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More Like Insanity: Another Perspective

Restoring sanity or reinforcing apathy?The skewed presentation of the problems of American society and the world at large were either naively simplistic or strategically stupid for an apathetic audience. Do you really think that “talking” to each other is going to fix every problem? You compared cooperation on a worldwide scale to the ability to successfully merge traffic. Seriously? That’s your attempt at a profound metaphor for the world’s problems?

Restoring sanity or reinforcing apathy?Earlier this year, I stood for hours in the rain on the streets of New York to attend a filming of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. And I had a good time – I honestly enjoy it when Jon rips apart Fox News, CNN, and the joke of a media that exists. I also had the opportunity to ask Jon a question, and so, I asked him if his political commentary had a point in the larger scheme of things as he exposed the hypocrisies of the media, and in a way, brought the reality of some situations to the forefront (for example, his clip on Operation Cast Lead). His response was that he was not trying to pursue any agenda or even portray the real news, that it was just humor meant to expose every absurdity, and that if the Daily Show took a stance, they would become the very demagogues they seek to mock. In fact, he said, “There is no point. That’s the point.” I was slightly disappointed in his response, but thought to myself that if he did have a point in what he did, he wasn’t going to tell the whole world about it – that would defeat the purpose if his agenda was noble in any way.

After this weekend though, I have to say that I honestly believe that you meant what you said, Jon, and I apologize for doubting you. And I’m positive that there is no point meant in your comedy nor do you intend to inspire anybody to stand up for real change in a disintegrating society. At the so-called Rally to Restore Sanity, attended by hundreds of thousands of people, you proved that the rally (if it can even be called a rally since rallies usually have a point) should have been called the Rally to Restore Ignorance and Apathy.

Ever since you told me you had no point, I’ve been trying to pay closer attention to your show and the remarks that you make – which undeniably have to be based in something that you believe. You may hate to hear this, but it’s a bunch of typical liberal Democrat jargon. Watching the two episodes prior to the rally, this became much clearer to me. For someone who had no trouble interrupting Anna Baltzer every two seconds as she intellectually exposed the Israeli occupation, you seemed unable to speak as you continuously stuttered in your interview with Barack Obama – which I may add, answered nothing of substance. In fact, most of it was Obama campaigning for himself, priding himself on his twisted interpretations of the bills that have been passed, and justifying the failures of the American government. Obama also used your call to sanity against you, telling you to be reasonable and realistic in your demands about him being too ‘timid’. You have criticized the hypocrisy of many bills, the occupation of Iraq and Obama’s foreign policy on your show – but where was there any mention of that when you had the President sitting right across you?

On Thursday night’s show, I saw that a Muslim was chosen to go in The Daily Show van to accompany Jason Jones and John Oliver to the rally. But again, like a typical liberal, you give the Muslims that you like a chance to speak. And I’m sure that your intentions are somehow based in a genuine want for prejudice against Muslims to stop, but quite frankly, I don’t appreciate the image that you give of Muslims. They’re not the Muslims that exist at large, but the Muslims that you want to exist. And I know that as a typical liberal, you’re trying to present this image of the non-scary, “moderate” Muslims, the “normal” ones who mean no harm and love America.

As the Muslim saluted the monument, and confessed his love for America’s “greatness”, I couldn’t help but think of all the Muslims that you portray as ‘good’ on your show. They’re all patriotic and in love with America, and in agreement with so-called American values, and most importantly, silent when it comes to American crimes in Muslim countries. Is this really an accurate perception of Muslims? Is there really something wrong with Muslims who criticize America and quite frankly don’t have a small degree of patriotism in them? When you start accepting and respecting those Muslims who dissent, as equally legitimate and logical, I might begin to regain some respect for you. You’re sort of playing into the whole game that any Muslim with a political opinion against America does not deserve to be heard.

You can rally for the “liberal” Muslims all you want, defend their rights to build mosques, and glamorize the “moderate” Muslims that are in love with America and cooperate with the government in their facade of a war on terror, but know that there are rational Muslims and humans out there. Sane ones – the millions of Muslims and other people worldwide who wouldn’t dare wear the American flag as an outfit. You said accurately that “the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe, not more”, and you were right. But more importantly, the inability to accept the fact that most people and Muslims are not in love with America and at the same time are not terrorists or crazy also makes you less safe, not more. It’s not crazy for people to call George Bush a war criminal, and it’s not crazy for people to seriously hate Obama, it’s not crazy for people to hate Israel, and it’s not crazy for most of the people in the world to hate America for its foreign policy. You might have the ability to have “animus and not be enemies”, but most people hate war criminals and rogue states, and have them as their enemies.

As Medea Benjamin rightfully stated on Huffington Post: sane people protest insane wars. But your skewed presentation of the problems of American society and the world at large were either naively simplistic or strategically stupid for an apathetic audience. Do you really think that “talking” to each other is going to fix every problem? You compared cooperation on a worldwide scale to the ability to successfully merge traffic. Seriously? That’s your attempt at a profound metaphor for the world’s problems? That’s what is going to make poverty and corruption disappear, and war-mongers stop mongering? Well, try it, and we’ll watch you epically fail. As Malcolm X wisely said many years ago: “Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it.”

Your quote of the night was “If you amplify everything, you hear nothing.”

You’re right, Jon. But the problem is, nobody is amplifying anything, nor are they saying anything. In fact, if this world had given the “due” anger in regards to injustices of today’s world, it would be infinitely louder than we have already heard. Apparently though, this is already too loud for you? When Pakistanis are continuously killed by American drones, they don’t really hear much. Neither do the million dead Iraqis and the thousands of dead Afghans. But let’s not get too loud or too angry about that. That might disturb our comfortable lives and the music to the Peace Train. There’s no such thing as being too loud or too amplified when it comes to speaking out against injustice.

We can pretend that everything is okay. That it’s “hard times, not end times.” That “we work hard every damn day” and that Americans don’t represent what the news shows them. We’ll fool ourselves into thinking that we’re already doing enough to help society by simply doing nothing and being us. And we will pretend, because in our apathetic society, when we are too busy thinking about what kind of car we’re going to buy (you exemplified our obsession with cars very well), people will continue to die and be oppressed. Afghans, Iraqis, and Pakistanis will continue to die. Children like Omar Khadr will be incarcerated. Imams like Luqman Abdallah will continue to be assassinated by the FBI. Muslims and others who have a hard stance and political opinion (note: not terrorists) will be demonized – both by you and society at large. Capitalism will suck the life out of many more countries, the poor classes of America will continue to become poorer, and the richer become richer. And your comedy will continue to make people laugh at the absurdities of the world… and then do absolutely nothing about it. They’ll go to your rally, feel good about themselves as you pat them on the back for “working hard” (it’s tiring to engage in this much consumerism), and American society will be stuck in the hole that it has dug for itself. You spoke of how Americans carry their “values” with them every single day. What do these values mean when no action accompanies them? The irony in your rally was that people aren’t too loud…they’re not loud enough. Apparently, not loud enough is too loud for America.

So Jon, after your epic failure of an attempt to be profound, I found a speech for those who actually care about the situation of the world and want the inspiration to make real changes, for those who do have families and lives and are too busy to go to rallies – but nevertheless, make the time to do so. I’m honestly disappointed that more people can take the time and effort to revel in their apathy and go to your rally and watch your show as opposed to taking an active stance against the oppression that their own government perpetrates. It’s time for action, and I close with the great Malcolm X, someone sane, not by your standards, but mine.

About Arsalan Rizvi

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4 comments

  1. I will take a piece of pie

    I understand what you’re saying, ideally someone who has the power to put up a rally of this size could potentially be louder about the atrocities of America.
    BUT
    When we feel like no media news stations understands the plight of Americans and the feelings of Muslims, this rally at least is a big positive to bring an inch of justice. Trust me everyday I wonder how much more i should be doing to help humanity, but Allah is merciful, just going something is better then nothing. The fact that Jon is willing to put up an alternate image of Muslims then being terrorists is enough for me. Even if its a Muslim baking a cookie.

    Thank you Jon.

    and Thank you Fatemah for your thought provoking article.

  2. I appreciate this article and I think you make a point when you say the rally, rahter than accomplishing anything, instead made apathy seem like the ideal.
    On the other hand, you seem to have missed HIS entire point. The way you interpreted his speech is wrong: when he talked about voices being too loud, he did not mean any voice. He meant the voices of pundits and fox news commentators who turn every situation into an oppurtunity to freak out, turning small things into enormous exagerated scenarios, like Rick Sanchez’s comments or the “ground zero mosque”. What he meant to say was, ordinary Americans can get along with those who disagree…like cars driving together on the same road, we don’t demonize those with different beliefs who we interact with on a daily basis. It’s the media pundits who are trying to seperate people and create fears- when that simply isn’t the reality. The whole fear from Islamaphobia is FROM politicians and pundits, and perpetuated by them, rather than regular people who may be influenced, but as Jon said- generally are actually living their lives. You misinterpreted his message in assuming the voices he meant were the voices of change, or that he created the car metaphor to compare us in cars to the worlds problems. Not at all. The thing is, he didn’t touch those issues at all- and perhaps he should have. But as an avid fan of Jon Stewart’s for years I know that his comedy persona won’t let him get political or encourage activism. Thats someone elses job.
    I think rallies like this are a step… fuzzy bear images of “moderate” Muslims are a starting step in encouraging more wide scale acceptance of Muslims as polictically involved and active non-terrorists. Perhaps we should stop expecting more from THEM and take on the responsibility of the image of Islam we want American’s to have upon ourselves.
    Anyways, it was still a good article and I appreciate it. Thanks!

  3. Instead of promoting ‘american’ ‘british’ or whatever values, should the world first not promote ‘human’ values of right to life and protection? that should bring every one under the same umbrella than have you divided by 155 or howsoever many countries

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