Rally inspires unity and destroys apathy

by Staff

Coutesy of Joe Stewart

By Joe Stewart, Contributor

From the moment I decided to attend the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear I knew it was going to be an epic experience. But it wasn’t until early Saturday morning, my eyes still bloodshot and my mind clinging mercilessly to the most minuscule modicum of reality, where I met a family at the train station and the social impact of this satirical gesture began to reveal itself.

Months ago, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart announced their plans to hold rallies in Washington D.C. on Oct. 30 (Stewart’s to “restore sanity” and Colbert’s to “keep fear alive”) in an effort to combat the 24-hour news networks. Ultimately the rallies were combined because Colbert “forgot to get his rally permit.” The day before the rally, more than 231,000 people had confirmed attendance on Facebook. Parks Services stated that “well over 200,000 were present,” with the highest estimates nearing 250,000. The mall was filled as far as the eye could see. This humorous ploy was no longer a joke.

Keith Feather, a social worker who brought his family from North Carolina to wave signs with slogans such as “Keep your corporations out of my elections. Please, thank you,” stated it eloquently; “It’s a sad day when it takes comedians to get people to take politics seriously.” But who else is trying to get Americans to take it seriously? Politics in this country have become more about mudslinging and less about any substantive issue. The news networks now fight incessantly to one-up each other dissecting the smallest of America’s problems.

When a problem presents itself in my immediate world, I assess the situation, deal with it and drive on. But if I was to interpret every element of my day as a problem, I’d experience mental overload and have to talk to my doctor about Xanax just to get through the day. That’s where Americans are now. We’ve become so inundated with what’s wrong and hear so little about what’s right that apathy became a defense mechanism against being overwhelmed by stress and anxiety and fear.

Where is the activism we read about in history books? Where are the strikes and riots and protests I saw as a kid? Where are the Americans screaming, “We’re here and we’re not going anywhere until we’re acknowledged!”? Pockets of activism surface from time to time, but most people feel they satisfy their civil obligations by voting, and that’s only 30 percent of the population. The rest of society feels little or no civic duty at all. Apathy is killing our country.

I am equally guilty. I see my government as something separate from me. I simply pay my taxes and expect the job to get done. Every so often I make it a point to vote. I would enjoy being more knowledgeable of my political realm, but I can’t afford to pay attention. It doesn’t fit into my priorities. Much like smoking a cigarette, even though you know it kills you, I stay out of the political mix although I know democracy fails when citizens stop participating.

However, standing on the east lawn of the National Mall on Saturday, laughing, smiling and chatting with some of the friendliest and welcoming strangers I’ve ever met, I was floored by a moment of clarity. I welled up with tears (judge me later, this is important) when I really saw and felt and acknowledged that I was part of something. I was part of something massive and historical. I felt united. But it couldn’t be what it was without every individual willing to participate. So I’m done with apathy. If I support your message I’ll stand beside you and shout it with you. If I disagree with your ideas I will discuss and debate with you, giving you the opportunity to expose the light of your side. And at the end of the day, we may simply have to agree to disagree. But we are all in this together. I’m with you to the end.

—Joe Stewart is a journalism junior.

—The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.

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