Bridge over Troubled Waters

“Let not many of you,” wrote the wise James, in a widely ignored admonition, “become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” The same could be said for politicians. Lord Acton, seconding James, noted “power corrupts,” and yet who is not drawn to its flame? The news has been awash in a flood over the George Washington Bridge scandal, something I could not appreciate until I joined the ranks of the myriads of commuters to Manhattan. The evidence is pretty clear that Chris Christie’s top staff (ahem) purposefully closed lanes on the George Washington Bridge to retaliate against Fort Lee mayor Mark Sokolich’s refusing to dance when the pipers piped for Christie’s reelection. I didn’t vote for Christie, and now I wonder if that is why my New Jersey Transit bus often comes so late that I’ve taken to calling it the Jesus Bus, since I never know when it might come again. Ah, the rush of power that encourages the grinding of the boot heel into the face of the smaller opponent. Could anything be more human?

Perhaps, in this world of infinite possibilities, Christie knew nothing of what his top aides were doing. The culture in New Jersey, however, as those of us who live here know, has been cast in the very large shadow of bullying. We spend taxpayer’s money to teach our children not to bully while our politicians give the lie to the teaching we purchase. “How the mighty are fallen,” lamented King David. But even he had his Bathsheba scandal. And many on the right claim their politics derive through their commitment to his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson, if I count correctly. Let not many of you become politicians.

Manhattan is an island with limited access. The Lincoln Tunnel and the Holland Tunnel are for the troglodyte crowd, while the George Washington Bridge is the busiest bridge in the world. “He could have called,” the old evangelical hymn goes, “ten-thousand angels.” That’s roughly a forty-to-one ratio for New Jersey commuters to New York to angels. Somewhere along the line, the populace became the unwitting plaything of politicians. Stop a hundred-thousand people from getting to work? It’s just an arbitrary number. Never mind that trust used to be part of the social contract. As a citizen who spends approximately three hours a day on a bus, or waiting for one, I have to wonder whose best interest is in the mind of our elected officials. Yes, James, had I listened to you this might have all turned out very differently indeed.

Photo credit: Fly Navy from Wiki Commons.

Photo credit: Fly Navy from Wiki Commons.

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