crowd) and bailed. We were so far back that we could only intermittently hear–well enough to know Ozzy was there. Woo! (A guy behind me yelled “It’s the Prince of Fucking Darkness!” and I heard someone yell “SHARON!!)–and I could only see a screen if I stood on my toes and peered between heads. I didn’t even know where they much-discussed porta potties were, but I knew where the Smithsonian buildings were. Off to American History for a wee. Thanks Smithsonian, for the free entrance and the clean potties. I am happy to contribute my tax dollars to you! And I threw a buck in the donation box. I managed not to throttle the guy I heard say “Well why WOULD there be an admission charge, it’s OUR history.” The hell?
Bladder clear, I decided to wander back to the Mall. I worked my way a bit farther up, enjoying the crowd.
I saw Captain Crunch and Super Grover. I wormed my way back into the thick of it as Kareem Abdul Jabbar was coming on. Steve later pointed out that it was as if Colbert and STewart had come up with a list of people they wanted to meet when they were 12. Cat Stevens, Ozzy Osbourne, Kareem, R2D2…Colbert came out dressed as Evel Knieval. I stood there trying to see if R2 was really on stage (he was) and thought “I still can’t breathe” and worked my way back out.
Then I wandered the streets. As many folks as were on the mall, there were that many again spread out around the surrounding blocks. Holy mike, there were a lot of people. It was like the biggest block party I’d ever seen. The atmosphere was gently festive, like the block party just as the first keg is tapped, before the Daddies start to get drunk and combative. I saw a super cool bus that apparently had been at Burning Man. it was covered in costumed revelers and blasting Talking Heads music:
I didn’t get closer b/c I was on a mission (ultimately failed) to find a CVS to get some drugs for my headache. Everywhere I went, there were rally-goers.
Finally, it was nearly 3:30, so I headed for the petrified tree and met our group. Everyone had had fun and seen the sights. The walk back to our van was at LEAST twice as long as the walk from it. It was like we’d parked in Georgetown. Oy. But we got out pretty easily, far more easily than the folks that Metro’d, bless ’em.
Once home, we went out to eat, then came home and watched the rally on TiVo with a glass of wine and passed out cold. So tired. It was odd to have been without a sign. I’d always prided myself on my clever and often-photographed signs at the protests of my youth. But the thought of holding an arm over my head all day? No. thank you. I’ll leave clever irony to the kids. I was going to go with “Extreme Moderate” or “I don’t mind if you need to raise my taxes.” But this one might have been more fun:
In all, I had fun and I hate people a little less.