I headed off solo to the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on the Mall in Washington, DC, yesterday. The plan was to meet my niece downtown. Not to get stuck waiting, futilely, for a train I could squeeze onto to get downtown.
Instead, our little platform at the Van Ness Metro station on the red line became an impromptu gathering for the hordes of people who had to let packed train after packed train go by. Which is when I decided that going to rallies is a perfectly enjoyable situation for solo travelers (if I'd happened to be from out of town.)
While I waited, I chatted with and got a photo of a mother and her tiger-costumed baby; a couple with their 7-year-old holding her mother's sign saying, "I have Republican friends. They're not all insane;" a young guy in the platform throng with a sign saying, "I hate crowds;" a space alien of some sort; an older woman who was attempting to meet a friend on the Mall; and several others.
I happened to run into a friend on the platform so was no longer solo for my rally attendance. But it would have been a fun event either way. There was so much to look at. I couldn't hear the guest stars, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, described by The Washington Post as "the founding fathers of fake news."
But no matter. There were the great signs and the funny people. The guy with the sign, "Gay Nazi Mexicans are raising your taxes," a jab at the fears of many voters this crazy election season, about immigration, gay marriage, socialism, fascism and many more issues that scare people of a certain ilk. And the one, "I disagree with you but I'm pretty sure you're not Hitler."
There were the hilarious signs about nothing. Such as, "Signs are easier to read in helvetica." Or, "Down with zippers." And, "I'm a little annoyed but I'll get over it."
Signs that referenced the tea party (which, for my non-American readers, is a conservative, small government, anti-abortion, pro-Christian values political movement here..to try to explain it non-judgmentally).
Ironic signs. Or, at least, ironic situations. Such as the sign held by a woman standing in front of a police car that read,"Seniors for legal pot." (There were many, many signs referencing the legalization of marijuana. Which clearly indicated a very NON-conservative crowd. As expected.)
Some others: "We have nothing to fear but fear itself and spiders." "Ruly mob." "Palin-Snooki 2010." "Obama - reopen NY subway toilets now."
As a solo attendee, I would have been happy to wander, chuckling along the way, stopping people and asking if I could take their photos. Which I did anyway, while my friend waited. All the subjects complied in a heartbeat.
A girl of about 9 tapped me on the arm, held out a plastic pumpkin filled with Tootsie Rolls and Dubble Bubble gum and asked if I wanted candy. "Never take candy from a stranger," we all learned as kids. And my friend Andy remarked. But a tootsie roll it was! And I'm alive to tell the tale. (So is Andy, who chose the gum. I think. Andy? Are you there? Andy? ANDY??!!)
For the view from the other side of the pond, read the BBC News magazine piece on the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear that a British friend sent me. Called, "What was the Jon Stewart rally all about?" It wasn't only people from other countries asking that question!
Sadly, I couldn't see or hear much of the rally at all. If I'd been really eager to get a good spot to see and hear, I suppose I would have arrived much, much earlier. But, silly me, I thought I could just pop in for an hour or so.
It was a glorious day anyway. Fabulous weather. Lots of clever people in good moods. My only regret is not being able to see ALL the funny signs and costumes at the rally.
For a laugh about supposed Fox News estimates of the crowd, read the Borowitz Report.
Happy Halloween! Stay sane.
Photos: Ellen Perlman. From the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.