“If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”

The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems, bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen. Or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire, and then perhaps host a week of shows on the dangerous, unexpected flaming ants 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 Party-ers, or real bigots and Juan Williams or Rick Sanchez is an insult–not only to those people, but to the racists themselves, who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate. Just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe, not more.

The press is our immune system. If it overreacts to everything, we actually get sicker–and, perhaps, eczema. And yet… 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 look slim in the waist, and maybe taller, but the kind where you have a giant forehead, and an ass shaped like a month-old 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, of course our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable–why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution, and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own?

We hear every damned 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. The truth is, we do! We work together to get things done every damned day! The only place we don’t is [in Washington] or on cable TV!

But 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, Republicans, liberals or conservatives. Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do. Often something they do not want to do! But they do it. Impossible things, every day, that are only made possible through the little, reasonable compromises we all make.

Jon Stewart, Rally to Restore Sanity

I loved watching the Rally, even from my couch. (I was so upset for not being able to make it to DC. Let’s not talk about it.) The Roots and John Legend? Cat Stevens and Ozzy Osbourne? Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy? Sam Waterston poetry recitations? Brilliant, brilliant, and brilliant. And funny? More often that not.

But this Rally was important in a way that I find difficult to explain differently than has already been done. Not because I use it as an excuse to search for meaning in a broken media or political process – I obviously believe in the power of the establishment and have reiterated my hope in participating in it – nor is it because the actually content of the Rally was particularly new or innovative. But the reiteration of the message that we have the incomparable power to unite and change things simply due to the fact of our common humanity, and it starts with a conversation.

What Stewart called “concession by concession… you go, then I’ll go,” that is how a conversation begins, an understanding that it requires equal contributions from both sides, that the offering differing opinions often build stronger beliefs and better understanding, and that passionate, emotional discourse that built this nation is also what makes it stronger. The way that we talk about things drives our understanding of them, so let’s start a new conversation. I went, now you go, and if we laugh about it on the way – that just makes it better.

For a transcript of Jon Stewart’s Complete Speech, click here. For video of the Rally, click here.

Also – this guy? WIN. From the 100 best signs from the Rally.


3 thoughts on ““If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”

  1. Pingback: an Inspiration and a Reminder. | i figure wherever i am, that's where the world is

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