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Reason Rally 2016 – My Impressions

Driving 360 miles with a lousy cold isn’t ordinarily my idea of fun, but this was the Reason Rally, and those don’t happen every day. So I added zinc and Hall’s Mentholyptus to my overnight bag and set off a touch after 8 AM Friday. Turns out the drive was pretty easy, and I got in around 2:30. There wasn’t a lot going on at the time, and I wanted to decompress after the drive, so there wasn’t much to do other than collapse! I DO want to note, however, that one thoughtful provision had been made for RR residents of that hotel. Someone had arranged for shuttle service to and from the Lincoln Memorial – no charge! Having considered everything from Uber or the DC Metro to WALKING there, I was genuinely glad to learn of this most welcome arrangement.

Saturday, Der Tag! I made a double trip to the RR site (forgot my camera!), but once there, mild weather and a small but growing crowd greeted me, along with the odd and mostly silent Christian protester. I hadn’t settled by the rather murky reflecting pool for 15 minutes when a familiar gentleman caught my eye. It was Daniel, taking in the scene. We greeted each other and chatted for a bit before both of us decided to meander further on our own. Not long after that, I observed a young man, black hair, moustache, slight goatee, and video camera rig on his shoulder, surveying the locale. Seth Andrews, it could not have been anyone else, and as it happens, it wasn’t! It should surprise no one that Seth is just a regular guy – a damned talented “regular guy,” but the fact is that pretention simply isn’t a part of his vocabulary. He was around on and off throughout the event.

A bit after 10 o’clock and things began to crank up, first with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC and not long after that, a surprising soloist to sing the national anthem: J. T. Eberhard! He did a damned good job (trained opera singer!), and I gladly joined in. Shortly after that, he and Reason Rally executive director Lyz Liddell led the Pledge of Allegiance … WITHOUT those lousy two words which were snuck in back in 1954!

A number of speakers followed, some of whose names don’t stick with me, but each of them spoke with above-average fervor. The standouts were as predictable as they were impressive. James Randi excoriated the practice of Facilitated Communication, a scam perpetrated on children with autism and similar communication disorders, which seems to have been remarkably resistant to debunking. Maryam Namazie decried both Islam and how some “liberals” fail to recognize that its claims to racism among its detractors are both misguided and mistaken. David Silverman of American Atheists drove home yet again the importance of how we identify and the need to be unambiguous, for ourselves and for other atheists. Lawrence Krauss recalled Martin Luther King’s speech of some 50 years ago at that site and gave some expression to his own dreams for the future. And John de Lancie was just, plain, BRILLIANT. Speaking as a “god” (he was Q after all!), de Lancie mused at length about how men created him and the considerable liabilities associated with messing with gods in general. Of all the speakers that day, the man who portrayed Jean-Luc Picard’s nemesis in eight episodes of Star Trek TNG was, to my mind, THE highlight.

There were people to meet, too, from the two I mentioned above to the aforementioned David Silverman, Lawrence Krauss, AronRa and my fave YouTube bud, Steve Shives, all of them genial and approachable. As for the crowd, no, I suspect it wasn’t as big as the gang that gathered in the rain four years previously. There’s been a bunch of fuss online alleging that SJWs have spoiled both the atheism movement and the Reason Rally and that was the reason for the low attendance, but frankly, most of the complaints sound like the kind of whine someone needs to have some cheese to go with … Limburger, probably. For myself, I had a terrific time. Was it worth it? Not just yeah, but hell, yeah!

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Comment was by Loren Miller on June 13, 2016 at 2:30pm

The primary complaint I've read about come from anti-SJWs who complain that the atheist movement has gotten too involved particularly with feminism and the whole SJW scene.  A bunch of whiners, as I said above and not worthy of much other comment.  One thing I DID hear, though, was that the lobbying effort the day before (June 3rd) resulted in HUNDREDS OF MEETINGS, mostly with House and Senate staffers, and was very productive.  Those meetings have the potential for some serious change in future, and I'm all in favor of that!

Comment was by Stephen Brodie on June 13, 2016 at 2:20pm

Thanks for the heads up on the live stream, ill watch it now. Good job on your reflections of the rally I for one really appreciate them and your efforts in showing us your experiences of the event.

Why do you think the numbers were lower then 2014. I saw something online that people were worried about the backlash from the Christian right nut jobs. But who knows. 

Comment was by Loren Miller on June 13, 2016 at 2:04pm

Hey, Stephen.  The pix I put up were the best of the bunch, or so I thought.  Organizationally, I had exactly ZERO problem with how the Rally was run.  True, my expectations for attendance were likely off by an order of magnitude (I wanted 100,000 people there!), but the day was so good, I just can't kick at all about it, and no, the cold really wasn't a factor.

I picked up on Dawkins' speech later (I think I was grabbing some lunch at the time), and it was good to see him up and around again.  To be honest, I had been worrying about him.

Last note: Milwaukee Mythicists did a live stream of the event.  Here is at least a chunk of it.  The video is occasionally a bit problematic, but still well worth your time.

Comment was by Stephen Brodie on June 13, 2016 at 1:57pm

Wow Loren, sounds like you had a great time at the RR. The photos are just smashing, I envy you meeting so many new friends. I hope your cold didn't affect your day to much.  How did you find the organisation of the Rally. There has been some criticism's of a lack of organisation but these events always take up a lot of work. I managed to watch some of the live feed but the sound quality was awful. You are right the speech by  John de Lancie was magnificent. Did you see the speech Richard Dawkins sent over to the Rally he looks like he's recovering. Once again Loren Thank you so much for your impressions and photos, I really enjoyed them. Sorry for being greedy but I hope you have more. Stephen.   

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