Writing

Piece 56 – The Community & the Police of New York City

The Community & the Police of New York City
By. Raimondo Graziano

New York City struggled for many decades on the issues of crime, poverty, homelessness and lawlessness and in recent years has made significant progress from the help of members of the community, law enforcement and our elected officials. Though too often do we see that the three are very out of touch with one and the other. The needs of the community are not represented by those in office, and those meant to protect and serve their interests are in some cases not reticent or not representative of the values of the community – even in some cases doing more harm than good. This is a terrible disparity that needs to be rectified. The community, our elected officials and law enforcement need to work closer together to rectify the issues that plague our communities. Politicans need to work to address growing inequality, homelessness, affordability in living standards and other issues.

We have seen in recent months increased public transportation enforcement, including arrests some justified and others widlly out of line. What the state needs to understand is that by encouraging further enforcement you are only going to continually criminalize those who are in poverty for not being able to afford a wage which can gain them access to the ever increasing costliness of public transportation. Our politicans are somewhat to blame for this for failing to address rising inequality and a staggering homelessness crisis in the city. Coming down hard on people trying to make a living, such as vendors in the stations, does not increase quality of life for all New Yorkers. It is categorically antithetical to the spirit of the New Yorker.

Likewise, those in the community who are not in law enforcement or who have no family member in law enforcement who may have a certain perception of how law enforcement is has to work to break down their preconceptions as to what it means to be a police officer. By no measure is it a simple career or undertaking. There is a great deal of scrutiny, as their should be, and a great deal of stress involved. That being said – it is not easy being a poor, minority person of color in this city either. There is a prevalent fear that one may be targeted simply based on the color of their skin, and that they are under the suspicion of being guilty until proven innocent. Only when the community and the law enforcement meant to protect them begin to open a more constructive dialogue, and when our politicans start doing their damn jobs are we going to see a change in the hows and whys of this great, sometimes troubled city.

Writing

Piece 55 – Weep for the Nation by. Raimondo Graziano

Weep for the Nation
By. Raimondo Graziano

This Monday that just passed, November the 11th 2019, was Veterans Day, for anyone who may not have been aware. It is a day where we honor all veterans of the United States Armed Forces. It is also a day to thank current service members for the important work they do of defending our nation’s shores. Regardless of how anyone may feel about the reasoning behind this country’s military engagements, disparaging those that serve is the lowest, basest most unpatriotic act a citizen not in uniform, not entrenched both figuratively literally on the front lines of honor and duty can commit – treason being the second. There are certain themes within the American body politic that are common to all Americans that go far above partisan divides. Ideals, ideas and a vision that is uniquely American and one that unites us all – whether we choose to see this for what it is or reject it; these ideals are The American Ideals.

We are at a point in our history where as nation we are harshly divided along partisan lines and I often contemplate if not for the rigid social structures and norm that prevail today, would the country have already plunged into desperate and tragic Civil War. Perhaps we have too much lose, or we are too dependent on one another for our continued struggle for survival in an increasingly unequal, inequitable world. Perhaps our reluctant codependency is what has stopped the rifles from unloading. Absent of armed civil strife, one can say confidently the divides along party are tearing this country apart and are seeping into all aspects of American life – from the media, to the companies of the nation, from the White House to the dinner table of your average American family. Perhaps most dangerously are the divides we are begining to see deepen within the Armed forces. Of those both currently serving and those who are the veterans of the country. There are concerted attacks on American institutions such as the courts, the rule of law, and the legislatures by partisan hacks on the domestic front and rogue actors who wish to seek American descend into chaos. The politicization of the historical apolitical institutions which govern the lands norms and customs is a threat to our democracy and to our tenuous unity. The politicization of the Armed forces however – is downright dangerous and could jeopardize the national security of the country, and threaten the stability of the entire globe.

I read a piece recently from the New York Times about division in the country and specifically it spoke of the Presidents recent speech on the 100th New York City Veterans Day parade. The tension was palpable in the crowd of supporters and detractors alike.

Here is an excerpt from the article for context – “Thirty minutes later, as our group waited to enter the parade on 24th Street, I watched a man who said he was a Desert Storm veteran confront two women holding anti-Trump signs. He called them libtards and ungrateful. The women didn’t back down. A man wearing a Vietnam veteran shirt stepped forward to intervene.

“They’re patriots,” he said. “And I agree with them.”

The Desert Storm veteran looked at the other’s shirt. “Where’s your honor?” he asked.

“Honor’s what brought me here today,” the older man said. Then he held up his own anti-Trump sign.

“Same,” said the other man. Then they just kind of stared at each other for a few seconds before turning away.

As we marched up Fifth Avenue, ciphers and proxies for a republic as divided as we are about our elected leader, I thought a lot about those men and about honor, too. I should’ve said something, I thought, to bring them together. It was Veterans Day, after all.”

Truly heartbreaking when one begins to think deeply of how divisive the political climate is today on all fronts. The days ahead for the nation are going to be tried, we are grappling with who and what we want to be. I recall the President speaking briefly on Armistice Day, the name which Veterans Day was prior. Armistice Day was the day when the warring powers of the First World War, then the Great War, laid down their arms to discuss terms of peace. Perhaps this country needs a revival of Armistice Day. When we as a divided people lay down our and end our war of words against one another, end the acts of violence against those of the opposing the side, and sit down and discuss terms of peace to heal this broken country. For if we do not, one should surely weep for the nation, for the Republic.

Writing

Piece 54 – The Presidency Unhinged By. Raimondo Graziano

                                                         The Presidency Unhinged

                                                           By. Raimondo Graziano

            The American Presidency occupies but only a small portion of the Constitution, the strong yet oft tested guardrails of our republican democracy. The executive has over many decades and nearing three centuries now gradually expanded its powers, authority, reach, and influence. Many presidents have used the executive branch to propel their agenda forward, cement their legacy and undermine the other branches of government meant to be coequal in their distribution of power and authority.

            From Andrew Jackson to Franklin Roosevelt and to Donald J. Trump, those at the helm of American democracy have steadily expanded the ‘imperial authority of the Presidency.’ As we venture further into the next century and as partisan divisions grow ever entrenched, the dangers that are posed by a Presidency unhinged, unrestricted in the exercise of its perceived and unspoken powers, grows ever stronger. With each passing day of apathy from the American public and dereliction of duty by the Congress and the threats of partisanship within our courts, we teeter closer toward elected dictatorship.

            The influence of the two parties within the country have helped to elevate their standard bearers, their leaders of the party, to a powerful evocative symbol – a dangerous symbol. A unflinching loyalty to not a man, but to an idea. The man as an idea. But the inherent danger is to, in our blind pursuit of personal and ideological agendas, elevate dangerous demagogic figures with their own personal agendas to the heights of power, because we believe they represent more than simply the man. We are allowing the festering of an unhinged Presidency disseminate amongst us.

            In short – we forgive the once unforgivable, we accept the once unacceptable, we endorse the once impeachable. In short, we have given the Presidency, and the man who occupies its office, an endorsement to pursue an agenda at any cost. Today it is the Republicans, tomorrow perhaps the Democrats. Though the day after? Perhaps Julius Caesar himself, seizing the authority of Rome and ceding its powers to one man veiled with the veneer of a populist fury, promising to liberate the people. In our continued longing for a savior, we will bring about the degradation of our liberties and the utter dismantling and destruction of our democracy.

Writing

Piece 53 – A Condemnation of Congress By. Raimondo Graziano

                                                     A Condemnation of Congress

                                                        By. Raimondo Graziano

            If there is any American institution which stokes ire and contempt from the public it is Congress. Congress has become a woefully partisan gymnasium, full of hacks and political lackeys for their respective parties and interests as well as lobbying groups and a whole cacophony of dirty phony patriots, apologists and agitators of the highest order. These representatives that we have put into office are beholden not to the voters but to those who cut the checks that line their pockets, and fill their campaign coffers. It goes without mentioning that Congress rarely passes pieces of legislation that have any major bearing to what it is the American public is seeking. The American public longs for systematic institutional change to address the harrowing issues that they face. They mask themselves in a facetious love of the country, yet they do nothing for the people and the nation that afforded them the highest opportunity to serve the public. They serve themselves.

            This deformation of patriotism, this false love of country is borderline treasonous, and most certainly negligent and a dereliction of duty. They are ardent apologists for themselves, blaming their inability to do what is right on obstruction that they themselves have caused. They are hacks and lackeys because they perpetuate lies, and they peddle talking points fed to them by their national committees, and of course the special interests and lobbying firms that feed to them the policies that they know little to nothing about. They are bought and paid for by both foreign and domestic entities all with competing interests – none of them, the interest of the American people.

            They serve themselves, enrich themselves and blame the constituency for not being informed about the issues, they blame everyone but themselves. Their hubris and their blatant malice towards the American people is dually noted in the hearts and minds of many. It reflects in the discourse, and the American people know that those whom they send to Washington on the taxpayer’s dime, are frauds – they feel as though they have no true power or say in the political process. And of course, they don’t – Republicans work to suppress the vote, disenfranchising millions from voicing their truths, and Democrats work to suppress dissenting opinion, they suppress anything that works to move them closer to a progressive stance. In truth – Republicans and Democrats alike are cut from the same political cloth soaked in blood, a disengaged, out of touch political class of elites licking the boots of industry and anyone or anything which can keep them clothed in the black sackcloth that is American power.

            Congress has routinely failed to live up to its constitutional duties to serve, protect and defend the American public – let alone our founding documents, and our guiding principles. To the congress, these things are simply trivialities, things to be referred to rhetorically, or used as a nod to principles which they lack wholeheartedly. Governing is the duty bestowed upon these men and women, and they skirt this moral responsibility habitually. Why not, when accountability is neither an issue nor a concern – when the media on either side bolsters the arguments of these bonafide talking heads who perpetuate falsity, after falsity and continually undermine the American people. It is a vast understatement to say that reforms are needed – to campaign finance, to term limits, in regards to accountability and in regards to very premise and foundations of what it means to be a member of what is meant to the greatest deliberative body in the world.

            The corruption and rot within the hallowed halls of Congress runs deep, and if the American public does not wake up to the siege laid upon them then The United States of America will befall the same fate as the Roman Republic. In these times of trials and tribulations and with no stern captain at the helm of our democracy, of our republic, with no statesmen left and with no leaders to lead it is up to the people to keep their republic, it is up to the people to shake the shackles of corporate oligarchy that besets this country, it is up to the people to refresh the tree of liberty for all Americans. It is, and shall always be, up to the people. One can only hope, that the fickle hand of fate is on our side.

Writing

Piece 52 – Trumpian Foreign Policy

Trumpian Foreign Policy
By. Raimondo Graziano

The last few years of American foreign policy have been astoundingly dismal. In truth, the rot within the American diplomatic corps, the policies that have been put forth by the intelligentsia of the United States have been guided by faulty premises, a lack of a coherent national vision and have been held hostage by the whims of the ever changing administrations that occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue – these failures in American leadership have been piling up for decades. Those at the top, have a vague understanding of what the national interest ought to be. They are guided by misjudgments, corruption and a lack of direction.

The same can be said of the President today. While the man, and unlike other administrations who’ve worked collaboratively on policy, dictates his policies to be enacted in what seems to be a whimsical manner – he still touches upon issues which are relevant, and perhaps have been pushed to the wayside by the mainstay politicians of Washington. From immigration reform, to the depleted nature of our nation’s military, then on to Washington’s corruption and the reluctance of our allies to share the load in regards to the maintenance of the international order. Yet when he goes about pursuing his talking points and turning them into policy, often there is a divide between results and rhetoric.

There is a propensity to pursue an independent American foreign policy, pushing aside our allies and the decades of built up relationship building. While a strong rhetoric is something to be admired, especially in a world marked by consistent challenges to the order we have established. Then there is the insistence on following through on campaign promises, even when the national security and national interests of the country might be threatened. What is most glaring is the withdrawals of troops throughout the Middle East; which leaves room for other nations – Iran, Turkey, Russia and other non-state actors to fill the gap in American leadership. The pulling back from multilateral agreements which the President argues undermine American sovereignty and self-determination has not always been the right course. The critiques leveled at Iran and the deal struck just four years ago are valid. The agreement did push the issues down the road, and did not address the missile capabilities of Iran. While with the trade agreement struck between the United Stated and the Pacific nations would’ve been a boon to the country in combating China.

The President may touch upon the surface issues, on the pulse so to speak of the times; but the nuance and complexity of the issues, the need to rope together differing alliances and competing interests to pursue grand strategy is lost on this administration. The opportunity to boldly lead in tackling corruption, holding our allies accountable, and standing up to the worse rogues that plague this world is there. But in many ways, the administration is guided by the impulses of a man, who is guided by conflicting personal interests and a pride unlike no other. In the end, in this era of Trumpian policy, the people are yet again let down. Perhaps in the years to come, the revolutionary ideas of the Presidents brand of politics will translate into something truly transformative and bring about top down change, and sweep away the ever-rising tide of apathy, corruption and dereliction of duty. But for now, the same old persists under the veneer of change, under the guise of bringing America back to greatness.