Around 4:45am on Saturday morning, shivering in my way too light spring jacket, I was standing outside an empty baseball stadium, when the thought hit me – what about this situation is sane? I had just arrived at Citi Field in Queens, where in little more than an hour’s time, 200 buses, all courtesy of our client, The Huffington Post, would take 10,000 New Yorkers down to Washington, D.C. for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.
It may have been cold when I first arrived, but a palpable energy hovered above the already substantial crowd that huddled together. I doubted there would be many drop-offs among the registered riders, despite the early hour. Sleep could wait. This one-of-a-kind rally couldn’t.
At about 5:45am, Arianna Huffington, hostess, as it were, to 10,000 eager ”sanity riders,” made her entrance. The official schedule stated that buses would be leaving by 6am, but there were more important matters to attend to – like making sure everyone felt at home. Making her way around the perimeter of the stadium, she thanked people, one by one for making it out, and engaged them in conversation about why they chose to come on the trip down to our nation’s capital for this unique event.
Her lap around Citi Field took us until 7:30am, an hour and a half past our stated departure time, but there is no question it was time well spent – a scene no one would soon forget. The atmosphere and anticipation was electric, and one reporter told me she now planned to write a separate story just on the departure from New York – something she had not intended on doing.
At about 7:45am, the press contingent, the last remaining riders, finally boarded the bus with Arianna, and we all made our way down to DC. Even on the way down, the myth of this rally had begun to grow. A reporter already down in DC had to call me from a pay phone (yes, apparently they do still exist) because cell phone service had broken down with the massive crowd that was building. Bloggers were making reference to the rally as this generation’s Woodstock – with the riders on our bus agreeing with that sentiment. And this was all before the rally had even begun.
By the time we arrived on the National Mall, in the shadow of the Capitol, it was shoulder-to-shoulder for as far as the eye could see. It was so packed that I couldn’t even make it in to the main area, but there was action-a-plenty flowing out on the sidewalks and streets surrounding the Mall. Signs and costumes abounded – many politically themed, some seemingly random, and almost all of them funny and clever. I met up with a crew from Second City, the famed comedy troupe, and another DKC client, and they told me they had lost count of how many funny signs they wished they had thought of.
And comedy really was the order of the day. The talk in the days and weeks leading up to the rally had been – and justifiably so, for a massive event taking place in Washington DC three days before midterm elections – about how political it would be, and whether the rally would have an effect on voting on November 2. It became clear to me on Saturday that the rally’s purpose wasn’t as black and white as that.
Comedy’s always been a way that Americans have made sense of government and its politicians – a way to mentally come to grips with the larger than life figures and institutions that can seem out of our grasp at times. Political cartoons have been part of our culture for as long as America has been around. Saturday Night Live is never more popular than during election season. And shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report – and by extension, this rally – are just the latest ways that we’re able to translate our hopes, fears, and opinions about politics and government into something that makes sense.
There is something very sane about that.
Posted by: Sami Ghazi, Account Executive