I spent the whole day at the "Rally to Restore Sanity" and, unlike the New York Times reporter, I did not find that the people I talked to were only liberals or Democrats. Many people whom I interviewed and spoke with were sick and tired of the rancor and anger on both sides. Yes, there were many liberals, especially the oldies who had been to Washington events since the Vietnam protests where Peter, Paul and Mary were the entertainment. However, even these folks were quite tired of the partisanship.
The day was like a kiddie coaster, with ups and downs of emotion but lots of smiles and not too taxing to my overall emotional state. Most of the rally I wondered if Stewart was just playing with us or if there were really a point. I wondered if the joke was on the audience. There were genuine times such as the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and giving awards to people who tried to tone down the rhetoric. Most of the time I was wondering if this weren't just designed to pump up the ratings and make fun of Glenn Beck as well as the liberals – until the end.
Stewart must be a student of Shakespeare. He learned the lessons well from Hamlet and the famous line "The play's the thing, wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King." He craftily used the rally to bring people in, only to teach a broader lesson and connect us to our conscience.
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Knowing his audience and understanding how he had played with us for almost three hours, Stewart addressed the question at the beginning of his serious speech asking, "So, uh, what exactly was this?" His answer was that this rally was not to ridicule. He explained that we live in hard times, not end times, and that we can have animus and not be enemies. He said that one of our main tools in delineating the two broke.
Referencing the location of the rally, Stewart said, "Americans don't live here, or on cable TV." He explained that most Americans get things done and that they do it not as Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives but that Americans "live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do."
Stewart went after the media and rightly so. He said the press can take the role of illuminating issues and hold up a magnifying glass or use that magnifying glass to light the ants on fire, saying if we amplify everything, we hear nothing.
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I am a liberal pundit. I actually believe in the views I espouse, but I am very friendly with my opposition. It is just an exchange of views. In the grand scheme of things, I think I am right but I might actually be totally wrong, and I am sure I won't find out until I reach the great beyond. I do know that most things are gray and nuanced. The world is not black and white.
Like most people in the talk-media business, I am also the recipient of a ton of hate mail. In fact, both sides of the fence are. Some people like Alan Dershowitz paper the walls of their office with it. I frame the hateful but funny ones. Most of us in the talk business, right and left, think that the people who write these e-mails need to get a life. Most of us in the talk business get along quite well, and we respect each other's views and opinions.
We break bread together at our annual Talkers New Media Seminar, and no one much cares to talk about hate politics. If listeners and viewers really saw who we are when we get together they would be shocked. We get together, and we don't focus on hate; we just disagree. Too bad our audiences are taken in by the show.
Stewart hasn't been taken in. He sees what the show is doing to America. If we don't stop it, we won't be able to get out of our own way. If only our politicians could speak like Stewart, if only our presidents could focus on bringing us together. I vote for Stewart. He caught my conscience, now if only he could catch the politicians.