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!