When I finally awoke from the effects of a pre-flight spliff the size of a tampon, I was sprawled across Logan Airport's Terminal C with gum in my beard. A man in full Marine Corps sweat apparel was shaking my shoulder. "You're flying down for the rally, right?" he said. "Come on, we're leaving. And I'm pretty sure you don't want to miss this."
"You're going to the Stewart rally?" I asked. He didn't seem the type. "You bet," he answered, showing where the Trident met my mustache by pointing to the corresponding spot in his goatee. "Funniest two shows on television — Colbert makes my stomach hurt. My friends all think I'm nuts, so it will be fun for my wife and me to be with people who enjoy laughing a little bit."
My wake-up call triggered a real-life dream sequence, as over the next 24 hours I'd meet countless characters who'd uproot the prejudiced beliefs I've held since liberal-arts school. In addition to benevolent veterans, I also broke bread with sensible yuppies, hard-working bureaucrats, wise Southerners, and Halloween enthusiasts. I even interviewed two perfect 10s who were not only intelligent, but who claim they don't date stock brokers or Vinnys.
I didn't hang with the Mormon Jay-Z fans who Stewart propped in his big closer, but I did rap with everyone from biker grannies to MUSLIMS, LATINOS, AND QUEERS — OH MY, as one sign advertised. It was like the final scene of PCU, when students of all stripes unite — first in collective anger, then with the blowout party of the year. Jocks, preps, teachers, geeks, goons, and slackers all came out; and while George Clinton didn't make it, heads responded to the Roots with more gusto than rednecks have for Lee Greenwood.
I've already heard premature Woodstock comparisons, but that's off the mark. Certainly there were altered minds among the greenmen and outdoorsmen, the super heroes and belly dancers; but even if we had all been whacked on meth and Robitussin, we'd have failed to restore the one thing that was asked of us. It's also difficult to operate digital devices on hard drugs, and, trust me, the pics and flicks are ones that we'll all one day share on Facebook with our grandchildren.
A congregation of this caliber was a long time coming, from the initial growth of a Net-roots movement so exciting that it caused Howard Dean to climax in mid-stump, to the increasing popularity of social media, through which millions of us regularly interact with way more types of people than we ever did before. The rally was a live Twitter feed in the flesh — a massive meet-up for one-hundred-thousand-plus attention whores who are at once informed, concerned, and capable of venting through mirth and hilarity.
In the name of sanity, I agree to disagree with one of my favorite signs of the day: THIS ISN'T HELPING ANYTHING. Stewart and Stephen Colbert brought out the real silent majority — citizens who usually duck as far-left extremists like me trade slugs with crazies on the other end of the spectrum — helping non-radicals everywhere to see that, while there may no longer be a middle class, there still is a significant middle. In this land of polls and pundits, it turns out there's no enthusiasm gap for ideological moderation. And even if that notion makes you salty, you still would have fit in among the mixed nuts on the Mall.