Sunday, October 31, 2010

Transcript - Jon Stewart's Speech

Jon Stewart's closing words at the Rally to Restore Sanity or Fear.


“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.

But unfortunately one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The country’s 24 hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying 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 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 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 we overreact to everything we actually get sicker--and perhaps eczema.

And 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 fun house 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 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. But Americans don’t live here or on cable TV. Where we live our values and principles form the foundations 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 that they do not want to do—but they do it--impossible things every day that are only made possible by the little reasonable compromises that we all make.

Look on the screen. This is where we are. This is who we are. (points to the Jumbotron screen which show traffic merging into a tunnel). These cars—that’s a schoolteacher who probably thinks his taxes are too high. He’s going to work. There’s another car-a woman with two small kids who can’t really think about anything else right now. There’s another car, swinging, I don’t even know if you can see it—the lady’s in the NRA and she loves Oprah. There’s another car—an investment banker, gay, also likes Oprah. Another car’s a Latino carpenter. Another car a fundamentalist vacuum salesman. Atheist obstetrician. Mormon Jay-Z fan. But this is us. Every one 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. Carved, by the way, by people who I’m sure had their differences. And they do it. Concession by conscession. 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? Is that an Obama sticker on your car? Well, that’s okay—you go and then I’ll go.

And 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 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 want I want from you, I can only assure you this: you have already given it to me. Your 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."

Friday, October 29, 2010

Metaphysics on Memory Lane

I just spent a couple of days visiting an old friend from childhood,who is married, has five daughters, one grandchild and another on the way. During the visit we talked a lot as we walked around our old hometown on a trip down memory lane. Along with reminiscing about our school days, we shared our religious/ spiritual beliefs. I told her about my study of how we create our own reality, and brought up the Bible quote: "It is done unto you as you believe." I asked her what she thought that meant. She hesitated a bit and said, "If you believe you'll go to heaven then you will." I replied: "But that's not what Jesus was saying. He said, IT is done unto you as you believe. 'It' can mean anything, including going to heaven." I told her about Victor Zammit's site:
"This lawyer has accumulated evidence of the afterlife, and he found out through mediumship that there are those who are still convinced there is no life after death even after they've passed on!"
We laughed at that, agreed they would probably come around to understanding their true state at some point, and the conversation moved on to other things. A couple of times later during our visit she brought up the topic of belief and reality creation; I got the feeling she was intrigued.

She wants me to read the Book of Mormon (she and her husband are devout Mormons). I said I would but made it clear I wouldn't convert since I prefer to be non-denominational, that I'd share my honest impressions, and she agreed. I think this could become a productive discussion; it's fun to share differing points of view, when we are open to the differences and not expecting others to see things as we do.

Update, Jan. 11, 2012: I never could bring myself to read more than a bit of The Book of Mormon, but it is true, as I told my friend, that I have trouble reading any book all the way through, these daze.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Summer of my Grief

I have a photo of myself, Stevie and his little brother Scotty, my three brothers and my sister, taken on the lawn of a local park in the town where my siblings and I grew up. At 12, I was the oldest, and as if in practice for motherhood, I'm cradling Scotty on my lap as he smiles up at me, mirroring my own big grin. Stevie, 9 or 10, brings up the rear, holding a baseball bat; he looks ready for a game. Stevie's parents, Stephi and Alan,  were caring for us at our home at that time while our parents were traveling in Europe, and all was going well. Our shining faces in the photo were a testament to that.

But then all of us kids got sick with a virus. One night I was in the bathroom, bent over the toilet, feeling like I was obliterating part of myself as I expunged the poison of sickness. I wanted only to be alone in this purging, and when Stephie came flying in, the picture of alarm and concern, I yelled, "Go away!" The next day she said, her face still showing her hurt and puzzlement: "I was only trying to help you!" I didn't know what to say, didn't know how to explain my discomfort at throwing up in front of someone. If I could go back in time, I'd respond: "I know you were. I'm sorry I was rude."

Stevie was sicker than any of us. I kept vigil with him and his mother, who spooned food in his mouth as he lay unconscious in bed. I asked, "How can he swallow if he's not awake?"

"It's automatic, " she replied. I felt her anxiety, her helplessness, and I was moved by the poignant softness and innocence in Stevie's heavy-lidded closed eyes, his open, unresisting mouth, his obedient swallowing. I was reminded of my own closed eyes and open, receptive mouth as I knelt at the altar, receiving the Holy Communion wafer. I felt the retreat of Stevie's spirit to a holy place, a place we could not go.

The night I learned he had passed, I became acquainted with grief; I threw myself on my bed, and I felt, like Alice in the dark hall of aloneness and confusion, that I was swimming in a pool of tears.

Our parents came home, and we were happy to see them. Stevie's funeral was held shortly after. Neither I nor my siblings attended; I guess it was assumed we had been privy to enough already. Afterward, my mother remarked that she had "never heard a woman cry so" as Stevie's mother had at the sight of her son's lifeless body.

For a long time I felt guilt about Stevie's death, assuming he would not have died if his parents hadn't agreed to come and stay with us, thus exposing him to a virus.  Then my father informed me that he had a congenital heart condition, so perhaps he was never meant to live very long.

I would look at Stephie sadly when our families got together in the ensuing years, my unspoken feelings clamoring for a voice I could not give them. Only now can I write of of how Stevie's face pierced my heart as he hovered in the twilight zone between life and death, and of how, at the same time, I can still see his face beaming bright as the sun, as he ran and played with us in those happy summer days.