Archive for the ‘Culture’ category

Rally to Restore Sanity

November 1st, 2010

On Saturday, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert teamed up for the “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.” It was an entertaining, and inspirational, rally on the Washington Mall. The rally included Cat Stevens (AKA, Yusuf), Ozzy Osborn, Roots, Sheryl Crow, Karim Abdul Jabbar, and Anderson Cooper’s tight black tee-shirt. (You can watch the entire rally here.) When I compare this rally to the Glen Beck’s recent rally, “Restoring Honor,” the differences could not be greater. Beck’s rally felt contrived and was nothing more than a propaganda fest focused on Beck’s patriotic greatness. The Stewart/Colbert rally was fun, sincere, and made me proud to be an American. Stewart ended the rally with a sincere, and mostly-serious, speech. His entire concluding speech is included below.

jon-stewart-photo-3.jpg

“I can’t control what people think this was. I can only tell you my intentions. This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith. Or people of activism or to 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. And we can have animus and not be enemies.

Unfortunately, one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The country’s 24-hour politico pundit panic conflict-onator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems and illuminate problems heretofore unseen, or it can use its magnifying glass to light ants on fire, and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous-flaming-ant epidemic. If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.

There are terrorists and racists and Stalinists and theocrats, but those are titles that must be earned. You must have the resume. Not being able to distinguish between real racists and tea partiers, or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rich Sanchez is an insult — not only to those people, but to the racists themselves, who have put forth the exhausting effort it takes to hate. Just as the inability to distinguish between terrorists and Muslims makes us less safe, not more.

The press is our immune system. If it overreacts to everything we eventually get sicker. And perhaps eczema. Yet, with that being said, I feel good. Strangely, calmly good, because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us through a funhouse mirror, and not the good kind that makes you slim and taller — but the kind where you have a giant forehead and an ass like a pumpkin and one eyeball.

So, why would we work together?  Why would you reach across the aisle to a pumpkin assed forehead eyeball monster?  If the picture of us were true, our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable.  Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own?  We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is — on the brink of catastrophe — torn by polarizing hate and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do.  We work together to get things done every damn day. The only place we don’t is here or on cable TV. Americans don’t live here or on cable TV. Where we live our values and principles form the foundation that sustains us while we get things done, not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done.

Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats or Republicans or conservatives or liberals. Most Americans live their lives that our just a little bit late for something they have to do. Often it’s something they do not want to do, but they do it. Impossible things get done every day that are only made possible by the little, reasonable compromises.”

[Stewart then plays a clip of cars merging before entering the Lincoln Tunnel in New Jersey]

“These cars — that’s a school teacher who thinks taxes are too high…there’s a mom with two kids who can’t think about anything else…another car, the lady’s in the NRA. She loves Oprah…An investment banker, gay, also likes Oprah…a Latino carpenter…a fundamentalist vacuum salesman…a Mormon Jay Z fan…But this is us. Everyone of the cars that you see is filled with individuals of strong belief and principles they hold dear — often principles and beliefs in direct opposition to their fellow travelers.

And yet these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze one by one into a mile-long, 30-foot wide tunnel carved underneath a mighty river…And they do it. Concession by concession. You go. Then I’ll go. You go, then I’ll go. You go, then I’ll go — oh my god, is that an NRA sticker on your car, an Obama sticker on your car? Well, that’s OK. You go and then I’ll go…”Sure, at some point there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the shoulder and cuts in at the last minute. But that individual is rare and he is scorned, and he is not hired as an analyst.

Because we know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together and the truth is, there will always be darkness.  And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land. Sometimes it’s just New Jersey.  But we do it anyway, together.

If you want to know why I’m here and what I want from you I can only assure you this: you have already given it to me.  You’re presence was what I wanted.  Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder.  To see you here today and the kind of people that you are has restored mine.  Thank you.”

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
Jon Stewart – Moment of Sincerity
www.comedycentral.com

Watch the entire rally at C-Span here.

John Lennon Shines On

October 25th, 2010

John Lennon would have turned 70 this month. Over the next couple of months there are several noteworthy, commemorative releases and events, including: all of John Lennon’s solo recordings, re-mastered and released this month; a new documentary called LennonNYC, an independent film called “Nowwhere Boy” that focuses on Lennons teen years, and the annual Imagine Peace Tower lighting in Iceland that Yoko Ono will preside at and present Peace awards.

A couple of years ago, after watching the documentary, “The U.S. vs. John Lennon“, my interest in John Lennon was renewed. Not only was this man a musical genius, but he remains an icon of the peace movement. He used his fame to influence public opinion about the Vietnam war, and in response, the US government tried to deport him, spied on him, and used intimidation to silence him. In the end, Lennon was murdered by an obsessed fan. But his legacy remains. Three songs stand out as anthems to the peace movement:

  1. Imagine
  2. Give Peace a Chance
  3. Happy Xmas (War is Over!)

These songs, and others, have been sung by hundreds of artists. In 2008, Amnesty International produced a double-disc tribute to Lennon, as a fundraiser for the crisis in Darfur, Sudan. Some of the remakes are stirring. Check out the additional material at the iTunes store; you will find numerous artists with remakes of, for instance,Imagine, including Jack Johnson, Avril Lavigne, Willy Nelson, and Josh Groban. Also, .

Beyond the power of Lennon’s music, his message of peace is inspiring, and the context of his story is legendary. Richard Nixon is the perfect villain in Lennon’s hero story. The Nixon administration sought to deport Lennon because he was seen as a threat in winning the coming 1972 election—with a new voting demographic, between ages 18-21—a threat to public support for the Vietnam war, and to the establishment in general.

Isn’t it nice that we have moved beyond illegal government spying in today’s world?
(Unless you count what the Bush administration was doing for 8 years)

Lennon’s story resonates with today’s political situation in profound ways. What can we learn from Lennon and his willingness to confront the powers of his day?

First, he did not just speak out. He was also a man of action. He made donations, attended rallies, performed countless benefits concerts, and traveled to–and influenced–areas where there was injustice, such as South Africa. Also, he and Yoko purchased billboard space all over the world with a message: “War is Over! (If you want it) – Merry Christmas, John and Yoko Lennon.”

Second, he was positive about the possibility for change. He did not give up to the hopelessness that power pushes on to the masses. He empowered himself and others. His message “War is Over – If you want it” really says to us that it is not an impossible dream. He was optimistic in this regard.

Third,  he made a meaningful personal life for himself. He spent time improving his marriage with Yoko, and delighted in the birth of his son, Sean. He also spent time educating himself about issues in the world. John was a true patriot of the United States. Becoming a citizen was an honor for him. One could say John had “family values” and was, nevertheless, involved in what his FBI records calls, “revolutionary activities.”

We want to highlight some other exemplary traits of John Lennon (from Larry Kane book on Lennon:Lennon Revealed).

The thing the sixties did was to show us the possibilities and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn’t the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility.

—John Lennon

Some of the peace folks want violence…I want peace in the world…You gotta remember: the establishment is just another word for evil.

—John Lennon

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