Writing

Piece 64 – An Open Letter to the 116th Congress, Both the Senate & the House By. Raimondo Graziano

An Open Letter to the 116th Congress,

Both the Senate & House

By. Raimondo Graziano

     I intended for this to be an article originally to deal with exclusively local matters in the City of New York. However, on a recent walk home from a local market, running some errands for my mother, something profound occurred to me. At the sight of many of the people in my hometown, in this senate district, in this congressional district, in this city council district and so on and so forth – I have seen two things. Both pain and hope. In the former, it has manifested in the very real economic consequences of the current crises we are all collectively experiencing. It also has manifested in regards to the inaction of Congress. On many fronts, this current crisis only exacerbating the very real consequences of apathy displayed by those whom we have sent to those hallowed halls to be stewards, shepherds of the well being of the people of this country. In the latter, I do see great hope. I see members of my community rising to the occasion – taking on more responsibility in a time of crisis, persevering and overcoming challenges, and watching out for their families and their neighbors. That is the spirit of the people who live in this community, in this district, and in this city at large. We are a community of innovators, fighters and devoted Americans – devoted to an ideal – no matter how often those whom we have placed so much trust in betray that sacred honor. So these words herein are addressed to the 116th Congress, and in honor of all those who reside in our community in Queens, New York.

     For too long we have put you in office, and provided for your pensions, your salaries, and your government sponsored healthcare that you admonish us for seeking. We have received very little in return. We have been brandished by both sides of the political aisle as opposed to the very idea of America. We the people, whether Democrat or Republican have been too busy fighting each other to the benefit of your political campaign coffers. While we suffer, you all enrich yourselves and take long and frivolous recesses without accomplishing much of note. Both sides of the political aisle have made negligible overtures to the opposing sides of Congress. Instead, through your blatantly hostile rhetoric, you have turned the American people against one other and have worked to fool us into believing that our fellow man is our enemy. In reality, by the definition of such a word, you have been acting in that manner toward the broad masses of the American people. See here; “a person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something:,” see further; “a thing that harms or weakens something else.” That is the definition of an enemy. You have acted as an enemy to the people, in an overwhelming way as evidenced by your gross dereliction of duty, and egregious negligence toward the very basic needs of the American people. The evidence is clear:

Economically, Americans are suffering, according to reporting from The Wasington Post:

Forty percent of American adults don’t have enough savings to cover a $400 emergency expense such as an unexpected medical bill, car problem or home repair.

  • Forty-three percent of households can’t afford the basics to live, meaning they aren’t earning enough to cover the combined costs of housing, food, child care, health care, transportation and a cellphone, according to the United Way study. Researchers looked at the data by county to adjust for lower costs in some parts of the country.
  • More than a quarter of adults skipped necessary medical care last year because they couldn’t afford it.
  • Twenty-two percent of adults aren’t able to pay all of their bills every month.
  • Only 38 percent of non-retired Americans think their retirement savings is “on track.”
  • Only 65 percent of African Americans and 66 percent of Hispanics say they are “doing okay” financially vs. 77 percent of whites.”

American education is under siege from mismanagement, and misguided leadership – hampering our children futures.

  • Teacher quality is one of the most significant factors related to student achievement. In the U.S., 14% of new teachers resign by the end of their first year, 33% leave within their first 3 years, and almost 50% leave by their 5th year.
  • 1.3 million high school students don’t graduate on time yearly. States with highest rates (80-89%) are Wisconsin, Iowa, Vermont, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. States with lowest (less than 60%) are Nevada, New Mexico, Louisiana, Georgia and S. Carolina.
  • If the 1.3 million dropouts from the Class of 2010 had graduated, the nation would have seen $337 billion more in earnings over the course of the students’ lifetimes.

  • High schools are not preparing students with the skills and knowledge necessary to excel after graduation. Only 1 in 4 high school students graduate college-ready in the 4 core subjects of English, Reading, Math and Science.

  • In the workplace, 85% of current jobs and 90% of new jobs require some or more college or post-secondary education.”

Poverty in the nation is appalling. Our measurements of poverty as well are woefully out of date compared to the rising standard of living, or should I say burden of living. For a family of four, the Federal Poverty threshold, is $25,700. For a single individual that’s nothing, especially when you’re living in a city such as my own. In my own community, rent averages out at $3,000.00 month. That means someone living in New York City would need to allocate $36,000.00 for rent – without even factoring in utilities, groceries, healthcare, childcare and personal expenses. And the rent alone is $10,000.00 over the federal poverty threshold where nearly “One out of every five New Yorkers, 1.7 million people, lives below the federal poverty line. One out of every ten New Yorkers has a full or part-time job and still lives below the federal poverty line.” Lets dig in nationally:

  • In 2018, 16.2% of all children (11.9 million kids) lived in Poverty USA—that’s almost 1 in every 6 children. In 2015, the National Center on Family Homelessness analyzed state-level data and found that nationwide, 2.5 million children experience homelessness in a year.

  • 5.3% of the population—or 17.3 million people—live in deep poverty, with incomes below 50% of their poverty thresholds. And 29.9% of the population—or 93.6 million—live close to poverty, with incomes less than two times that of their poverty thresholds.

  • The USDA estimated that 11.1% of US households were food insecure in 2018. This means that approximately 14.3 million households had difficulty providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources. Rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average for households with incomes near or below the Federal poverty line.

  • Poverty thresholds are determined by the US government, and vary according to the size of a family, and the ages of its members. In 2018, the poverty threshold—also known as the poverty line—for an individual was $12,784. For two people, the weighted average threshold was $16,247.

  • In 2018, the poverty rate for people living with a disability was 25.7%. That’s nearly 4 million people living with a disability—in poverty.

    So, Congress; both the House & the Senate, there is this, a small sliver of the maddening reality of living in the United States of America – the nation you are sworn to preserve, protect and defend. You have sold us on a false idea of what is actually going on – and you must do better. Do better or face the consequences of the ballot box, and an increasingly agitated American public willing, ready and able to march to Washington to make their demands, a reality.

Writing

Piece 61 – A Responsible, Progressive Agenda For The Here & Now By. Raimondo Graziano

A Responsible, Progressive Agenda For The Here & Now

By. Raimondo Graziano

         The American People are hurting. The current crisis aside, there are numerous challenges facing the people of this country from the costs of healthcare, to childcare and simply putting food on the table. The American People are in great need of a revival of their potential and of their capacity to both believe in themselves and act upon that belief. The vast majority of the people of this country are not seeking a fundamental revolution of our culture and ways and means of doing things. What they are concerned with is their potential, and their ability or lack thereof to provide a better future for their children. I am not saying that radical reforms are not needed, I am saying that how we get there will not be through ideological, political hardball. How we get there will be through pragmatism, through recognizing beliefs that differ from our own. By coming together to put aside differences and work for the needs of the American people. We in this country have allowed everything to become politicized; from governance, to the news, the media, and even the minute details of everyday life. People will always have their differences. Understanding and working with one another does not mean that, well, we must accept as well, ideas of hate and discrimination – No.

     Pragmatism does not mean capitulation. Compromise does not mean a surrendering of one’s ideals. It is the bedrock principle of a statesmen. One political party, whether it be Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, does not hold a monopoly on the truth or morality. However, we as a country must put an end to the idea that Progressivism is the sole property of the most liberal wing of the Democratic party. Lets look at that word, progressive. The definition is as follows; “happening or developing gradually or in stages; proceeding step by step.” What does it mean? Continuing, continuous, increasing, growing, developing, ongoing, intensifying, accelerating, escalating, gradual, step by step, cumulative. Such is the very course of history. The story of progress. We are all progressives, striving for a better and more prosperous tomorrow. Whether or not you are Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, we are all striving to progress our aims and agendas because we believe that our version of progress is the right and true path.

     Our problem is this – we often have a child’s mentality. No one has told the vast majority of adults in the proverbial room that not getting your way, is in fact, not the end of the world. Learning to live with loss is the characteristic of a rational adult. Stomping your foot on the ground and admonishing others because you feel that the world is not conforming to your own narrow worldview – whatever the idea – is a prime characteristic of a selfish child. Learning to bring together ideas and compromise on your proposals and thoughts for the greater good, not to satisfy yourself or the cries of those who share your beliefs alone, are the signs of a statesmen. The signs of a person who thinks not of their own people, but who thinks and acts for all. We can have a progressive agenda for the American people. One that cares for the American worker; from the East to the West Coast, from the Rust Belt to the South and from the warehouse worker to the postal worker. We can have an agenda which progresses the nation forward, boldly, into the 21st century, while bringing together any idea whose aim is to benefit the American people. If the policy is good for people, then it is good for the country. We need not accept this era of the supremacy of a singular idea that trumps all, we can resoundingly reject this politics of division and exclusion. We can bring about progress and allow the supremacy of this country’s’ ideals, and its people dictate the agenda – not the media and not political parties or the establishment. There is a way forward, a responsible embrace of progress for the people.

Writing

Piece 60 – A World Upside Down, Where is the Middle Way? By. Raimondo Graziano

A World Upside Down, Where is the Middle Way?

By. Raimondo Graziano

There is no doubt about it – the world is in utter and complete disarray. Everywhere one looks there is a lack of direction and cohesion. In nearly every nation in the world there is division and fear. Fear is indeed the word that most aptly describes this year thus far – though in truth, fear could describe the last few years of life here in this broken world. It has been building for some time, many pundits will argue over when in fact this climate of fear, hate and animosity become so far reaching and widespread. Some will say we have always lived with this lingering malaise; an affliction of civilization itself. Others portend that we are living in end of days. The truth like most things, whether we choose to accept it or not is somewhere in the middle. Not in the extremes, but in the center.

Indeed we live in harrowing times, but there is still the promise of the progress that tomorrow will inevitably bring, no matter how far we regress. History is cyclical, and we do make great strides, though we often fall prey to regression by our collective stubborn refusal to learn our history. Today, there are newer trends however that complicate things further. The technological advancements of the last three decades have brought the world closer together and farther apart. For the first time in history there is an absolute overabundance of information. So much so that we are finding it hard to discern what is true and what is not. This in and of itself has forced the multitudes to flee to the walls in fear of the unknown, in fear of that which is false, and in some cases fear of what exactly the truth is and what it means for themselves and their worlds at large. This fear of, in one hand, the inevitable, and in the other hand, the unknown has created a fundamental contradiction in the peoples of the world.

Their inner world is increasingly not aligned and often in conflict with the world around them. We have all retreated into our own secure frames of thinking on ideological extremes of both pillars of human thought. One side yearns for total liberation from the self and liberty and freedom at all costs – whether that be through complete and total liberation of the body and ideas that been the norm for centuries or through the erasure of history. The other side yearns for something similar, yet diametrically and fundamentally different. The other side yearns for order and tradition at whatever cost; whether that be through regression of the advances that women have made through control of their bodies, or through supremacy of the idea of the greatness of ones nation or of ones race. Both sides seek to satisfy the same ends – to shape and mold the world in their utterly illogical, unrealistic, and illiberal worldview. They are unwilling to face critiques of their values, and ideas and if chastised they attack and seek to silence dissent.

They have no room for debate and cooperation on tackling perhaps the gravest questions humanity has ever faced. They have framed their arguments in the language of dictatorial tyrants, their modus operandi is “us versus them”, to these ideologues the question of rectifying the present and reconciling with our past is a theatre of war, and the hearts and souls of the peoples of the world are the greatest battlefield. And victory? Why, like, any war of ideas, it is impossible to quantify when the very premise of the question they have poised presupposes that one idea and its adherents must perish for the other to reign supreme. Like the religious wars of the Crusades, this futile ideological war will only end in tumult, destruction, death, and the collapse of civilization itself. There is only one way. That long neglected pillar, holding the house of civilization upright and from caving in and collapsing on itself. The middle way. Through pragmatism, through integrity, through willpower and through a belief in the human ideal – not in the belief of one man, or one idea, but through the great coalescing of knowledge. Through the recognition of the inherent good slumbering within humanity, and through the adoption of ideas based on their merit and not their adherence to a strict code of conformity or expedience to a dogmatic political association. The world is in need of pragmatists and statesmen; men and women of character who are not afraid to compromise, but who will never give into aggression or into intimidation. Those who will stand on their values and principles, but whose ultimate pursuit is that of the greater good, progress and truth; and whose ultimate foe is deception, deceit and corruption.

Writing

Piece 59 – In Defense of Bail Reform By. Raimondo Graziano

In Defense of Bail Reform

By. Raimondo Graziano

 

There is a deep history of systemic racism and deliberate incarceration pointed at predominantly black and brown communities, people of color and in some of the most historically marginalized communities across the United States. It is something that is deeply ingrained in American culture and finds its sordid roots in the very founding of the nation, in that fateful deliberate choice to allow the birth of a new nation under the oppression that is the institution of slavery. In that moment, the moment we stand at today, was forged. A nation conceived with the ideals of liberty and justice for all founded upon a foundation whose core pillar which would last for nearly a hundred years after its founding, denied that very ideal to a large portion of the population, thus sowing the continuance of the plague of racism that still deeply grips this country. In our failure to leave slavery in the past with the founding of our country we set the stage for generational poverty, income inequality between whites and blacks, and the perpetuating of racism and discrimination.

This plight did not end either with the emancipation proclamation, or the 13th or 14th Amendment. Racists in government, whose very thinking is antithetical to the god they often defer to, crafted devious methods and means to deny people their rights long after the end of slavery. These empty husks of humanity, parading as human beings, found ways of stifling communities who never had the chance to build wealth and foundations here uninhibited by a system meant to keep them in the mud – from suppressing votes, to housing and labor discrimination and the stain of segregation which lasted well into the 20th century, and in some cases still to this day – racists hell bent on the belief that one race is superior to another, that one race has divine favor while the other is lesser have imbedded themselves in American society and pushed an agenda diametrically opposed to the ideals that this nation was founded on. Though perhaps the greatest sin of all, is denying a free man his freedom through targeted and systemic enforcement of laws built to suppress the black and brown communities of this country through mass incarceration.

Righting the wrongs of our past will take time, and in many cases will take measures that some may deem extreme, the circumstances under which these problems first arose where in essence extreme, inhumane, brutal, and demand rectification. The United States has the largest incarcerated population of any nation in the entire world – land of the free? When a quarter of the worlds prison population rests in the supposed seat of the steward of democracy, we indeed have a problem. For decades now, black and brown communities have been disproportionately targeted for crimes solely based on the color of their skin. Studies have shown that blacks and whites commit crimes at the same rate, then why is that the large majority of the prison population is black men? Many rotting in a jail cell for minor possession charges, and facing insurmountable odds upon being reingratiated in society – if they ever manage to get out.

With polices such as mandatory minimums, coupled with a discriminatory attitude in police forces we have condemned a generation of black and brown individuals to languish away in jail, sons without their mothers, daughters without their fathers, families torn and teared apart – a deep moral scar on the very face of this country. In order for us to right these wrongs bold action must be taken, we must work to stem the tide of continued incarceration through measures that may be unpopular, but that are necessary. The problem we have created must be rectified, and if some may view them as extreme than they fail to see the severity of the situation. Not only are we trying to end mass incarceration, but we have to account for those imprisoned already. It is as if a one man or woman is holding two walls of inequity at arm’s length from crushing and suffocating him or her, and that man or woman is named liberty. The Bail Reforms enacted in New York State are a necessary first step towards righting the wrongs of our morally degenerative epoch in this country, we should not overturn them, we should work to ensure they are enforced effectively and to the benefit of all people, especially those most affected by the racism that persists here, and all across this nation.

Writing

Piece 57 – Affordable Housing In New York By. Raimondo Graziano

Affordable Housing in New York
                                                       By. Raimondo Graziano

Affordable and New York City are four words you’d be surprised to find here in the state and city of New York. Over the last ten to twenty years this city specifically has become less and less affordable for the working-class families that struggle to make ends meet day to day. While the state has never seen such a great economic boom and infrastructure expansion, the benefits that ought to trickle down to the average New Yorker just haven’t been nearly close enough to what they should be. In a city and state of such wealth and promise this is an atrocious truth, one that our elected officials have been slow to rectify.

While daily expenses – bills, utilities, provisions, childcare and healthcare and the such are already expensive as ever, housing has become a luxury. The average rent for an apartment, and a small one at that, in New York has gone up to between $2500.00 to $3100.00. This is outrageous when the vast majority of New Yorkers don’t make nearly enough to be able to afford this on a month to month basis. On top of taxes, bridge tolls, and all other means of squeezing the working family – the situation of affordability, and security in ones ability to achieve a good life for themselves has reached crisis levels.

You would be remiss to mention the staggering fact that there are upwards of 60,000 people homeless in New York. More than at their height during the 1930’s. This is outrageous. On any given night in New York, near 4,000-5,000 people are homeless on the streets, and with the frigid winds of Winter lashing the state – this could be classified as a humanitarian disaster. For the wealthiest city and one of the wealthiest states in the union to be leading on this issue is a travesty of the highest order.

This just shouldn’t be. To house an individual in a shelter costs far more than it would if the government would simply guarantee housing to every single New Yorker. This is cost effective to the tax payer, its humane and it’s our obligation as defenders of the wellbeing of the people of this state to enact reforms now to fix this gross inequity. So while Mayor DeBlasio talks about ending street homelessness, he is doing no better than Mayor Giuliani – simply sweeping the issue under the rug so that the “good people” (i.e wealthy, tourists and those campaign contributors of his running the hotels acting as shelters) of New York dont have to worry about seeing the problems that exist as a foundational issue of this state and city. We need action now; otherwise what kind of a people are we who don’t provide for the most basic wellbeing of the people of the state and city of New York?