The Mall at Washington became immortalized when MLK Jr. gave his stirring “I Have a Dream” speech decades ago. On Saturday, October 30, another throng of people bunched to be heard, led this time by Comedy Central gagsters Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
Far from the dignity of MLK (and even that of the more recent Restore America rally led by conservative icons Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin) was this charade of political concern led by these two adolescent-acting men. At the event on Saturday, Colbert was dressed as a type of Captain America character whose get-up looked more like Evel Knievel than the cartoon hero. Seeing Colbert in the ridiculous costume, one could hardly resist the temptation to imagining the powerful image of Martin Luther King, Jr. who stood and spoke in the same spot. There is absolutely no comparison. The Colbert-Stewart presence was farcical and dumbing– an irreverent and irrelevant blip on the radar of time that will cause history to castigate them just as they have castigated history.
Colbert. Keep in mind that these are the same two men who continue to lessen and minimize the stature of the federal government and the body politic of the United States. Colbert, on the one hand, sat before Congress recently and rather than reading his presented report, made a mockery of the government by appearing in character and demeaning immigrant workers and scandalizing entire people groups for his own self-esteem. That same act would have one publically shot in some countries– for simply making a mockery of the government.
Stewart. Then there is Jon Stewart. A populist hero to the hipster crowd of 20 and 30 somethings still living with their parents while working McJobs, he insulted the President and the office the President holds by referring to Mr. Obama as “dude.” I’m unsure why Barack Obama would ever lower himself to appear on the Comedy Channel and become the butt of Stewart’s jokes, but it was a new low in U.S. Politics- made lower by Stewart’s lack of decorum and complete distaste and disregard for the man and the office he holds.
The Rally Itself
At the weekend rally, one saw signs of Stewart appearing in a type of ”Uncle Sam” poster where the venerated and sobering figure imposes his will on American would-be recruits, saying “I want you” for U.S. Army. Instead of that stately call to service, Stewart is seen posed with both hands limp and raised in a “Whatever” shrug, simply encouraging Americans to “take it down a notch.” Sadly, Stewart misses the point by confusing the high volume of dissent in our nation for ‘noise’ that should be silenced.
On stage, the two men looked more like the Teller-Penn comic duo than men leading several hundreds of thousands of people in a rally. It was, sort of like the Seinfeld show, a rally about nothing. Rather than rousing the crowd with “shoulds and oughts” concerning citizenship and duty, the reportedly half-drunk/half-stoned crowd offered only occasional chuckles at the men making mockeries of the institution that stood behind them in the image of the U.S. Capital Building. In fact, from news clips seen on national television, the strongest messages sent from members of the crowd seemed to be about the legalization of marijuana– not the recession, not unemployment, not the broken financial system, not illegal immigration, and not the mortgage crisis. No, the primary and pressing issue on many attendees’ minds was their perceived right to possess pot.
So, though there were no clear and scientific bases on which to judge the success of the Stewart-Colbert rally the day before Reformation Sunday, it seems that they feel woefully short of their intent to “restore sanity” as the gig was billed.