I saw hundreds of signs on the Mall today. One was notable for its clarity.
Today at the Rally for Sanity in Washington, John Stewart’s closing speech supported that contention:
Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do—often something that they do not want to do—but they do it–impossible things every day that are only made possible by the little reasonable compromises that we all make…
…Because we know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together. And the truth is, there will always be darkness. And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land. Sometimes it’s just New Jersey. But we do it anyway, together.
Jeff Jarvis hailed Stewart’s final thoughts as notable tonight in the Huffington Post:
Stewart’s close was pitch-perfect, presenting optimism, perspective, honesty, and humor in exact proportion.
He brilliantly separated himself from media, politics, and government, setting him closer to us, the people. In other circumstances, that might sound like a populist’s positioning: Stewart as Evita (don’t laugh for me, New Jersey). But that’s why the apolitical nature of the event matters: He wasn’t selling an agenda or buying power. He was leading and inspiring. He was recognizing and supporting the best in us.
Stewart was raising a standard for how our alleged leaders should respect us so we could respect them in return. “Because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false,” he said. Stewart was doing nothing less than resetting the relationship of the powerful to the public. He was re-empowering us. His speech and his event were profoundly democratic. Not Democratic or Democrat–democratic.
As a sharp media critic himself, Jarvis recognized the rally as a larger critique of the media. The New York Times review of the rally also espouses that view: the “Rally for Sanity will be remembered, in part, as an engrossing act of media criticism,” tweeted Brian Stelter.
Media criticism aside, the strength of Stewart’s argument lies in his invocation of the shared character that has distinguished the American people throughout the country’s relatively short history.
“You go, then I go.” When we act collectively, we’re greater than when we’re divided. It’s an ancient lesson that flocks of birds, swarms of ants and schools of fish have fluidly demonstrated in nature for millennia, and yet it’s one that humans seemingly must learn and relearn as we grow.
Given the scope of the challenges that lie before the nation in the 21st Century, the need for co-operation is as pressing as ever.