An article titled The G20 Has Run Out of Gas in last Friday’s Wall Street Journal suggests that the summit this week in Pittsburgh is a superfluous exercise. Actually, it states it quite clearly. We in the ‘burgh know that can’t be true. We’ve been told differently. On Wednesday world leaders are arriving from all over the globe. They will spend several days at great cost sequestered at the convention center talking over weighty matters among our glorious three rivers while eating catered Primanti’s sandwiches. They will visit the Phipps Conservatory to consider global warming amidst the blooming flora and fauna. The women will visit Theresa Heinz at her estate to dish on hairstyles or fashion or whatever the spouses of global leaders talk about.
On the city’s North Side and at Point State Park protesters pitch their tents and unroll their bedrolls like Bedouin. They will gather around the campfires plotting their strategy for disrupting the goings on and gaining media attention for their various causes, as is their right in our free society. News types swarm like remora among the bigger fish, tweeting and twittering and blogging over the region’s stereotypes and clichés because they have nothing more meaningful to say. Or perhaps because their readers and viewers expect nothing more significant or challenging. Speaking of cliche’s, writer and former resident Stewart O’Nan maligns his fellow natives in another Wall Street Journal essay for their unique accents, memories of their past legacy, and interest in sports. But don’t these define people in all cultures?
And the ordinary residents of Pittsburgh? The ones who, to paraphrase George Bailey in A Wonderful Life do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this town? They get to close their businesses and lose income for several days. They get to struggle to commute to work as transit service is disrupted and parking and driving are curtailed or prevented. They get to face fear and restrictions on traveling in their own city because of the risk (perceived or real) to their bodies and sensibilities. They get to be insulted and stereotyped, all the while being told the summit is good for Pittsburgh.
But of course it must all be worth it. For the world leaders solving the world’s problems. For the protesters having their say. For the photo ops and the media buzz. For Pittsburgh achieving its fifteen minutes of fame on the world stage.