An editorial to restore sanity

By Andrew Sheeler
Sun Star Editor-in-Chief

On Saturday, Oct. 30, over 200,000 people gathered at the National Mall for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.” Satellite rallies took place in all 50 states and in 84 countries around the world. By contrast, Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally in August drew 87,000 according to CBS News. As relieving as it is that sanity got more than twice the attendance of “Honor,” I am disturbed by the reactions of certain media outlets toward Stewart’s rally.

A few weeks ago, several media outlets gained attention when they barred their employees from attending the “Rally to Restore Sanity” if they weren’t covering it because it was a partisan rally, similar to what they did with Glenn Beck’s rally. Most prominent among those outlets was National Public Radio (NPR). NPR’s CEO Vivian Schiller said that, “Rules against participating in political rallies are a cornerstone of journalistic ethics at all legitimate news organizations – and for good reasons. So I’m not clear what all the hyperventilating is about.”

I’m “hyperventilating” because we have reached a day and age where sanity (sanity!) has been deemed a political stance by respected news organizations like NPR. Now, in the era of “death panels” and Hitler comparisons, a rally formed as a singular plea to restore rationality to the public discourse is viewed as a just another partisan point of view. As much respect as I have for NPR, the Associated Press, and the New York Times, their decision to label Stewart and Colbert’s rally as partisan is, to put it bluntly, insane. In their quest to protect their vaunted objectivity against all accusers, NPR and company have made themselves into laughingstocks. At the Oct. 30 rally Stephen Colbert awarded them a “Fear Medal” for their actions. Accepting the medal on their behalf was somebody who, according to Colbert, was braver than all of them: a 7-year-old girl.

A little more than a year ago, I wrote a letter to the editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner imploring people to stay sane. Now, on the occasion of Stewart and Colbert’s rally, I am going to repeat that call. Stay sane UAF. Your political opponents aren’t Nazis, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that calling your opponent Hitler will shut down all rational debate. Barack Obama is not a Muslim, but even if he were that wouldn’t be a bad thing. The majority of Tea Partiers are not racist, they are Americans who are concerned, right or wrong, about the direction the country is taking.

While Anchorage and Wasilla hosted satellite sanity rallies, Fairbanks did not. That’s ok. We can make up for it by pushing ourselves to be more reasoned, rational, balanced individuals. Election Day may be two days after Halloween, but we shouldn’t let our sugar highs or irrational fears influence our decisions as we step into the voting booth. As Stewart said at the rally’s close, “We live now in hard times, not end times.”

Most importantly, we can be civil. I’m not typically in the habit of taking life advice from ‘80s movies, but “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” summed it up perfectly, “Be excellent to each other.”

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