Meb Byrne

Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Rally To Restore Sanity and/or Fear

In dc, event, historical, inspiration, performance, photo op, politics, recommended on October 31, 2010 at 10:01 pm

The Rally To Restore Sanity, held by Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, and the March to Keep Fear Alive, hosted by Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report, collided on the National Mall Saturday. Attendance estimates range from 215,000 to 250,000 people, all of whom conducted themselves with moderate enthusiasm. (Buh dump chh.) Though the pacing of the three-hour-long event was inconsistent, the great positive energy of the crowd and the raison d’etre of the rally made it an overall success.

The guest list was extensive, eclectic and generally crowd-pleasing. As an opening act, the Mythbusters Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman conducted experiments on The Wave and seismic tremors with their largest sample size ever. Sam Waterston delivered an amusing poem penned by Colbert, bookended by Law & Order’s famous “dunk dunk.” Musical acts included John Legend and the Roots, who provided backup throughout the rally; Tony Bennett; Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow, performing a brand new and under-rehearsed tear-jerker; and a disappointing set by Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy. The best set was a dueling trio: Yusuf Islam sang a moving rendition of Peace Train; Ozzy Osbourne screamed and leered his way through Crazy Train; and the O’Jays, clad in matching white suits, brought both ends of the musical spectrum together with Love Train.

The weather was sunny yet pleasantly cool, the crowd’s age demographic surprisingly broad and race demographic homogeneously Caucasian. Most impressively, the throng comported itself with, well, moderation. Extremists from both ends of the spectrum stayed home, allaying my fears of screaming slogans and vicious signs. Arguing, complaining, and even fidgeting were kept to a minimum. The only animus shown throughout the rally came from the people in the cheap seats, who repeatedly sent up chants of “Louder! Louder!” until the microphone system was turned up.

Stewart was an capable ringmaster, handling himself expertly both as a professional and as a comic. Many segments of the rally mimicked Sesame Street parables, with Stewart teaching Colbert that, say, not all Muslims are terrorists and not all robots are evil, aided by the onstage appearances of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and R2D2. Stewart even sang an educational duo with Colbert. Entitled “There’s No One More American Than Me,” the song celebrated the right of all citizens to be patriotic, and gave shout-outs to everyone “from gay men who like football to straight men who like Glee.” The repartee between the two men often grew tiresome, though, and by the end of the rally, with Colbert’s fear finally defeated, I was not sad to see him leave the stage.

Stewart’s closing keynote was the most serious moment of the afternoon, but also the most meaningful. He spoke calmly and passionately about the need for moderation and thoughtful reasoning, not abject, irrational fear, in today’s society, quipping that “we live in hard times, but we do not live in the end of times.” The audience hung on his every word. Although Stewart did not prescribe methods of achieving this moderation as we move forward, the sheer fact that so many people from so many places turned out for his cause deserves great commendation.

For more photos of the rally, check out the Flickrstream of my buddy Andy Richardson, whose seat was much more VIP than mine.

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You Got A Right: A Gospel Tribute to the Supreme Court

In blog, dc, funny, geek, politics on May 31, 2010 at 4:50 pm

I have had the honor of guest writing for the blog of my dear friend Scott Austin. Blog! The Musical takes that age-old truism to heart: everything is better as a musical. I drew inspiration for my new musical comedy from the battle over Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, heating up now in Washington. Here’s a first look at my submission!

You Got A Right: A Gospel Tribute to the Supreme Court

Act I

It is 2009, and Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has hired only one clerk for the Court’s term. The clerk is studious and ambitious, and dreams of becoming a Supreme Court Justice herself one day. On the clerk’s first day of work, she approaches Stevens at his desk and asks him why he has chosen so little help this year. He confides that he will leave the Court this term. He laments his departure after many years of service, but reaffirms that he’s made the correct decision (“Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen”). The clerk protests that the liberal wing of the Court will have no leader without Stevens, but he will not be moved.

That night, the clerk tosses and turns in bed. Unable to understand Stevens’ decision, she questions her own ambitions to join the Court. The spirit of Justice Sonia Sotomayor visits her, to warn her of the challenges to come for liberals on the Court, but also to remind her not to give up on her dream of becoming a Justice just yet. Sotomayor offers to show the clerk the real Supreme Court, to remind her to follow her passion. Together, they sing “Rock-A My Court,” as they fly into the air and travel to the Supreme Court’s inner chamber. The spirits of Chief Justice John Roberts and the other seven justices greet them at the bench and introduce themselves (“This Little Court of Mine”). Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg steps forward and, together with Sotomayor, appeal to the clerk to become the third woman on the bench (“Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child”). While the idea of female camaraderie is certainly appealing, the whole Court agrees that the powerful, fence-sitting Justice Anthony Kennedy controls tough split decisions on the Court (“He’s Got The Whole Court In His Hands”). The clerk is lured away from Sotomayor by the soulful descant solos of Justices Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito, and by Kennedy’s promises of influence and fame. Sotomayor protests, but is powerless to stop her. The curtain closes as the clerk walks into the open arms of Kennedy, who hurries her away.

Act II

The second act opens with Justice Clarence Thomas’s silent interpretive dance in the empty court room (“I Shall Not Be Moved”). The clerk enters with Kennedy and Justice Antonin Scalia, the conservative leader on the Court. She listens as Scalia counsels her that there “Ain’t No Statute High Enough” to stop the Court’s conservative wing. To drive his point home, Scalia conjures sad scenes of justices past, first of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor at her husband’s deathbed, and then of Justice David Souter sitting alone in a cottage in the backwoods of New Hampshire, singing to his woodland friends (“Run, O’Connor, Run / Go Tell It On The Mountain”). Horrified at the way former justices have fallen, the clerk is about to give up her dream when Sotomayor reappears. She is furious at the seductive reasoning of the court’s right wing and tears the clerk away, reminding her that “There Is A Balm In Washington,” and that she must not give up hope. With the conservatives gone, the liberal justices join together in a candlelight vigil to appeal, quietly but forcefully, to the power of the White House in the upcoming Senate confirmation hearings for Stevens’s replacement (“Obama, Row The Court Ashore”).

Suddenly, the conservative justices reenter, sporting gang colors. They are incensed, and challenge the liberal justices to a dance-off. An all-out battle begins (“Roe v. Wade In The Water”), with the justices showing off their break dancing and beat boxing skills in a hip-hop remix of the classic gospel number. The liberals’ skills are strong, but without the street-savvy stylings of Stevens, they aren’t strong enough, and the conservatives gain the upper hand. The clerk is knocked to the ground by Scalia’s airchair pose, and wakes in her own bed. It was all a dream! Imbued with the drive to aid the fight for justice and the will to serve her country, she marches out to face a new day (“How Great Thou Art (Ode to the Supreme Court)”).

For more parodies like this one, check out The Capitol Steps.