First, I would like to say that the Rally To Restore Sanity and/or Fear was awesome just from an entertainment point of view. Who knew that Ozzie “Crazy Train” Osborne and Yusuf “Peace Train” Islam would get on so well together? They are part of my musical past. So were Tony Bennett, Mavis Staples and the O’Jays. Even the acts I had never heard of or didn’t know much about like Sheryl Crow, Kid Rock, The Roots and the Four Troops were good. Seeing Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman warm up the crowd was a welcome surprise. And of course Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were their usual fantastic, funny selves.
Part of Colbert’s uberconservative schtick involved showing us a bunch of reasons to be afraid. Part of that was a video montage of pundits from Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly to Ed Schulz and Keith Olbermann, all freaking out at the excesses of the right and/or left. And a number of people on the web – including commentators I happen to like and admire and think they are usually right on point – blasted Stewart for “false equivalency.”
And that misses the point by a wide margin.
Sure, the left doesn’t have a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week operation pushing out talking points and supporting left-leaning candidates and causes like the right does. But Stewart and Colbert didn’t make up those clips. And they do support the point of the rally: America is far too polarized. Everyone needs to ratchet down the rhetoric. We cannot seem to debate even the simplest of issues without resorting to petty partisan point-scoring or “he said, she said.”
Where does “Inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims make us less secure, not more” fit into the idea of “false equivalency”?
Or “The press is our immune system. If it constantly overreacts, we get sick”?
Or “If we amplify everything, we hear nothing”?
Socialism is right in the middle of this. Far too many Americans have a distorted view of socialism that’s been fed to them by those who see the empowerment of the working man a menace to what’s supposed to be the American way of life. They don’t see how socialist ideas helped shape this country. They don’t see how other countries have looked to American social ideals to help shape their societies. And they can’t seem to step back and look at socialism objectively and say, “Are these ideas good for America? And if not, why not? And what would be better?”
I would like to think this rally and Stewart and Colbert’s message could get America pointed in some small way toward sanity, reasoned discourse and the kind of politics the founding fathers imagined. Unfortunately I don’t think the people who really needed to notice are going to.
But that doesn’t mean you and I can’t.