Opinion / Portfolio

Comedy rally a worthy effort to calm down political rhetoric

Article originally appeared in The Sacramento Bee. 

Jon Stewart may have forever changed the famous Teddy Roosevelt line. From now on, it may be, “Speak softly and carry a big shtick.”

While Stewart is obviously liberal, he did a great job of using jokes and sketches at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington, D.C., where he laid out the importance of being more inclusive and of not jumping all over each other when our opinions differ. I just hope we can all continue to react like Stewart’s faux rival at the rally, fellow comedian Stephen Colbert, who said, “Your sanity is poisoning my fear.”

I’m speaking as a 16-year-old, soon-to-be-voter who flew to Washington to attend the rally on Saturday. I’m starting to pay real Screen Shot 2013-06-03 at 5.08.34 PMattention to politics, and I must say I find the dialogue insane.

My parents tell me it’s the job of each generation to leave the country a better place than they one they inherited. But I look at the state of our governments and think, “Hmm. Is this the best you can do?”

As a sign at the rally said, “How is it that Charlie Sheen’s parties are less crazy than our political parties?”

Another sign said simply, “Stop the yelling.”

As Stewart said, “If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”

My theory is that there is just too much time to fill on cable TV. There are all these voices, and they all need to be heard, or someone else will get the time slot. So everyone screams. Everyone says those with opposing views are Hitler or the Antichrist. Every issue is a crisis.

The way I look at it, there was only one Hitler, and he died in 1945. The next time a TV pundit calls someone Hitler or uses a similar hyperbole, let’s all change the channel. I may not be able to vote with a ballot yet, but I can vote with my TV remote.

A sign at the rally said, “Sanity, not Hannity.” But pundits on the left, like Keith Olbermann, are just as bad.

Sure, there are things to be afraid of, but we don’t need to make it so that’s all we think about all the time. Crazy shouldn’t be the new normal.

With all the fear-mongering about Muslims, my favorite sign at the rally had large Arabic characters at the top; underneath were the words, “Relax, it says McDonald’s.”

People from both parties will say the system is broken, but nobody is fixing it. (I’m allowed a little hyperbole. I’m a teenager.)

People typically just point the finger at the other party, but I don’t care who’s to blame. I want the problem fixed. I don’t care whether the answer seems Democratic or Republican. I suggest we go for smart.

It’s perfectly obvious that governments need to either spend less or raise taxes. But nobody can be at all specific about solutions because extremists will hammer them. Death panels! Socialists! Fascists!

That’s why Stewart’s rally was so great. It was a chance for a horde of like-minded people to get together on a beautiful fall day on the National Mall in Washington at the center of our democracy and have the silent majority be heard.

Will the rally have lasting effects? Who knows? If we want it to, we’re all going to have to promise to make a difference.

I’ll start.

I promise to renounce my claims on Social Security. I plan on not needing it. Plus, the benefits are so far away that they don’t mean much to me. (Of course, if something terrible happens, I’d like to think that the majority of you are good people and won’t leave me to rot.)

So, who’s next? What farmer will give up subsidies? What well-to-do senior who doesn’t need Medicare will forgo it? Which person who doesn’t need unemployment benefits will give them up?

If we pull together, we can solve our problems. As we do, let’s keep in mind the most important lesson from the rally. If I disagree with you, I will do so without calling you an idiot — and I’d appreciate if you’d treat me the same.

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