Monday, 1 November 2010

a rally with a purpose

so this rally to restore sanity happened over the weekend. i didn't watch it live, cos i was busy doing other things, but i've been catching up with some of the coverage today. not everyone is happy about it.

there's the issue with the
name of the rally, and i have to say that i'm quite sympathetic to this argument:

That the politics in this country have become extreme, absurd, and increasingly dangerous is not a result of mental illness; it's the result of ignorance and bigotry...

These people aren't nutty outliers; they are knowingly and deliberately and rationally complicit in a campaign to undermine both the credibility of the democratic process and the efficacy of the US government....

Because we live in a culture where people with mental illness are to be dismissed out of hand as the hopeless lunatics they are, your disablist frame is actively counterproductive.

so yes, in a world where mental illness is already stigmatised, the restoration of sanity is not a particularly nice message to be getting across. there's a huge underlying implication that insanity is bad, there those with mental illnesses are bad. not helpful dude. perhaps a "rally to restore rationality" or something similar might have been better.

the bigger criticism is about the ethos of the rally itself.
the standard links to a post by mark ames (with a disablist title & plenty of disablist language). his main point boils down to this:

That’s what makes this rally so depressing and grotesque: It’s an anti-rally, a kind of mass concession speech without the speech–some kind of sick funeral party for Liberalism, in which Liberals are led, at last, by a clown. Not a figurative clown, but by a clown–and Liberals are sure that this somehow makes them smarter ... because they are not taking themselves too seriously, which is something they’re very, very proud of. All great political struggles and ideological advances, all great human rights achievements were won by clown-led crowds of people who don’t take themselves too seriously, duh! That’s why they’re following a clown like Stewart, whose entire political program comes down to this: not being stupid, the way the other guys are stupid–or when being stupid, only stupid in a self-consciously stupid way, which is to say, not stupid. That’s it, that’s all this is about: Not to protest wars or oligarchical theft or declining health care or crushing debt or a corrupt political system or imperial decay—nope, the only thing that motivates Liberals to gather in the their thousands is the chance to celebrate their own lack of stupidity! Woo-hoo!

i've seen similar sentiments elsewhere, and i think people who express them are totally missing the point. there is absolutely no doubt that this rally was called in response to the one held by glenn beck & others, in conjunction with the tea party movement. if this rally was making a statement about anything, the statement was that people are sick of the hate, the bigotry & ignorance that symbolises a lot of the rhetoric coming out of fox news & the tea party movement.

to me, it was about a bunch of people getting together to say "can't we please have these discussions and political debates without the extremism, the name-calling, the scapegoating of minorities" and so on. at the time the rally was called, there was a huge wave of anti-muslim sentiment in the country being flamed by the likes of sarah palin in regards an islamic centre in new york. as well as some really nasty anti-immigrant stuff as a result of tough laws in arizona, piled onto plenty of other layers of bigotry & hate.

it was an absolutely valid and i believe necessary response to all of that stuff. that it wasn't a peace rally, or a rally for work rights, or for any of the other causes that mr ames holds dear doesn't make the cause of this rally any less important or less valuable. in a world that is becoming increasingly torn apart & polarised, it is absolutely necessary for someone (or thousands of someones) to stand up and say "there has to be a better way of talking about this; there has to be a better way for us to come up with workable solutions that will benefit the majority". mr obama was supposed to be that person, but as yet he hasn't been able to deliver too much. some of this is his (and his administration's) fault, some of it is because of other factors.

it's a pity that mr ames didn't stick around for the "
moment of sincerity" bit at the end. because jon stewart said it better than i ever could:

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
Jon Stewart - Moment of Sincerity
Rally to Restore Sainty and/or FearThe Daily ShowThe Colbert Report

i have to say that i'm not always a fan of jon stewart (no-one's perfect after all), but most of the time i am. and when he gets it right, he really gets it so right that there aren't many who can match him. this is one of those times where he gets it right. here's a bit of a transcript of the clip:

"So what exactly was this? 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. But unfortunately one of our main tools in delineating the two, broke. The country's 24 hour politico-pundit-perpetual-panic-conflictinator did not cause our problems. But it's existence makes solving them that much harder.... If we amplify everything, we hear nothing."

and of course, how could i blog about the rally without mentioning my favourite man of the moment who finds himself once again in the middle of it all, right where he belongs:

After grieving a little recently for the disappearance of those reverberating ‘peace waves’ of music and bulldozing optimism of the 60’s (The Never Ending Rainbow), the message came: why not join us at the Rally on the 30th of October? Oh my God! What a good idea. That’s all there was to it....

This event may not change the world, or the destiny of the elections, but it was great reminder of the peaceful hopes of many, to rise up and re-state their ardent wish for more sanity and less fear. Glad I was there.

here are yusuf & ozzy osbourne at the rally, singing about trains:

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