I feel like I should sit Shiva.
I'm not Jewish, so I'm not exactly sure what that means. Nor do I think it would be appropriate or quite work to heal my sadness. I just find myself immersed in a deep grief over the loss of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and I don't think I'm alone.
It's my understanding that the Jewish faith has brilliantly developed the process of sitting Shiva for dealing with shocking, deep grief and loss. I'm wishing I had such a process right now.
The grief is deep, because I was one of the lucky ones. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart began in 1999, the semester I graduated from college -- the semester before I began graduate school.
It was during graduate school that I began to realize what a terrifying place the world was. Completing my M.A. at Washington State University meant I had an opportunity to take courses at the Edward J. Murrow College of Communications -- Ted Turner even spoke on campus while I was there and I had an opportunity to meet him briefly. I learned about communication and media, because I too wanted to change it, so TDS as a show developed in parallel to my own intellectual development. By day there was John Rawls, Jacques Derrida, Antonio Gramsci, but by night there was Jon Stewart offering master classes on theoretical application.
Stewart showed us night after night that you could use media and culture to take intellectual frustration from your personal life to the airwaves. Marginalized thoughts and voices didn't have to stay marginalized. They could fight to the center. They could inspire change.
Jon Stewart tapped artfully into proven formulas and married them. His comedic approach wasn't new. All the great comedians, from Richard Pryor to George Carlin, used comedy as political activism. They used humor to disarm people and turn the mirror on some of society's most challenging problems.
He then took this razor sharp satirical lens and fused in into the daily late night formula brought up by Carson and Letterman. This allowed for nightly engagement and timely responses to whatever current events were happening in the world. The formula was lean and mean; TDS honored its audience by treating them as thoughtful adults. The half hour time limit meant it never pandered. The cable airing meant there was no bullshit.
The end result was 16 ½ years of an extraordinary education for all of us smart enough to turn in on a regular basis. All these years later, through my formal education, I have two B.A.s, a M.A., a J.D. and a Ph.D., but I will say without hesitation or doubt that I was often best schooled for free late at night watching Comedy Central.
I am just so grateful this amazing show was on during so many of my formative intellectual years. I am a smarter, more thoughtful, more vigilant citizen because of Jon Stewart.
So rather than wallow in silence, I've decided to do something better with my grief and Stewart's departure. Truth is, despite being ridiculously well-educated, I suffer from a painfully ordinary ailment: lack of confidence in my own voice.
I tend to keep important commentary to myself. I tend to preference polite silence over uncomfortable truth, and if nothing else, TDS reared a generation of intellectuals with the capacity to be respectful, vigilant, and engaged.
No more. Not after last night.
Stephen Colbert goes off script to tell Jon Stewart how much he means to the world.► Watch Jon's last episode: http://on.cc.com/1gOm7qk► Show highlights: http://on.cc.com/1KVyflU
Posted by The Daily Show on Friday, August 7, 2015
Stephen Colbert was absolutely right. We are better people for having learned from Jon Stewart. We learned that we are a public deserving of truth from our elected officials. We learned that if you close your eyes to their spin, you don't end up dizzy. And it was a comedy show that taught us that sometimes shit just isn't funny.
We can mourn the loss of The Daily Show or we can lift our own voices to fill the void. We can turn the camera on ourselves. Move The Daily Show to our daily lives.
We can remain polite without relinquishing power by being silent or blindly accepting the rhetoric of government and media. Polite, but persistent, accountability is the foundation of a true and great civilized democracy. In fact, if we are to fulfill the potential The Daily Show created in each of us, we must begin to demand more from our existing marketplace of ideas.
Let us start by first demanding more from ourselves. I imagine we can continue the mighty conversation begun in 1999.
I, for one, cannot wait to be a part of it.