[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Sunday KCRW broadcast.]
I have been monitoring the saga of New Jersey governor Chris Christie with an interest level somewhere between mild and none.
The only parts of this multiple-month affair that I truly care about is if anyone's lives were endangered by this suspect lane closing on the George Washington Bridge. Beyond that, I feel bad for the countless commuters who were inconvenienced.
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No matter what side of the issue you are on, you have to admit it's a heavy lift to imagine that such a hands-on governor would not know about the closing of lanes on America's busiest bridge for four days. There is a lot of things the governor is, but stupid and unaware are not on that list. He's a sharp guy. In fact, I think the governor is way too intelligent to purposely close multiple lanes of the GWB to illustrate who is in charge. For a man who was elected by a great majority, it's not anything he needed to endanger his position by doing.
Christie is a lawyer and former state attorney with a healthy conviction record. I think he knows what the myriad downsides of being implicated in something like this. This is why, when he says he knew nothing about what happened, I am unable to call him a liar. It could very well be that people on his staff were responsible and kept the governor out of the loop.
Until someone speaks up or some magic document appears, the speculation seems to be the biggest element of all this.
Let's pretend for a minute that all the accusations being leveled against Christie and some of his staff are true. Is it a “scandal,” as it has been characterized, or is it Eastern Seaboard small-ball politics at its finest? I say it is the latter.
Gov. Christie has been enduring quite a public thrashing lately, perhaps most notably by his Jersey-born hero, Bruce Springsteen, who parodied his classic song “Born to Run,” with Jimmy Fallon, to roast the governor. Some speculated that Christie must have been smarting after that. I have no interest in finding out. Chris Christie is New Jersey's concern, not America's.
To those who see the activity currently surrounding the governor as the end of his chance to become a viable candidate for president in 2016, I wonder if he never had all that much of a shot at all. His embracing President Obama months ago is a huge turn-off to many conservatives. On top of that, Christie is not considered nearly conservative enough for countless others.
I wonder if the hot water he's in now has reached its peak. All this seems to be getting more local by the minute.
The one thing I have been thinking about, when it comes to what happened in New Jersey, is that small ball is not the way to go on anything. It does not matter if you are an elected official or anything else. If any of these allegations against the governor are true, he will forever be judged as a thuggish lightweight. Any good he has ever done or could do for the state will be eclipsed by all this.
I have had a number of less-than-enviable moments in my life when dealing with other people. I won't attempt to blunt that by saying I am not the only one. The older I get, the harder I try to be cool to others. I really work at it. I am often in situations where I am suddenly interacting with someone. My desire or readiness to do so is not allowed to factor in. It has turned me into a remarkably patient person (especially for someone who has hardly any patience) because I think the human condition, as tricky as it can be at times, is worth elevating and not being cheap with.
It is impossible for me to achieve the levels of contempt for other members of my species that I was able to as a younger person. My field data simply don't support it. I have met more people than anyone I know. As wide-ranging as they have been, I am unable to see myself as better than any of them.
This was the core idea I attempted to put across recently when I had the great privilege to speak at the Los Angeles Times Travel Show.
[I was given a brief 60 minutes to speak to the Sunday afternoon audience. On the topic of travel, an hour might as well be 10 minutes. Rather than merely reel off a nonstop stream of stories selected from the 80-plus countries I have visited, I focused on the virtue of travel and its ability to disabuse one of ignorance and fear of places and people in other parts of the world. If you're not somewhat aware of what's out there, you will always be incarcerated by your self-imposed shortsightedness.
It was quite inspiring to be in a large hall with fellow travelers, open-minded, curious adventurists. I felt truly in my element.
I admire anyone who invests time and money to leave behind the familiar and comfortable, to put themselves in an environment where the only relatable factors are the human ones. The differences are memorable, but for me at least, it's in the commonalities where the great lessons are learned. From the travel I have done, it occurs to me that if I don't try to do my best to in some way “promote the general welfare,” to borrow a phrase of others, then the overall is greatly compromised.
It is amazing to me that “Bridgegate” is getting more media attention than the millions of gallons of dangerously contaminated water in the Eastern United States, of which pregnant mothers could have ingested enough to cause harm. This is the big stuff. Like I said, playing small ball is not the way to go.
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