Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Return to the Opinion Page

Rally to Restore Sanity

Inspiring, no?

For a long time, fans of "The Daily Show" have been waiting for Jon Stewart to make a response to Glenn Beck's rally at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Instead of just taking another shot at Beck and the FOX News gang, he's going for something that I think is nobler.

Stewart's announcement was inspiring enough for me to write an opinion column on it. So, thanks to my fellow The Dalles Wahtonka Eagle Indian and friend Jade McDowell, there was a spot for a few words from me.

Stewart gets serious - 'Take it down a notch for America'

Unfortunately, Jade wasn't able to fit everything I wrote. Back when I was in charge of the page, if my viewpoint went a little beyond the 750-word limit I crammed it in anyway. But Jade has had some trouble enforcing the word limit, and I didn't want to receive any special treatment. Well, part of me did, but I understand.

Anyway, here's the "director's cut" version of my column:

Jon Stewart has turned from political humorist to political hero.
Ever since Stewart took over the desk at “The Daily Show” in 1999, he has used his flair for unabashed mockery to expose modern politics and media for what it really is. Even though he regularly calls his show a provider of “fake news,” Stewart and his writers have become increasingly relevant as they ridicule the exploits and errors of politicians and pundits.
After Glenn Beck’s latest hijinks – the extravagant “Restoring Honor” rally held at Abraham Lincoln’s feet, on the anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech – fans of “The Daily Show” have been anticipating an equal and opposite reaction from Stewart. All last week, Stewart and his counterpart Stephen Colbert have been hinting and teasing their audience about a possible retaliation against the continuing Beck phenomenon.
But when the announcement finally came from Stewart, it went beyond satire. This time, it’s serious.
Instead of going the anti-FOX News or anti-Tea Party route, Stewart is taking the opportunity to take on the big picture. His cause evokes neither FOX News nor MSNBC, neither Sarah Palin nor Rahm Emanuel, neither conservatives nor liberals.
“We live in troubled times, with real people facing very real problems, problems that have real, if imperfect, solutions that I believe 70 to 80 percent of our population could agree to try and could ultimately live with,” Stewart said on his show Thursday. “Unfortunately, the conversation and process is controlled by the other 15 to 20 percent.”
His remedy? “The Rally to Restore Sanity,” to take place in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 30. For real.
Stewart plans on giving a voice to the silent majority. He knows most Americans actually care less about health care reform than they do about getting their kids to soccer practice on time.
“Why don’t we hear from the 70-to-80-percenters?” Stewart asked. “Well, most likely because you have [things] to do.”
Stewart is calling for regular folks to get together and civilly discuss the issues. Instead of resorting to the incessant and wildly provoking extremes shown on the news every day, he is leading a more mundane approach.
“We will gather on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., a ‘Million Moderate March,’ where we take to the streets, to send a message to our leaders and our national media that says, ‘We are here, we’re only here though until six because we have a sitter,’” Stewart said.
Stewart is fighting a revolution against radicalism. He knows the rampant and rancorous discord in our country (although it provides plenty of fodder for his comedy) gets nothing done. He would rather promote for common sense.
There will even be protest signs available to any rally goers too busy for elaborate rally preparation. The signs proclaim passionate war cries like, “I disagree with you, but I’m pretty sure you’re not Hitler” and “I’m not afraid of Muslims/Tea Partiers/Socialists/Immigrants/Gun Owners/Gays … But I am scared of spiders.”
Stewart is obviously having some fun here. But the restoration of sanity is something we need now more than ever.
Fearmongers and name-callers may be popular these days. But as Americans, Latter-day Saints or BYU students, we should have higher class than to give ear to their theatrical, pontificated sound bytes. Why do we have to think of our government and society in terms of conspiracies, untruths and gloom and doom? Why can’t we reach for something nobler and enlightening? Why can’t we lift up, instead of tear down?
No one would disagree that our unique LDS community is predominantly Republican. But that doesn’t mean a Democrat in the White House is a sign that the apocalypse is imminent. Taxes may increase, liberal judges may be sworn in or a mosque may be built in Manhattan. But it is no reason to fear. Just make the best of the situation for the next few years before society’s pendulum will inevitably swing your way again.
The right wing is not the only side that needs to calm down. Progressives should be aware they do not have a monopoly on the answers to today’s questions. Ideas and plans based on traditional values are still viable and not outdated. And at the very least, they should realize a schoolmate uttering “under God” as he recites the Pledge of Allegiance or oil rig worker who still has the gall to “Drill, Baby, Drill” is not actually a personal, mortal threat.
What Stewart wants from you, no matter what your ideology, is fewer knee-jerk rants and more pauses of thoughtful reflection.
“I don’t know, seems like a pretty reasonable request,” Stewart humbly said.
I hope each and every BYU student or alumnus who has the means to accept Stewart’s invitation to march will do so. But even if you are stuck with armchair activism, get ready for some reasoning and moderation that – if allowed to do so – will save the country.
J.J. Despain won’t be able to make it to Washington, D.C., but will keep up the effort to restore sanity at home. For more, go to http://jtothe2ndpower.blogspot.com or follow J.J. on Twitter at @joshjoed.

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