This past Saturday, more than 200,000 people descended on the National Mall for a rally about restoring sanity, or poking fun of those trying to rev up fear. (And thousands more watched from home or got stuck trying to get there).
I was there–sort of–as comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert led Comedy Central’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, a satiric counterprotest to the Glenn Beck/Sarah Palin rally a few weeks ago. I walked many blocks and got as far as the porta-johns and couldn’t see or hear anything because of the huge masses of people. Still, it was entertaining.
|Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear|
|Jon Stewart – Moment of Sincerity|
But while many seemed to write off this event as lighthearted or a mere promo for Comedy Central, I think there are some themes that political analystsand educatorsshould note.
First, while the rally certainly served its overt purpose of poking fun at conservative extremists, the overall message was tolerance for divergent views. One of Stewart’s suggested signs was, “I Disagree With You, But I’m Pretty Sure You’re Not Hitler,” a knock on protesters who had paraded signs with doctored photographs of President Obama and others as Adolf Hitler.
Shortly after the 2008 presidential election, I wrote a story for ASBJ about race relations and teaching tolerance to students who may have divergent political views. I spoke with Wendy Rock, a high school counselor in rural Louisiana, who’d seen some of her students bullied and intimidated because of their race and political views. Two years ago, it seemed the nation had become extremely polarized— now, it seems the anger has only intensified.
The rally did not address bullying, but after several highly publicized suicides of students who were bullied, the message seemed to coincide with what many schools are teaching: we must respect the views/sexual orientations/random differences/etc. among one another. For the 2008 election, Teaching Tolerance had lesson plans and advice for educators, and much of that information has been updated or is still relevant today.
Last night’s election results showed that somenot all by any means–of the extremism backfired. But we still have quite the uphill battle in showing our youngest generation how to respect and learn from each others’ differences, when many adults and the media are not setting good examples.
Joetta Sack-Min, Associate Editor