I walked the Interurban bridges. No reporters scribbled. No photo flashes blinded me. Lucy, our little dog with the big attitude, towed Kim and me down the newest section of Interurban Trail, over those lovely pedestrian bridges, and up to the dignified bronze raven that graces the Interurban’s southern terminus. We pulled a few weeds and sequestered some windborne trash. No one died. The SWAT teams stayed home. Our saunter was not news.
A genuine news victim strolled with us: Judy Nicastro (and her paraplegic mutt, Ruckus). Judy, my law school buddy, served Seattle as a city council member. The Seattle Times and Post-Intelligencer guillotined her political career with Strippergate hoopla. Now that was news. An Italian family (with Soprano overtones) sought a zoning variance for business parking. The famiglia gave campaign money (possibly, in an impermissible manner) to candidates who might vote for their variance. The candidates, of course, knew nothing of contributor shenanigans. What made this news, you ask? The Times and P-I needed a big story, and so insinuated mob vote-buying (for which the P-I offered no evidence and the prosecutor acquired no conviction). The Times and P-I editorial board disfavored the council members involved. And, most critically, the Italian business was a strip joint (not named Bada Bing). Sex, the “mob,” and media bias: now that’s news.
Back at the “not-news” bridges, we walked. Thousands collaborated to create the spans: visionaries, engineers, contractors, politicians, interest groups, taxpayers, bikers, dog-walkers. Dedicated citizens opposed the bridges, concerned their construction diverted funds from more pressing social needs. I thank dissenters. Physical and social infrastructures counterbalance. We must constantly revisit their delicate scale. In the end, mammoth joists lofted and asphalt lay. On our afternoon stroll, we bet our lives upon the collaborative competence of thousands. William James (American pragmatist, 19th century A.D.) noted: “A social organism of any sort whatever, large or small, is what it is because each member proceeds to his own duty with a trust that other members will simultaneously do theirs” (The Will To Believe, §IX). On the bridges, our faith was not disappointed. Such is the daily experience of tens of millions of Americans. Every flight. Every commute. Every time a light switch is flipped, faucet turned, or hamburger eaten. And, certainly, every time one crosses a bridge.
But, oddly, that is not news. When a bridge collapses, that is news. Witness the media frenzy over recent Minneapolis suffering. Failure or perversity (even substantially fabricated perversity) is news. The semi-miraculous coordination of societal success is not. Odd. Very odd.