Where’s Wally? (Or Where’s Waldo, if you happen to be American)
Yes, I along with every other moderate or left leaning or politically aware 20-something or 30-something or older DC-ite was down at the National Mall on Saturday for the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.
It was jam packed. Nobody can seem to agree on crowd estimates, but it was big. Obviously not Obama inauguration big and probably not “I have a dream…” big, but still sizeable. The Metro system couldn’t cope at all… from Columbia Heights, where I live, all the buses were full and the queue at the metro station was backed up to the escalators. I ended up having to walk the 7km to the National Mall… and it was almost like a procession, gathering people along 14th St as everyone trudged along, grumbling about Metro’s lameness along the way but also talking excitedly about politics and stuff.
Once I got down there, very late mind you, there was no way I could get anywhere near close to the center of the action or a view of the stage. But there was still plenty to look at. Crazy costumes (the rally fell on the Halloween weekend) and funny protest signs were all over the place.
Some great signs included:
– “Run spell cek on sign”
– “I want a sandwich”
– “Let’s just pretend I give a shit and leave it at that”
– “I’m already regretting having to carry a sign around all day”
– and “I should be doing my paper right now.” One that I could relate to especially.
View of the crowd towards the National Mall
So, the crowd was fun and friendly, the weather was a nice sunny but chilly Fall day and some of the jokes were funny, even though I couldn’t hear much from where I was… it was all very muffled, they needed more speakers for that size of crowd.
But what was this all about?
That’s a good question. I wasn’t really sure when I was down there… but I couldn’t hear a lot. Some people at the rally were definitely mocking the vocal minority (especially the tea party) and using very “meta” and “ironic” signs to express their thoughts and feelings that the majority of them were too busy to be out waving signs every weekend, or weren’t radically minded, yet those that shout the loudest fill the most time on the nation’s 24 hour news cable channels.
There seemed to be a feeling that more unity was required in the country and that media coverage and politics needed to be less divisive… there were signs making points that taxes were actually required to pay for things like education. There were also some people actually supporting government (perhaps not that surprising in DC, I guess…). The age range at the rally was really diverse… it really went across the spectrum. I’d say there were more 20-somethings and 30-somethings than any other group, but other age groups were certainly representing.
I didn’t really see any tea partiers… which surprised me a little, as I thought they would try and hijack it to do something crazy or whatever.
Then there were some people down there and I’m not sure what they were trying to do. There were quite a few people with signs to legalize marijuana (and quite a few wafts of that substance could be detected on the frosty Fall breeze, I might add…). I didn’t know if they were trying to be really meta, because nearly all big protests have members of the pro-pot lobby showing up, or whether they were being totally serious.
But overall, it seemed like an upbeat crowd who seemed grateful of the invitation to come out and show by their physical presence that they were unhappy with the political situation in their country, unhappy with the mainstream media coverage of politics and would like rationality to make a comeback in the public sphere.
The atmosphere in DC last weekend was just buzzing… so many people had friends who had come into town to crash on sofas or floors so they could attend the rally, there were Halloween parties, there were people around everywhere and there were joke protest signs strewn around the city in the windows of take out stores and cafes. All in all, it felt like some sort of cumulative catharsis for the moderates and lefties in a country that has been going through a bit of a rough patch.
But then the midterm elections happened on Tuesday, and the mood in DC seemed to drop again after that… and Fox News keeps on hatin’, so I’m not sure whether it actually had any real, tangible impact beyond being a one-off support group meeting for the wry and the restless.