George Washington Bridge

George Washington Bridge Wikimedia Commons

Now I know you all have been wondering to yourselves, “Where’s the religious angle in the Great Christie Bridge Lane-Closing Scandal?” Well here it is, straight from a guy who grew up in the Garden State.

What you need to understand is that New Jersey’s two most important cities are New York and Philadelphia, and that getting in and out of them across bodies of water is of existential significance to the residents of the state. Messing with access lanes is messing with New Jersey’s lifeblood.

But there’s much more to it than that, a metaphysical something that lies at the heart of New Jersey’s civil religion — and, indeed, the nation’s. Fort Lee, the aggrieved town in question, is where in November of 1776 George Washington watched while his forces across the Hudson in Fort Washington were whipped and captured by British forces. Then the Brits with their Hessian troops crossed the river and chased him across northern New Jersey into Pennsylvania.

A month later, Washington had some revenge, crossing the Delaware on Christmas Day to surprise the Hessians at their camp in Trenton and restoring the morale of the Continental Army. And seven years later, with the Revolutionary War successfully concluded and the British departed from New York, the Father of His Country crossed the Hudson to reclaim Fort Washington in triumph.

So the George Washington Bridge is not just an important commutation artery for the residents of Fort Lee. It symbolizes the establishment of the nation, its noble span representing the spiritual journey from bitter defeat to joyous victory. Denying access to it for partisan political purposes is no less than a transgression against the nation itself.

“GWB controversy deals a big hit to Christie’s reputation as truth-teller,” runs the headline on Charles Stile’s column in today’s Bergen Record. The first president of the United States of America was, we recall, a guy who could not tell a lie. It looks like presidential aspirant Christie has closed that lane to himself forever.

Categories: Politics

Mark Silk

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service

1 Comment

  1. Christie’s status as any kind of “truth-teller” is in acute jeopardy.

    Carefully reviewing what he stated in his press conference, the conclusion is that he is still fuzzing things up, indeed that he is deliberately hiding the real story about WHY those miserable traffic jams were devised and foisted upon the motoring public of Fort Lee, New Jersey.

    When asked whether he had queried his Deputy Chief of Staff, Ms. Bridget Kelly as to WHY she had arranged for the Port Authority to cone up and plug up several lanes of bridge-bound traffic, the governor allowed as how he had not found it necessary to do so, that it was enough to know that she had lied and, since lying is something up with which Christie would not put, he sent her packing. From Christie’s description of the matter, he did not personally advise his No.2 office staffer that her job was over and done with; presumably the bad news was delivered by an un-named someone else.

    Christie seems to have had reasons for not probing WHY his underlings had decided to visit the infamous traffic snarl upon the city of Fort Lee. The widely- rumored purpose of this connivance was to punish that city’s mayor for declining to support Christie’s candidacy in the recent gubernatorial election. Christie provided a very credible refutation of that accusation. He went to extraordinary lengths to explain in exhaustive detail why he had no reason to exact retribution upon that “little Serbian” (pejorative term for Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich used by one of Christie’s appointees; Sokolich is actually of Croatian ethnicity).

    Those inclined (as I am) to believe that the bridge mischief was not focused against Mayor Sokolich’s turndown need to look elsewhere for the reason that energized this “prank” (Rudy Giuliani’s callous descriptor). Fortunately, some good investigative work described by Rachel Maddow has disclosed a second, very strong, possible reason for the “Bridgegate” debacle. This is described in detail in the Daily Kos:

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/01/09/1268532/-Bridgegate-NOTHING-to-do-with-Mayor-of-Ft-Lee-Motive-may-be-even-worse

    Seems there was considerable rancor between the governor and members of the state senate’s judiciary committee concerning the governor’s unprecedented action in denying tenure to a respected sitting member of the state’s supreme court. One of the key figures in this dispute was Loretta Weinburg, whose senatorial district includes Fort Lee. As reported in the Daily Kos, on the afternoon of August 12, 2013, the rancor got especially rank during a contentious press conference, where an angry Chris Christie unburdened himself of some unrestrained vitriol:

    “Christie called the Democrats ‘animals’ said he would not allow this judge to be subjected to them and said that there would be ramifications and they should have thought of them before opening up their mouths. That was afternoon August 12, 2013.”

    The very next morning, at about 7:30 a.m. at 7:34am, word was sent out from his office to create some traffic problems in Ft Lee.

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