Unplugging the arteries

Unplugging the arteries

“Blessed are you, God, who created the human body in wisdom, creating openings, arteries, glands, and organs, marvelous in structure, intricate in design. Should but one of them fail to function by being blocked or opened, it would be impossible to exist.”

That’s from a bracha that observant Jews say in the morning, part of the series of brachot that rouses them from bed and prepares them to face the morning.

It is similar to the fervent wish that many of them – the commuters among us – say as they approach the bridges and tunnels that connect northern New Jersey to New York City’s five boroughs. It is not at all far-fetched to say that if Manhattan is the pumping heart that powers this region, northern New Jersey is its lungs, or perhaps its brains, and certainly that the roads, bridges, and tunnels that funnel commuters from here to there are its aorta and vascular system.

The people, of course, are its lifeblood.

That’s why the recent stories about the likelihood that lanes were shut down, congealing the city of Fort Lee into an ossified lump, snarling traffic for hours, enraging drivers, endangering everyone by keeping emergency responders away from emergencies, and wreaking general havoc, was part of a political vendetta.

We do not know if the orders to shut down the bridge came from Gov. Chris Christie, then already assured of a sweeping re-election victory but going after a nearly unanimous one, complete with endorsements from Democrats. There is no reason to think that the instructions to close the local lanes on the pretext of an apparently nonexistent traffic study were his.

On the other hand, the recent death of Peter O’Toole reminds us of the instructions he gave his henchmen as Henry II in “Becket.” “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest,” the blue-eyed king asked, more-or-less-unwittingly sentencing the equally glamorous Richard-Burton-as-Thomas-Becket to death.

We do not know who caused the bridge to be closed, but we do know that it was closed, and that it was not the politicians but the people who suffered from it.

We hope that from now on, those politicians will keep the wisdom of the bracha in mind, and be sure to keep the metaphoric lifeblood flowing through those passages.