Linda Merryman, standing, talks with Joyce Segers, a Democrat running for Congress in the 2nd Congressional District, on Saturday during the “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” at Louie’s Bar and Grill in Ashland. - Jamie Lusch

Sanity / Fear Restored in Ashland

Medford residents Clark and Therese Stevens were in the small crowd of people waiting for space so they could step inside of Louie's Bar and Grill in Ashland Saturday morning.

Never mind that he is a Republican and she a Democrat. They were both there to join others in a "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear," a local version of an event being held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., by comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

"We don't vote the party line necessarily," Clark said. "Things need to swing back to the middle."

"We don't always agree on everything," his wife added. "We try to talk them out. But sometimes we don't talk about issues because they are too volatile."

Inside were 110 people, all laughing at the political satire provided by Stewart/Colbert and Co. But even those outside could see the coverage of the D.C. rally on the large-screen TVs inside.

"Our capacity is 117, but I want to keep it a little under that," said Louie's owner Melissa Jensen as the crowd burst into laughter.

Although there was plenty of humor, the event was serious political business for the organizers.

"We want to take it down a notch," said Linda Merryman, who was dressed in black with a TV set hanging from her neck. "Fox News," the screen announced.

The antenna atop her head enabled her to "tune it in or out," she said.

"I'm hoping that the 80 percent or more of people we don't hear on Fox News, who are sane and good people, come together in fun to say, 'We love our country and we are capable of dialogue without being extremists,' " she said.

The brother-and-sister team of Kim and Ed Keller, owners of a local media marketing firm, worked with Merryman to create the local event.

"We had this idea of just getting together with friends to watch it," Kim said of the main event in D.C. "But it kind of went nuts. We don't know most of these people."

Describing herself as a political moderate weary of extremists, she said American-style politics can exist without yelling and questioning each other's parentage.

"We'd like to see that national dialogue that has gone so crazy to the lunatic fringes come into some level of sanity," Ed Keller said. "Let's take it down a notch. This is about a sane dialogue. It's fine to disagree but let's knock off all the name calling and the craziness."

Too often the mainstream media focuses on the vocal extremists, his sister said.

"We don't have that loud voice," Kim Keller said. "We are home. We are working. We are raising our families. But we want our moderate message heard for a change."

While the crowd did include a few Republicans and some Independents, it had a decidedly Democratic edge.

But Joyce Segers, the Democratic hopeful for the 2nd Congressional District, was also calling for more political dialogue.

"Bringing people together in order to promote something is so important," she said. "People who have felt disempowered aren't feeling that when they come here."

"I'm very concerned about the homophobia, the racism that is going on — about the hatred," said Cathy DeForest of Ashland, who was wearing a sandwich sign reading, "Rally to Restore Sanity."

She blamed Fox News and the rest of the mainstream media whom she believes are not providing balanced and fair representation of the news.

"Ours is a plea for sanity," DeForest said. "What Jon Stewart very successfully does is take pieces of the media and put it back out to us to show the insanity of what is going on."

"This is humorous but it is a very serious issue," said participant Rosalind Schrodt of Ashland. "People need to vote knowledgeably. We all need to get activated."

Her son, Forest Schrodt, was activated. He was participating in the D.C. event on Saturday.

Ashland resident Michael Rice, a former Marine discharged in 1972, brought several friends to the rally.

"We've lost civility and statesmanship in politics," he said. "This is a rally that will help put things in a better perspective. I'm having a ball."

Registered Independent David Sours, a middle-school teacher in the Rogue Valley, was also enjoying the moment.

"I lean Democrat but sometimes I vote Republican," he said. "I like to think of myself as fair-minded. And I think Stewart and Colbert are doing something wonderful. We need a conversation that is in the middle. All the shouting from the left and the right is ridiculous."

Share This Story