New Organizing Project blogger
How many of you checked out the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear this past weekend? Did any of you wonder how in the world.. WHAT in the world?
Let’s go back a couple of months, when redditors (pugsworth, hobbit6 and mrsammercer) independently suggested late night show hosts to march on the National Mall. The bloggers’ idea was to counter the sensational figures that spread messages of fear and hatred, which in their opinion did not quite reflect the opinions of average Joes in America. The ideas were quickly endorsed by other bloggers and turned into what went down in Washington D.C. this past weekend.
My friends and I were among the 200,000+ and I decided to do a Q & A with them to see what peaked their interest in attending the rally.My interviewees: Aaron Chan (A.C.): Systems Engineer Daniel Harwell (D.H.): Graduate Student @ University of Maryland Jenny Jin (J.J.): Marketing/PR
How did you initially find out about the Rally?
(D.H.): The Daily Show.
(J.J.): News, blogs and word-of-mouth.
In your opinion, how much of a role did the media play for this event?
(A.C.): From its initial concept, it has evolved from an anonymous Internet suggestion to a widely reported social event.
(D.H.): The media played a huge role, but I think social networks played an even bigger role. 4 years ago I’m not so sure if it would have been possible to get so many people to DC, but it seems as though social media made it easier for people to coordinate rides and allowed for people to see how their friends were getting involved.
(J.J.): Following the announcement of the event, I think that social media played a big part in providing updates and building excitement.
What was your first impression of the event and did you want to attend?
(A.C.): My first impression was positive, and the groundswell of enthusiasm encouraged me to attend and see if it was possible for this Internet suggestion to come to fruition.
(D.H.): When Jon first announced the rally I knew I had to go. In politics, the people who say the most insane things are the ones who get the coverage and the money. (Just take a look at Rep. Joe “You Lie” Wilson who raised $200,000 dollars the day after his outburst at the State of the Union.) Ultimately, I felt like it was important to show up and ensure that those of us not on the fringes got heard too.
(J.J.): When I initially heard about the event, I was intrigued and quite frankly, amused. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Let’s put it this way… I knew that I would regret it if I missed it.
What surprised you the most about the event?
(A.C.): The diverse age groups of rally-goers.
(D.H.): One word: turnout. I’ve attended large rallies before, but I have never seen anything like this. The minute I showed up at the Metro and saw the massive line just to get a farecard, I knew turnout was going to be big. And when the Metro train pulled up already packed, I knew that it was going to be even bigger than what I had imagined.
(J.J.): I was surprised at how many people came out. Even more surprising was how many traveled to be at the rally. An older couple to my left flew in from San Francisco, while another came from Denver.
What was your favorite/least favorite part of the day?
(D.H.): My least favorite part was trying to get home..
(J.J.): John Stewart’s final speech was very heartwarming. He ended the rally on a very positive note. As for my least favorite part of the day, I particularly disliked my feet hurting after standing for 5+ hours.
Do you think this event brought our nation together? Or divide it?
(A.C.): This event has injected enthusiasm for self-labeled liberals-that they still exist, and that “progressive” is not a bad word.
(D.H.): I don’t think that this rally did anything but provide entertainment to those in attendance. But then again I’m a bit of a pessimist when it comes to politics. It also doesn’t help that I spoke with a lot of my conservative friends after the rally and they said the entire event was just a rallying cry for the left wing of our country.
What surprised you about your fellow attendees?
(D.H.): I was quite surprised that there was so much sanity given the circumstances. At one point I witnessed a protestor of the rally shouting about keeping undocumented immigrants out of the country. Instead of shouting back or getting into arguments, people simply stood there and listened… or in the case of the guy dressed in the alien suit he simply stood there with his rally sign that said “I’m the only alien you should be afraid of.”
(J.J.): The diverse mix of people. But even more surprising was the sense of camaraderie in the air. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits, despite the cold weather and crowded conditions. It was figuratively (and quite literally) speaking, a breath of fresh air.
What was the message you gained through this event?
(A.C.): There are still normal people in this country, and that this country will be okay.
(D.H.): The one thing that I took away from the rally was that, the middle of the political universe has to make sure that we are heard… even if the things that we are saying aren’t as interesting as what the fringes have to say.
(J.J.): The underlying message of the event was that regardless of our differing views and what’s being shown on the television, the majority of Americans are reasonable and respectful people.