If you are revolting, stay away from Pittsburgh

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When it was announced recently that President Barack Obama had chosen Pittsburgh as the site of the G-20 summit in September, astonishment was general.

Today I rise to make the case why Pittsburgh is the perfect site to hold a meeting of world leaders, given its position as a world leader in so many fields.

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Hear Reg Henry read his column.

Who leads the world in motorists slowing down in tunnels? Who is No. 1 in putting french fries directly on sandwiches, or even on salads, just in case someone dares to think he or she can lose weight in this large-size city?

Who turns heads the most with number of mullets per square foot of male scalp and where else do they signal that your fly is undone by mentioning a local amusement park?

Pittsburgh, of course. And let us also not forget that Pittsburgh has taken the English language to places never imagined n'at.

But the best thing about Pittsburgh is the friendliness of the people. With the exception of those unfortunate breaches of courtesy that may occur when visiting sports teams play here, this is the friendliest place in the country.

How friendly are Pittsburghers? Why, if you happen to be an immigrant and have a name that isn't traditional, they will give you one. My name is Reg, but in Pittsburgh I am often called Regis or Rege, even though I explain that my parents were too poor to afford additional letters. Pittsburghers are so nice they will add extra letters to your name just so that you can fit in.

Because extra letters may not be enough to make the names of our distinguished visitors conventional -- King Abdullah's name may be a problem -- I expect that the locals will call these world leaders Rege or Regis to make them feel at home. King Regis of Saudi Arabia! It has a nice ring to it.

Unfortunately, events like the G-20 are magnets for less considerate folks. In that unique Pittsburgh dialect, a special word is reserved for such people, but if I were to use it in the newspaper, I am told that a blush would come to your maiden cheeks. As this naughty Pittsburgh word begins with the letter "J," I will substitute the word jackass.

The G-20 has come to be regarded by some as a grand excuse for a riot, a jackass-a-rama, a Woodstock of ratbags. A decade ago, when Seattle hosted a World Trade Organization meeting, thousands of protesters turned out to cause trouble and the police overreacted. Recently, London had its own troubles with a meeting of the G-20.

Of course, these protests change nothing. They never have a chance of changing anything. How could they? They are all about the protest, not the result. While the demonstrators say they are seeking to protest (you name it) globalization, climate change, environmental ruin or economic recession, street theater is really about disaffected people acting out at everyone else's expense.

Or so I reckon by the evidence of my own eyes. Little kids scream and stamp their feet. Some of them grow up and scream, stamp their feet and throw something at any convenient symbol of authority. If you were a world leader, would you be influenced by jackasses indulging their revolutionary fantasies? Me neither.

Among jackasses, the anarchists are the worst type and not just because they are poseur men (and women) in black. Nobody would vote for anarchism, for the simple reason that it can be fairly defined as the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina. Er, no thank you.

You may have gathered that I am not much for street demonstrations. You may be surprised by this, given my reputation as a liberal. However, I do recognize that the Constitution's First Amendment establishes "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

So peaceably assemble already. Petition away with my blessing. Just don't make the average Pittsburgher's life miserable because you can't make your point successfully at the ballot box. The moment you stop being peaceable is the moment you lose me and the crowd.

Fair warning: Pittsburgh is the sort of place that gets agitated when students burn sofas in the street after a Super Bowl victory. A city that frowns on sofa abuse is bound to suspend its usual good nature if there's any nonsense. We have enough jackasses coming here -- Baltimore fans come every year for football games -- without people arriving to give good causes a bad name.

If Pittsburgh could become the one city that hosted a friendly G-20 meeting, it would do more for its image than any number of community PR initiatives. What we need here is a radical outbreak of civil obedience.

Reg Henry can be reached at rhenry@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1668. Read his blog "Reg on Wry" at www.post-gazette.com/forum .


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