The new mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, has asserted that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s 107- or 108-minute news conference yesterday “obviously raises bigger questions.” Ordinarily I would ignore such a comment as typically provincial New Yorkish chauvinistic snobbery, as in “we New Yorkers are ipso facto more cosmopolitan than you toxic waste-addled Jerseyites.” Yet de Blasio is onto something, much more than he probably recognizes.
Breaking news update out of Drumthwacket, the official governor’s mansion in Princeton: Governor Christie, in apparent retaliation for the NYT opinion column yesterday, “Look to Locke,” by Melissa Lane, Princeton University politics professor and director of the Program in Values and Public Life (would this not, in a town six miles or so from Trenton, be a null set?) there, has seized the Princeton academic building that had housed the political science department by eminent domain, renamed it the Chris Christie Institute of Executive Prerogative, and threatened to feed any quibbling professors to a pack of malnourished dogs. The topic of tonight’s inaugural lecture, to be given by Governor Chris Christie, will be “Crossing the Ford: Karma, Rebirth, and Liminality, With Constant Reference to the Great River Pilgrimage Sites of New Jersey.” Governor Christie will compare and contrast the Great Falls of the Passaic, the Delaware and Raritan Canal, the Kill van Kull, and of course the mighty Hudson, in an effort to deconstruct conventional understandings of the places called tirthas, or in the English tongue “fords” or “crossings.” As Harvard religion professor Diana Eck might have written (if her recent India: A Sacred Geography had instead been about New Jersey) “on the banks and at the confluence of its great rivers…the tirtha is a place of spiritual crossing, where the gods are close and the benefits of worship generous. At a spiritual crossing place, one’s prayers are amplified, one’s rites are more efficacious, one’s vows more readily fulfilled.” The schedule of upcoming events at the new Institute includes a lecture by Governor Christie on John Locke’s seventeenth-century theory of prerogative, and an invitation-only seminar on the late Michel Foucault’s text on public life in Greco-Roman antiquity, The Government of Self and Others.
All this raises the even larger issue: do we have a duty to forgive Governor Christie, now or in the future? If he immersed himself completely in the Delaware River at Washington’s Crossing, would he not emerge as a purified and even more terrifying version of himself? Would it be too late to forgive him then, or would the kali yuga be already upon us at that point?
Which raises the altogether bigger question: can Governor Christie in fact govern himself? If not, who could possibly step in to govern the governor? If he was “blindsided,” as he quite implausibly claimed yesterday, who could lead and guide him now? Pope Francis? Or an even higher power? Jon Stewart is an eminent interpreter of all things New Jersey, but I fear that even he is not yet spiritually prepared for this task. Bruce, please, save us now! And be careful if you meet the Governor on the lower level.