Ativan at the ready, I set out. Tens of thousands lined the streets moving in the same forward direction – a giant mass of politeness and humor. It reminded me of NYC in 2003 when an equally large crowd demonstrated against the impeding Iraq war. However, this convergence was more esoteric. Some questioned if there was any cause at all. Clearly, comedy and common sense were enough of a draw.
The excitement was palpable. Everyone there was making their own individual statement in the collective mass. No one had a clue what the day would bring, who would be speaking – other than Stewart and Colbert – or how “political” the thing would turn out to be. But this gathering wasn’t about politics or choosing a side. It was about unity as Americans. Loving our country and acknowledging just how lucky we really are. If anything, it was a reckoning of the American spirit. Jon Stewart summed it perfectly:
“This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith, or people of activism, or 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.”Of course, the performances themselves were pure gold. Leave it to Stewart and Colbert to pit Cat Stevens against Ozzy Osbourne dueling over which train to take (Peace or Crazy) – only to have the O'Jays settle the dispute by having everyone get on board the Love Train!
It was also wonderful to see my favorite, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, performing with Mavis Staples of the world-famous Staples Singers. And did I mention Tony Bennett? What a treat! Others included Sam Waterston of Law and Order reading a “poem” written by Colbert, John Legend and the Roots as the house band, Kid Rock with Sheryl Crow, the Myth Busters guys doing experiments on the crowd, and of course the cast of the Daily Show. All of the comedic banter was spot on. It was a hodge-podge of entertainment – all of it world class.
Sunday morning Bill and I set out for the Metro to get our plane back to Connecticut. It was a beautiful day. We decided to hit the Five Guys Burgers and Fries for breakfast, because as we painfully learned the day before, it’s nearly impossible to get a decent breakfast – or any for that matter – in DC on weekends, and this would likely be our only opportunity to get a fresh cup of coffee before our boarding call. Walking past an assortment of homeless people bundled up in their comforter cocoons strewn about the Metro entrance - apparently even the bums sleep in on Sundays in this city - we went inside. I'm no fan of greasy fast food, and the Five Guys is the acme of unhealthy gut-busting "food." A true testament to mindless American excess. Yet as I was finishing the last dregs of my coffee the song, “Don’t Stop Thinking about Tomorrow” started playing rather loudly – as all music in that restaurant does – and I couldn’t help but note what a fitting end to our trip to DC. We do have problems in this country with no easy solutions, but we’ll figure them out. Because we're Americans. It's what we do. I believe my sanity has been restored.