Let me preface this post by stating (reminding? I may have said this previously) that I am still forming my own political opinions. Currently I would say that on most issues I “lean left”, but save for a few issues, I don’t firmly hold a stance on anything yet. I can be convinced through discussion on some things, and convinced I’m correct where I stand through discussion as well.
I had an interesting discussion with a friend yesterday on Jon Stewart, after much thought, he was right and I was wrong on the point I was arguing, what I realized later though is that I was arguing the wrong issue. It was spurred by Jon Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity”. Fresh after watching his closing speech, I had completely forgotten that Stewart is pretty consistent in his left wing views on politics. Which is why I found his ‘rally’ so compelling. The event wasn’t political in the sense of getting people to change their opinion, it was literally a rally to remind people that it’s okay to be a “moderate” in the sense that most of us have some views that would place us to the right, and other views to the left.
There are several quotes from it that I found poignant, the following are the ones that hit home with me personally.
In reference to the “rally” itself: “The impact is a broader cultural one, impacting ideas of what it means to be political,” he says. “It doesn’t have to mean you have to be liberal or conservative. It means you can be engaged in what is happening around you.” – Ethan Thompson; Associate Professor of Media and Culture Studies at Texas A & M University-Corpus Christi
“It was calming to see so many people who were at the rally because they want to see less anger, vitriol and nastiness in politics. People can disagree without being nasty” – retired diplomat Michael Ceurvorst
A few lines from what I thought was one of the most compelling speeches in the few years I’ve gained an interest in politics, given by Jon Stewart himself during his closing remarks:
“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.”
“The country’s 24 hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems but its existence makes solving them that much harder.”
“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 bigots and Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez is an insult, not only to those people but to the racists themselves who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate“
Find the full text of his speech here.
His charisma is undeniable, and it’s easy to forget that he is a comedian. There has already been backlash from people that argue that he takes a “holier than thou” approach when opportune time presents itself, then defends himself by arguing “I’m just an entertainer”. My thinking is simply this: can he not be a funny guy who also makes sound, rational points, and you can agree on certain things yet come to different conclusions? That was the message I took from his event. Debate is good, disagreement is good. A lot of really good things have come from people disagreeing, debating, (civil rights, a woman’s right to vote, gays in the military, to name a few). Certainly some of those things came with violent, drastic measures. But it would be a stretch to argue that the United States is not a better country because these things happened.
This rally was brought together by a guy who, after being reminded by a smarter person than I, is a very famous Democrat. He could have very easily used his influence, which brought over 200,000 people to Washington DC to hear him speak, to preach his views and try to change people’s minds. Instead he used it as an opportunity to ask people to stop, take a breath, and think. Ultimately everyone wants what’s best for the country; we all just have varying ideas as to what is actually “best”. We will NEVER completely agree, and I don’t think we should. But Democrats calling Republicans “racist homophobes”, and Republicans saying that Democrats are “Marxists” is counterproductive.
Personally I’m interested to see how the “pundits” respond this week, from both parties. Somehow the message will get lost I’m sure. But maybe if nothing else it will make more people pay attention to the issues themselves, and not the spin.