No substitute for sanity

Matt Scarano

Last Saturday, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert held the first-ever “Rally to Restore Sanity/or Fear” on Washington D.C.’s National Mall. Billed as “a rally for those who have been too busy to go to rallies,” the demonstration attracted hundreds of thousands of Americans from all over the country. Many more viewers tuned in online and on television.

Although unable to attend in person, this columnist went online to watch the rally. Jon Stewart pointed out early on that, “it does not matter what we say or do today. It matters what is reported about what we said and did today.” I hope that I can do it justice.

On the eve of a polarizing Election Day, it was inspiring to watch the dueling comedic pundits promote reasonableness in the news and the country as a whole. Jon Stewart stayed true to what he posited as his “motto” leading up to the event, “Take it down a notch, America,” while Colbert, appearing in character, provided a humorous counterweight to Stewart’s message.

Colbert awarded honorary “Medals of Fear” to news stations who refused to cover the event for fear of appearing politically biased, including ABC, CBS and “especially NPR.” The joke was in fact on these stations, as the rally turned out to be more musical than it was political. The Medal of Fear was accepted, on behalf of the news stations by a 7-year-old girl, who Colbert made a point of saying is far more courageous than NPR. Medals of Fear were also awarded to “Anderson Cooper’s tight, black T-shirt” and Mark Zuckerberg. Public figures and media outlets were depicted as the source of unnecessary angst in America, which needs to be countered by citizens.

During his keynote address, Jon Stewart reminded the crowd that all tea partiers are not racists, all Muslims are not terrorists and that, “if everything is amplified, nothing can be heard.” America has not had a traditionally radical political atmosphere, and in today’s polarizing world it is important to remember that we are all still working towards the same goals, and that these goals cannot be achieved without compromise.

The pair also reminded their audience to retain sanity in their own daily lives. Jon Stewart awarded “Medals of Reasonableness” to people such as Armando Galarraga, who was robbed of a perfect game last baseball season by a bad call but did not get angry, instead shaking the umpire’s hand and explaining that “nobody is perfect.” These awards demonstrated that regular Americans can promote sanity in simple ways on a day-to-day basis.

This is the message that we can most directly apply to our lives here at Vanderbilt. Whether Arkansas is pounding our Commodores in football, a chemistry test is taking place this Thursday or the tornado siren is whirring, we can all benefit by remembering Jon Stewart’s reasonable words, “we live now in hard times, not end times,” and retaining perspective on our lives and surroundings. Perhaps then we will be a little bit closer to sanity, for, after all, there is no substitute for sanity.

Matt Scarano is a columnist for the Vanderbilt Hustler at Vanderbilt University.