Jon Stewart will be leaving his show on August 6th of this year. He will leave a huge void not only because of his comedic talents, but his moral voice that has for over 15 years represented to many, the conscience of America.
In the wake of tragedy Stewart has been a centering force, articulating pain and providing much needed perspective for people grappling with the seemingly never ending stream of self inflicted disaster in America. Yesterday, Stewart spoke to his audience about the awful shooting tragedy in Charleston South Carolina. As we have grown accustomed to, Stewart found the words we needed to hear: that there are no jokes. Nothing to say that alleviates the enormous pain of another avoidable tragedy. That we do this to ourselves. That America can stop this if it wants to.
“I honestly have nothing other than sadness that once again we have to peer into the abyss of the depraved violence that we do to each other and the nexus of a just gaping racial wound that will not heal yet we pretend doesn’t exist," said Stewart.
"I’m confident though that by acknowledging it—by staring into it—we still won’t do jack shit. That’s us," he continued.
"This wasn’t a tornado. This was a racist. This was a guy with a Rhodesia badge on his sweater... I hate to even use this pun, but this one is black and white. There’s no nuance here."
“Nine people were shot in a black church by a white guy who hated them who wanted to start some sort of civil war,” he went on. “The confederate flag flies over South Carolina. And the roads are named for confederate generals. And the white guy is the one who feels like his country is being taken away from him. We’re bringing it on ourselves. And that’s the thing—al Qaeda, ISIS, they’re not shit compared to the damage we can do to ourselves on a regular basis.”
Whether Stewart's words are comforting or not, they are necessary. And soon we will have to go on without them. Stewart once said of his departure from The Daily Show: “If Oprah can leave and the world still spins, I honestly think it will survive me.”
Right now, we can't be so sure it will.