September 24, 2015 by Steve Schuler
Pope’s Philadelphia Visit: Center City In Total Lockdown
I don’t understand why more people aren’t pissed off about the closing of major arteries and highways in and around Philadelphia due to the visiting Pope, not to mention the tax dollars spent on it all while fire stations, libraries, and schools close.
I just got back from spending today in Philadelphia, and was happy to see that the people I talked to were actually as frustrated as I am, since they’re really being affected by it – apparently it’s only the news media that has nothing but superlatives to say about this.
Before anyone blows it off as simply “inconveniencing” hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, let’s take the small example of the office I was at today: The routes they take in and out of their center city office will be closed Friday, and once you leave the city Friday night you aren’t able to get back in until sometime Monday. But the place I work for has to work 24 hours/day and all weekend! So they had to make extra sure that their remote access servers are functioning, so they can continue to work from home once they’ve been banned from returning to their office. (Luckily they’re so equipped!) BUT, what happens if a machine crashes late Friday night? Nobody is able to access the office to fix the situation and bring the office back online for DAYS! That’s a lot of lost time – especially when people are on deadlines. And this is just one small office! The city is full of similar stories! It’s more than an inconvenience when entire businesses are forced to close or work at reduced capacity with relatively short notice, and can’t get people in to fix problems when they happen.
As for the Pope being a nice guy, surely he and/or his people are aware of the extreme lengths the city is taking to accommodate his visit (didn’t he already shorten the visit from 4 to 2 days for that reason?). It seems to me that if you know you’re going to put vast numbers of people out, shutting down major interstates and bridges, causing huge parts of the city to essentially stop what they’re doing for a few days whether they want to or not, then you might say “hey, maybe I won’t go there.” Sure, it’s not necessarily *him* deciding to do those things. He may very well think it’s ridiculous, and want the roads opened and the security screeners who scan every pedestrian going in or our of the city removed, but maybe it’s not up to him. Maybe all he can do is decide whether to come or not. But knowing that this is how you’re affecting an entire city, and to still come anyway seems callous, if not arrogant and rude. If your mere presence brings a city to its knees while you’re there, then simply stay away – THAT would be the kindest thing you can do! No other heads of state or religions get anywhere near this kind of reaction. Once it gets to this much of a fever pitch, I think the only moral thing to do is to say “I appreciate your invitation, but I can’t in good conscience do that to the people in and around your city.”
THEN there’s the financial issue to consider… Someone has to pay for all of this added police & national guard presence at all of these cities he’s going to. That’s coming from tax dollars which we all pay, whether we’re Catholic or not. If you aren’t, then you’d obviously rather see your tax $$ used for other things, and if you are, you still should appreciate the irony of all the things the city(ies) can’t pay for while they find the money for this. Why not instead spend this money to help people who are about to have their water or electricity turned off because they can’t pay their bills? (To say nothing of schools, libraries, fire stations, etc. which are closing their doors because they don’t have enough $$$.) Wouldn’t the Pope (of all people) agree there are better things to do with these funds?? So again I question how moral a decision it is for him to visit at all.
All that being said, I can totally see why people say it makes sense because “hey – he’s the Pope.” It does seem at first glance like if anyone should get this treatment it should be him – and I’m not saying he shouldn’t get some special treatment. I just feel that the city has crossed the line into insanity, and at some point people need to settle down, take stock of the situation, and realize they’ve crossed a line into crazytime, so maybe hosting the Pope isn’t a wise choice.