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Lez’hur Ledger: Get those kids off my lawn
Getting out of bed on a weekday is always hard for me, but this Sunday it was almost impossible. I was hung-over, sure, but with The Roots, John Legend, and Sting playing for the Climate Rally on the National Mall, I found my inner strength. Plus, it was free.
The last time I had gone to a rally on the mall was in 2005 for Operation: Ceasefire, an anti-war event MC-ed by the Dead Kennedys’ Jello Biafra, whose goofy antics reflected the sub-seriousness of the affair. Political events like these are pretty similar: come for the band, listen to the politics because you’re stuck here. Insincerity is an inexorable part at these sorts of rallies, leaving the promoters proud that so many “came out to support the cause.”
As we walked to Rosslyn, I realized that even though I was spending my afternoon ostensibly supporting the planet, Earth was actively trying to kill me. Allergy season was not being kind to me. Why should I be nice to the planet if it won’t return the favor? I coughed and hacked all the way to the rally and all the way through it, too. People give you some pretty funny looks if you cough up phlegm like I do, but hey, evicting slime is my passion.
Eventually, we made it to the Mall. Despite my mucusy melée, I was still overpowered by the aroma of hundreds of hippie types celebrating Earth Day in their own special way. The kind of way that is still illegal in most states. But for every pair of tie-dye socks stinking of ganja there was a shirtless douche holding a sign that read something like “I Love Animals, They Taste Delicious!” Now I’m not saying they don’t, but there was no reason to crash the party.
While bands’ equipment was being set up and broken down, the environmentalists had us right where they wanted us. For up to forty-five minutes at a time environmental experts like Jesse Jackson and Cincinatti Bengal Dhani Jones would introduce each other while telling us we had the power to change the world by texting donations to their respective organizations. The best speaker of all was James Cameron, who finally stated the obvious by discrediting the effectiveness of Twitter in stopping climate change. The Na’vi in attendance, wary of technology since having their unobtanium pillaged, agreed wholeheartedly.
As for the performances? Among the best I’ve ever seen. The Roots performed a one-hour set, and then settled in as the house band for singers like Joss Stone, Mavis Staples, Patrick Stump (now a bona fide soul singer), and John Legend. Finally, at 7 p.m. the tantric one arrived on stage in a beatific vision of social consciousness. Sting delivered a short set that ended with “S.O.S.” “Is this song in Guitar Hero?” a nearby photographer asked me.
To be honest, the Climate Rally was giving me flashbacks of the Inauguration, what with the close contact with strangers, seemingly endless periods of waiting, and watching President Obama on a jumbotron. The video they showed looked like a poorly dubbed attempt at proving that the big guy was on their side. The words projected over the loudspeakers did not match up with his lips. But the event still felt pretty epic. I know that 150,000 people is nowhere close to the 1.8 million who attended the Inauguration, but when you’re squashed four feet from the front of the stage, it feels about the same.
Did we save the rainforests? No. The whales? Certainly not. But am I still going to take the elevator to my second floor Copley Hall suite? Only when no one’s watching.