Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Fear and Sanity
Well, it was the most populous D.C. event I've ever been to. I missed Obama's inauguration, but even the anti-Vietnam war Pentagon March of 1967 was out-populated. The train ride into town (we left our car on the outskirts) was so packed you could only have slid in more people horizontally against the ceiling. And yet the mood was fabulous. The crowd, mostly young people (My wife and I are in the old category now) laughed and joked, and frequently broke into song that infected the whole car, often songs from the '60's and '70's, songs popular decades before most of the singers were born. Who would have thought the spirit lives on?
When we got to the Mall we couldn't get on it-- too many people. We got only as far as the famously last-minute available batteries of port-o-potties. Spry youngsters climbed trees for a better view, but I doubt they saw more than head tops. So we never got to see-- or even hear-- the stage deal. All we got was: one another.
So I guess that was the point: it had to be, none other was available. We'd bothered to come to the Capitol for a show, and got one, ourselves. It was quite a party, and decked out with costumes and signs that were dedicatedly playful, politically a blearly crayon-scape, when political at all. Bear in mind the next day was Halloween, and the adult trick-or-treaters were testing out their equipment. Election Day to follow 3 days later. Who's your favorite ghoul? Vote with your candy.
Only later, at home, on TV, did we "see and hear" the official event. It was a pleasant and appropriate enough pop show, and after all it was finally just a theatrical event. Or, was it, despite itself? How can you ever, no matter how hard you try, not be everything you are? How can you not, even by brushing your teeth, tell the world what you care about? Jon Stewart made a terrific serious speech. My take is this: We are invited to enjoy the god-given right to be afraid, which implies the god-given imperative to be awake and alert; we are also invited to understand that sanity requires a no-pain no-gain grunt attitude, and that in our consumerist society sanity is not a luxury item, but one shelved next to the rice and beans.
But Jon Stewart already made this speech, and his was better than mine.
Did we do any good? I valued learning what I can only hope others learned also, that there are so many people of good will who "get it" that their numbers can crush you half to death in a wide open space, even in these politically ugly times. I valued seeing that this has not changed since 1967: Americans have the capacity to behave in a responsible and orderly way, even under stress and running amok. I almost feel sorry for the D.C. cops: they looked so bored.
The whole deal was good medicine, even if only in the sense that it did the patient no harm.