One of Boston’s (many) saving graces is that it’s full of hard-headed stubborn people. While that might sound like damning with faint praise, in an era where our putative political leadership perpetually craps its pants, it’s refreshing to know that the citizenry, at least, is somewhat calm and collected. In today’s episode of Our Elected Officials Are Unworthy of Those They Purport to Represent™, we learn of this year’s alterations to the Boston Marathon:
The large, colorful plastic bags that Boston Marathon runners usually sling over their shoulders and take to Hopkinton will be missing this year. In an e-mail sent to all race participants Wednesday afternoon, the Boston Athletic Association announced a “no bags” policy for this April’s race.
There will be no bags allowed on buses from Boston to Hopkinton. No bags transported from Hopkinton back to the Boston finish. Additionally, bags will not be permitted in certain areas, near the start, along the course, and at the finish…
Other new regulations include the prohibition of backpacks, glass containers, bottles capable of carrying more than 1 liter of liquid, strollers, suitcases, bulky costumes, and large flags. Additionally, the BAA warned in the e-mail that unofficial participants on the course for any distance are “subject to interdiction.”
At a public meeting attended by a friend a couple of weeks, the police commissioner was obnoxious and bullying towards Bostonians who questioned the need for all of the heightened security measures. Apparently, city officials are trying to project an image of complete safety–which just shows a complete disdain for Bostonians and our guests (we’re tougher and smarter than this. Boston-Not-So-Strong?). Interestingly, the runners, who are at the greatest risk, think it’s overkill:
“My first reaction is that it’s overkill and it means that runners have to suffer because of what happened,” said Stephen Peckiconis of Roslindale, who will be running his 24th Boston Marathon. “I don’t see a runner with a bag being a problem. But when these things happen, organizations go to another extreme to lock things down . . . We’ll survive with no problem. It’s just, we have to adjust.”
…Even though McNamara recognized the BAA and public safety officials were considering all the angles and complimented them on the job done, he did question the reasoning behind some of the new policies.
“I certainly understand the need to take measures that will ensure safety and to be seen taking measures that are going to ensure safety,” said McNamara. “There’s the actually safety portion and there’s the optics. I think this [no bags policy] is more the optics half.”
This is absolutely right. Worse, once these measures are instituted they never go away. After Sept. 11, 2001, Washington D.C. was turned into an armed camp–Jersey barriers were everywhere (which were later replaced with gigantic potted plant holders): the no-bags policy is here to stay. Once again, we have had a new normal foisted upon us (boldface added):
Does anyone remember when we had this debate about the “new normal”? Was it ever put to a vote or public examination by our elected officials? (If so, it certainly wasn’t reported). Maybe most of my fellow citizens of the Commonwealth and the City of Boston want this stuff. But increasing surveillance and security should not be done by unreviewed executive fiat, especially when it conflicts with our basic constitutional freedoms (i.e., freedom of assembly). I’ll posit that the MA State Police is well-intentioned, but they don’t get to erect barriers (literally and figuratively) unilaterally to our freedom of assembly (and expression). We must have a say in the “new normal”, because I have no idea when this new normal ends. Do we require five years without a bombing? Fifty? One? (In reality, it will probably cease once it gets too damn expensive).
Much of Back Bay will be entirely shut down to car traffic (more than in years past), and, in certain zones, only clear, see-through bags will be permitted (these bags are what one female friend calls “HI! I’M MENSTRUATING NOW!” bags–fellas, you might have to think about this for a bit–and are a great way to convince women to not come to Boston and spend money). Decontamination facilities (in case of a chemical attack) will be set up on Massachusetts Avenue. Meanwhile, we still have had no public investigation into how someone flagged by both the federal government and the Boston police was never investigated or surveilled. And adding thousands more runners (and their friends and families) really isn’t going to help police spot the lone gunman or bomber. I’m not sure this makes us safer at all, though it is good security theater.
The new normal sucks.