Groundhog Day Rally, Anyone? (November 2010)

On October 30th, I joined a crowd of over 300,000 crammed on the National Mall in Washington D.C. to support the Rally To Restore Sanity sponsored by Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. The attendance easily swamped that of the August Fox News’ Glenn Beck rally – “Restoring Honour” – of some 70,000 tea partiers and grizzly mamas.   Rally4Sanity was a remarkably polite gathering of diverse people attending a political rally for all the right reasons – to support the call for moderation and civility sadly missing in the political sphere.

Of course there was humour – Yusuf (Cat Stevens) dueling it out with Ozzy Osbourne over the “Peace Train” and “Crazy Train”, eventually settling for the O’Jays’ “Love Train”. A man dressed as Waldo surfed the crowd several large blocks west of the Capitol heading for the stage.  People climbed the trees to be able to see the performances.  Everyone cheerfully followed instructions to jump at the same time to measure the impact.   Signs advocated everything from “You have a mustache, but I am pretty sure you are not Hitler” to “Give quiche a chance” to “I’m not angry, I just want a taco”.

But under the veneer of fun was serious concern with the vicious unprincipled partisanship that has hijacked the political narrative, alienating so many moderate Americans, and genuine surprise that only comedians were able to channel this frustration.

When asked about the Canadian connection, one obvious answer is that Canadians benefit from having reasonable and sane government in our neighbour to the south.  And applying the 10% factor – 10% of the population, 10% of the GDP, we probably have at least 10% of any insanity.

In fact we face our own sanity challenge with the vast majority of Canadians tuning out of the hyper-partisan national political debate, disillusioned with the lack of civility and any sense of national purpose, and despairing over the apparent inability to deliver honest and efficient government.  Few have confidence in our national government’s commitment to govern for all Canadians and develop responses to current challenges that draw us together as citizens of this great country. Instead we have government that governs only for political advantage and in the process, slicing and dicing us by region, age, gender, and income.

Perhaps it is time for our own Rally for Sanity hosted by Rick Mercer, This Hour has 22 Minutes and the Air Farce alumni – Groundhog Day 2011 on Parliament Hill  – to protest the never-ending mediocrity of national debate on the eve of yet another federal budget and possible national election.

Possible slogans:

We can review national programs, but we are pretty sure Canada is supposed to be held together by more than a chain of Tim Hortons drive-thrus and the harmonized sales tax.

We prefer beach sands to tar sands, but we are pretty sure James Cameron is doing a better job of assessing all the interests at stake than our governments.

We may be uncertain about a national carbon tax, but we are pretty sure it is not a “tax on everything” and, for the sake of our planet, would be part of a credible climate change strategy.

We don’t like crime, but we are pretty sure building more jails is not the answer.

When Portugal is overwhelmingly preferred to Canada at the United Nations, we are pretty sure that we are doing something wrong.

We think Canada should host international meetings, but we are pretty sure that most of the secondary people attending the $1 billion G-20 meeting could have been skyped in.