Jon Stewart, host of cable television's "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central, announced he intends to lead a "Rally to Restore Sanity" in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 30. Of course, the announcement is a parody of Fox News commentator Glenn Beck, whose followers demonstrated on the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s historic "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial, even though Beck's ideas fit within King's ideals like those of an arsonist in a dry forest.
Stewart says in his website, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!" (a line from "Network," a 1976 Academy Award movie about an unstable news anchor). "We're looking for the people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive and terrible for your throat; who feel that the loudest voices shouldn't be the only ones that get heard, and who believe that the only time it's appropriate to draw a Hitler mustache on someone is when that person is actually Hitler. Or Charlie Chaplin in certain roles," he wrote.
Steven Colbert, whose program follows Steward's, countered with a spoof of his own. As host of the "The Colbert Report," he announced plans to hold a counter rally on the same day, called "March to Keep Fear Alive."
The comedians are sending stronger messages than are the wimpy partisans who have good ideas but are fearful of political engagement. That's mainly why these antics are so slyly appealing. They are engaging compared to the lack of seriousness in the national discussion we need to have.
Humor, satire, ridicule, mimicry and parody are revealing stink bombs in political discourse. But they don't tell a story. And right now, the people of the critical middle need leadership that understands the context of our current predicaments. Even a surgeon knows better than to lie to a patient. Most people want to know what we're going to do next and where will that put us?
Regardless of issues -- jobs (Democrats) or taxes (Tea Party/Republicans), health-care expansion (Dems) or cure your own wounds (TP/Repubs), Social Security (oh no, not again), etc. -- the cliffhanger is about what role the House and Senate will play. Will they serve as governing partners? Will the Senate remain dysfunctional through minority-party leverage and dissent?
The November election is about how much budget surgery it will take to stabilize the deficit and what injections are needed to bolster the lagging portions of the economy. It is about whether Republicans can remain a semblance of the party it was before George W Bush. Will the right-wing insurgents throw out the remaining old establishment and take over the former party of Lincoln? Will so-called centrist Democrats go willy-nilly and cross-dress to become the old Republican centrists?
Those and other scenarios are among the ones that are getting little spotlight. Instead the public is juked into absurd political metaphors about child-care grizzlies and chicken-barter health care.
The craziness about our times is a misunderstanding about the act of voting itself. Casting a ballot is actually a societal act, how people together make decisions in our democracy. It is not about aloneness, solitariness, and a backed-to-the-wall defensiveness.
One ideology that should get stanched is the libertarian idea that seeks to abolish the notion of people and society in favor of individualism and aloneness.
Stewart and Colbert are giving us a revealing counterbalance to the Glenn Becks of the current scene and punch-drunk public officials who obfuscate instead of level with us. Without it our politics are turning into a joke. With Stewart and Colbert we can at least laugh out loud at what is ridiculous, surreal and absurd.
As Mark Twain said, humor is the good-natured side of truth.
I say rally on.
Jose de la Isla writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.