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“To the Basic Cable Faithful”

November 20th, 2010 by admin

“To the Basic Cable Faithful”

One late October, I saw a rally through the eyes of a foreigner trained to root out all deception. She spoke the Queen’s diction with broad authority, and when she listened, her lashes gave dangerous attention to the fight behind your words. Nothing less than honesty would do. Nothing less was provided.

I told her of the rift between sincerity and devotion, and how us Americans pledge our souls to pretty packaging. I told her of Cynicism’s sway on our humors, guarding us from beatings, keeping us from preaching. I told her to keep an eye out for Washington’s monument, as that’s what makes gatherings glow.

We saw together with her sets of eyes the failure of the Rally, a quarter of a million without the slightest call to action. We saw the vanity of comedians seemingly stripped of civic duty, content to leave the miracle of the moment barely bent. We saw the halcyon days of 1960′s America bludgeoned to death by ironic Sharpie billboards.

She threw these convictions and a dozen more with posture, but sensing her intelligence I told my tale with leisure.

We came to the mall along the beige gravel path, the ground alive with sounds of Thousand’s feet. In the shadow of the obelisk, it gave our walk purpose, it purified our personal defeats.

Two-thirds of our friends were lost to the bottlenecks, beyond all hearing and sight. They sent by text well-wishes, then stayed around to bless us with their presence. I’ll see their smile in film reel dreams when I slip into old age.

I’m led by the current to a grove of trees and settle in next to some Kennedy voters. They didn’t catch all references but they felt the good intentions. Ceaseless walls of portable toilets flank us on the right: mounted by civilians, caving in their bubbletops, craning for a view. The cops stopped shooing them hours ago.

They ascended the stage to festival applause and got to the business of performance:

Colbert in a flash of sequins, brandishing an irony PHD.
Stewart in his East Coast common man, speaking sense from family dinners.
Colbert as a paper mâché giant,
Stewart as the hero absurd enough to fight it.
Colbert singing spot on to chorus line harmonies.
Stewart squeaking valiantly, then begging for forgiveness.

both making fast cuts and pundit-quoting three-dimensional spectacle,
both teaching mental hygiene to a crowd nodding in approval,
A dentist’s A/V room morality play, with
Colbert the cavity monster, and
Stewart toothpaste personified.

Colbert showing the illogic logic of a mind two steps from belief.
Stewart wearing his flaws on his sleeve, and asking you please to observe them.
both submitting the postulate that journalism needs to again arrive before all that’s left is a rolling Murdoch juggernaut, with four presidential candidates opening as even bets.

Colbert opening the door for frankness.
Stewart stepping inside.
Colbert, the bride-groom to comedy,
never once flirting with desire.

Stewart underneath the sky of which no gray discloses,
teaching laughter with a congeniality not seen on Senate floors,
or behind Senate doors,
or anything the House and Congress touches.
Stewart, sampling metaphors we haven’t heard in decades.
Stewart, summoning something Social Studies teachers would die for.
Stewart, who lays out nothing when nothing’s all we need.
When more branding as a subgroup is the last thing we quarter-million need.

Sanity is not sanity if you need a badge to prove it. I’ve got nothing against Bill Maher, per se, but he totally, thoroughly blew it. He’s indebted himself so far to the left his right brain denies correspondence. Identifying fully with a party is cancer so long as this Beltway surrounds us.

Yet Stewart kept his balances trim and his mind undivided. And his reward is a vantage point no comedian has ascended, no satirist could decline. But rather than wield it, he built for it a temple, trusting the power pure moments provide. Far saner to leave the ark lidded for a man whose ambitions seem blessedly modest.

The passenger van drives up 95 as remembrance turns to conclusion. “We’re very good at acting how we’re supposed to act,” I told my royal companion. “It was time for an action whose meanings wouldn’t fit inside the bibles.”

“To the Basic Cable Faithful”

A video-essay by Mike Varley and Mickey Benson chronicling the John Stewart/Steven Colbert “Rally to Restore Sanity And/or Fear” on the National Mall in Washington, DC, October 30th, 2010.

written and narrated by Mike Varley

video shot by Mickey Benson, Darin Quan & Mike Varley

edited by Mickey Benson & Mike Varley

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