‘Sanity' rally fans want to show other side of America

WASHINGTON -- When political funnymen Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert take to the National Mall here Saturday for their "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear," they'll have the ear of supportive fans like Casey Giarratano of Atlanta.

Earlier this year, Giarratano watched the media reports about the big rallies by the tea party movement and Fox TV anchor Glenn Beck.

Saturday, she plans to be in Washington to show the world what she and others say is a different cross-section of America.

"I want to do my part to show our side," said Giarratano, 56, who considers herself a progressive Democrat. "I want to show our numbers."

Stewart and Colbert's partially tongue-in-cheek answer to the mainly conservative rallies of earlier this year is expected to draw tens of thousands of mostly liberal fans of the comedians.

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Like tea party protesters and Glenn Beck fans did earlier, several hundred Georgians are taking buses to Washington for the rally. Others, like Giarratano, who works as a controller at the King Plow Arts Center development in Atlanta, are planning to either fly or drive on their own.

And like the other rallies, this one is attracting criticism. More serious pundits and commentators on both sides of the political aisle say Saturday's events take away from the importance of Tuesday's elections. Others criticize the comedians for making a mockery of American politics on the storied grounds of the National Mall.

Officials at the network that produces Stewart's and Colbert's shows say straight-faced that their event isn't political. Plans for theevent include performances by Sheryl Crow, The Roots and Mavis Staples, among others.

"This isn't a political rally, it's a show -- they're trying to entertain people," said Steve Albani, spokesman for the Comedy Central network.

But it's about much more than entertainment for people like Perry Goodfriend, another Atlantan who plans to be in Washington for the events.

"This is far more than a satirical stunt," said Goodfriend, a Democrat whose late father worked on Jimmy Carter's campaign for president and sang the national anthem at Carter's inauguration.

"This is making a point that we're all frustrated at the political process ... on both sides," he said.

Along with making a point to lawmakers, Goodfriend, 51, said he wants the rally to make a point about America.

When tea party and Glenn Beck supporters rallied in Washington, "people tried to make it sound like that's the real America," said Goodfriend, who once worked for former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell but now works in retail. "But it's not. It's not the vision we all share."

Stewart has characterized his event as a rally "for the people that are too busy, [who] have jobs and lives."

The vast majority of Americans get along and can get things done even if they disagree, Stewart told CNN's Larry King. "And the other 15 percent [of America] controls it -- the dialogue, the legislation," he said.

Mini "sanity rallies" are simultaneously planned across the country.

Stacey Hopkins is organizing one of them at Manuel's Tavern in Atlanta, where she's expecting about 80 people, including members of a left-leaning group she belongs to called the Coffee Party.

Even though Saturday's events are supposed to take a lighthearted approach, Hopkins said she worries about the serious undertones in American politics today. She cited a recent incident in which supporters of Kentucky Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul dragged down a critic and one stepped on her head.

"I think a lot of people are getting a lot of bad information, and some of it is tapping into some dark places," said the 47-year-old mother of five.

"We need to really think about what's happening," Hopkins said, "and commit to restoring and maintaining some sanity."

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