Not only Beatles can Imagine

“Let’s use this situation, this crisis, this time to actually learn the lessons, value from the reflection, and let’s reimagine what we want society to be.”

                                        — N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo

The Love Gov reveals a lot

The man who sometimes calls himself “the Love Gov,” because others have, sometimes sounds like a headmaster at a Jesuit school during his daily briefings that are part fact, part explanation, part apology, part politics and part a peek into the Italian-American Cuomo household.

The family tradition among Italian-Americans, and I know this to be true because I married into such a family, is for the clan to gather for “Sunday dinner,” starting around 2 p.m., which can be a problem when it conflicts with football.

In his home, Cuomo said, the traditional meal is meatballs and spaghetti, which he makes himself, and which most of the family does not enjoy. With my in-laws, mother Lucy prepared the food and it was a lot more than meatballs and spaghetti. A nurse, Lucy was born and reared in Naples, and came to America after World War II, the bride of Paul Merlino, a nail-tough infantryman whose injuries she treated after he was shot up at Salerno. 

Paulie was in the same outfit as Audie Murphy, the most decorated U.S. soldier in World War II. Both Audie and Paulie stood 5-foot-5, a couple of firecrackers you didn’t want to mess with. Audie won every medal for valor, including the Medal of Honor; Paulie was awarded the Silver Star.

Paulie sometimes led the Sunday dinner conversation, sometimes not. 

Cuomo didn’t say he leads the conversation, but passed along guilt feelings for not visiting his mom when he could, and advice about his daughters. He sometimes reveals more than he should, but I was curious about his idea of reimagining what we want society to be.

The first thing I would like, and I know many Americans would agree, is for us to extinguish the conflagration of race, with minorities feeling forever aggrieved, and whites feeling blamed for things they did not do.

Remember when U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation’s first black A.G., said that “in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.” White Americans wouldn’t talk honestly about race, he said. 

For me, race is the most discussed topic in America. What Holder meant was most white Americans don’t agree with him.

So — OK, that change will take generations.

How else can we reimagine society? Cuomo was not specific.

Here are some things that can change, based on the fact that they have changed, for the duration of coronavirus. I am NOT endorsing them. They are things I have imagined for the purpose of discussion. You may add your own. 

Septa buses are not collecting fares, which are being collected on subways and regional rail, according to a spokesman for the transit agency.

Why charge for fares? Why not consider mass transit a city necessity, such as education? 

Crazy? There are dozens of municipalities that offer free transportation on certain lines, including New York’s iconic Staten Island ferry.  Free transportation would get people out of their cars, so fewer accidents and cleaner air. What’s so bad?

On the job, people who can work remotely are doing so, and generally do better than people who can’t. Who can’t?

Truck drivers, grocery clerks, stevedores, small shopkeepers, health providers, maintenance and housekeeping personnel, trash collectors, uniformed services and so on.

Blue collar wages have not kept pace with white collar, such as those on Wall Street who make fortunes by manipulating money, manufacturing nothing other than excuses.

Which does society need more — a hedge fund manager or a garbageman? Shouldn’t wages reflect this and reward real work?

Why do we permit slums to exist? They breed rats and disease and poor diet and poor health. Under the Marshall Plan, the United States rebuilt Europe after World War II. 

Why can’t we — city, state, federal — build low-cost housing for families, charging a percentage of weekly wage as rent? I would like to see these new projects built in areas already occupied by the middle and upper class. The former Navy Yard would be a perfect place to build mixed-income housing.

Like housing, health should be perceived as a common good, something that protects all of us. Yes, that would mean Medicare For All, under the same logic as the other proposals.

Finally — free college. If qualified students were allowed to attend online, there would minimal added expense to the college, but great opportunity for the students.

Just imagine.

I can hear several of you screaming, WHO PAYS FOR THIS?

The same people who are paying for the trillions that will be spent in the fight against COVID-19. 

19 thoughts on “Not only Beatles can Imagine”

  1. How did the mayor of new york and his health commissioner go from really screwing up ,telling people to go to parades ,go out o restaurants ignoring that there were three international airports within miles , over three million Chinese coming and going since December , to now a hero on CNN everyday being a hero . Explain that one to me.

  2. Well – shades of Bernie Sanders! LoL While I am no fan of Bernie Bro in the least, I personally believe that, according to the Bible (actually Torah, if you want to get technical), it commands us to be more socialistic in the treatment of our fellow man. We do that to a certain extent now, but it is never enough – both in a good and bad sense. The real problem is – how do we pay for it? You know there is one answer, and one answer only. So the next question becomes one of balance. And should that balance be on the backs of those, as you have mentioned above, that essentially do nothing for society other than manipulate our monetary system? it’s not a tough answer – and that’s just one source. On the other side of the coin, there are those who are reasonably well off, that have done much to keep the rest of America employed in some fashion, and should be rewarded for their hard work. Specifically, it’s the small businesses that make up over 80% of American commerce. Again – that delicate balance to not overtax people while providing for those that otherwise can’t get up the ladder without help. Obviously, we’re nowhere near that ideal. Oh, I believe you just said that, in your own way!

      1. Stu — It sounds like you are running for Miss America and answering the big question with — “I would really like to work for World Peace!” You want cheap housing? Find cheap labor and convince the labor unions it will be a good thing. You want free mass transit? Figure out how you’re going to cover the financial gap and get the transit unions to go along with it.
        And so on and so on. . . .

    Another find job, pallie. As always, the blog is thought provoking. Naturally, I’ll ad my views on life here in these United States of America.
    Two brave heroes: A lot can be said about the men that earned all of those medals. The rest served quietly, sometimes brave and foolhardy. Sometimes scared to death. My father was a “Sea Bee”. U.S. Navy Construction Battalion is the official title. He didn’t earn any medals other than those that the entire Navy earned serving in the South Pacific. Dad never talked about the war. I may have mentioned before, that when the Uncles got together and reminisced, Dad got up and walked out of the room. In 1969, Dad was injured while working on the Ben Franklin Bridge. Burns over 78% of his body, from a cutting torch blowing up in his hands. While in St. Agnes’ Burn Center, in an induced coma, Dad would scream out words almost unintelligible. It took awhile, but it turned out that he was screaming to his partners as they were being shot and killed. They would be building an aircraft hangar. Up on the steel, no protection – BANG- a sniper would take out a Sea Bee. Work kept going as the ring of armed marines would hunt down the sniper and dispose of him. Work kept going ’cause that was your job. Build an airport on a Japanese held island in the South Pacific. I never wondered why he didn’t talk about the war after that. I never said anything to him about it. I would just give him another hug and kiss whenever I thought about those nightmares in the burn center.
    Sunday dinner: This was mentioned several times through your blogs. Vince and I, to name two, come from decent sized Italian – American families. Spaghetts with meatballs. Why ? Naturally, we never thought about the reasons for the food. We just ate, and we ate a lot ! As mom got older, the pasta was store bought. Yea, still home made BUT not mom’s pasta. Several times a year, there would be home made ravioli. Gnocchi was made from the leftover dough when you ran out of cheese. You ran out of cheese because we would be eating the cheese as we made the ravioli.
    We are Italian . Nobody leads the conversation at the table. At first, you share the floor. Quickly you fight for your your time at the podium.
    The age old question: Who is more valuable to society? Could it be, equal footing ?
    Racism: My parents knew racism first hand. When mom started dating Dad, she was warned by her Dad, to stop seeing him. When they ran away (eloped ), she was thrown out of the family for marrying outside thee race – Italian ! That exile lasted 3 years. Dad was never welcomed by his in-laws. never. It’s definitely not the same as what takes place today, but we were aware of the pain of exclusion.
    Slums/ghettos: The only reason for their existence is MONEY . If I can take advantage of you and make money through you – grrreat ! Sorry to say. That’s the bad side of capitalism. I don’t know how to eliminate the greed that helps to destroy mankind. Over the years, low-income housing has been built in Philly. in the ’90s, housing was built out near the zoo. Average price to build a town house was $200,000.00. The rent was based on your income. The daughter of a Philly administrator was paying some low rent for a similar city supplied house. Her mother was doing the same. They were both employed by the city ! GO FIGURE !
    health insurance, college : same deal Lucille ! Keep your hands out of the cookie jar. Share the wealth .
    I’ll put my soap box away now.

  4. Italians! We are more than The Godfather! My memories of growing up a Benedetto (changed to Benedict to be more ‘American’): Sitting down to Sunday dinner after church as a family and always saying grace before eating. Spaghetti and meatballs? Just a start…then came the huge bowl of meats (sausage, braccole, more meatballs, lamb shoulder, etc.), lots of crusty bread, salad, and dessert. Wine, of course, even a taste for the kids. Or visits to the relatives, all of whom lived within five miles or so of each other, in West Philadelphia. The aunts and uncles and grandparents usually spoke Italian with each other when they wanted to keep us nosy kids in the dark. They were loud boisterous and sounded like they were having heated arguments, but they were just being Italian. Lots of arm waving and hand gestures, too: tie an Italian’s hands and he goes mute. And so many cousins in one house, who could count? My grandfather (he smoked black cheroots and always smelled of tobacco; he shaved with a straight razor, like in the old West, and smelled of after shave. Tobacco smoke and after shave — what a combo) would bring me to the basement of his house and boost me up to a small opening in the stone wall where I would reach in to get another gallon of his home-made wine. It had a wonderful smell that can’t be described. We may have acted Italian for the most part, but we were Americans. We were good neighbors and each helped the other. Dad told me of how his family survived the Great Depression, scraping out a survival that often meant sharing what little they had with neighbors who had even less. When we moved out of West Philadelphia in 1948 to the ‘suburbs,’ we were still only five miles or so from the aunts and uncles and grandparents. Several of our neighbors did not like us because we were Italian. I did not learn this until much later and it really angered me. Dad had fought in WWII and had been captured at the Bulge and sat out the rest of the war as a POW. I thought that earned us a pass, but not to many of the blue bloods on the block. But it was in Wynnewood that I met many of my life-long Jewish friends, and found that despite the gulf in our faiths, our family values were so similar. The Rosses and the Goldens in particular were wonderful and I pray for them to this day. I grew up in what I consider the golden years of America: immediately after WWII and up to the launch of Sputnik, which was a wake-up call to the future. Maybe this covid thing is another long-distance call from our Creator, reminding us that we must do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Love is more than a word, it is action.

  5. about those50’s- I wasn’t around but I’d like those who were to comment-were they a golden age and why?My kid is taught in school to renounce that notion because they were presumably sorrowful for women and minorities.Besides the obvious is this true or is this social justice historical revisionism?please comment.

    1. HAPPY WEDNESDAY Steve !!!
      The 1950s in Port Richmond was a good time for God, country and Mom and apple pie. We just came out of WW II, the economy was booming and the Korea conflict was just getting started.
      Everybody was working, that wanted to work. As I said in previous blogs.There still were horses on our street. Nobody locked their doors and every adult was your parent, every kid was your brother or sister.
      Most people din’t have cars. You worked in the neighborhood or else you hopped a ride on the “PTC”.
      I wouldn’t call it “racism”. People lived in neighborhoods that were predominately of the same ethnicity. They pretty much kept to their own. Remember, WW II. People were not color blind. They just didn’t accept prejudice.
      Women, after saving our collective asses during the war, were sent back into the kitchen, hence the phrase,”barefoot and pregnant”. I don’t think that they were held back any more or less than the rest of the human species. All of the anger came later. For some reason, the ’60s is when America took a crap on everybody. But that’s another story.

    2. Renouncing any decade is saying it didn’t exist. It doesn’t matter what one’s opinion is of history, but it does matter who is writing it. Whatever happened in the past, good or bad can easily be molded into one’s opinion.
      We, this great country, for all its sins, shortcomings etc. have historically done everything to correct. If your child is being taught what you say, be wary. Educate yourself so you can do the same for your children. Read again the above stories by Tony and Vince. Use them as a reference!
      Besides those two will explain what I can’t. Good luck!

      1. Tom,
        Don’t sell yourself short. You are a better man than most. You were raised with all of the old qualities that are missing today. Duty, devotion, God, family and friends. I would go in a burning to bring you out, my friend.

        1. Wow. Thanks Tony. I didnt think of it as selling myself short, only more difficult for me gathering my thoughts. Someone said today “thought provoking” Stu’s piece. Exactly. For me, I’ve wanted to respond, but again I don’t know where to start. I have written short stories about growing up in the fifties, but too long for this format. And not really applicable.
          Thanks friend

  6. Why always the push for college?
    What a waste for so many of our young. We get their hopes up when they’re kids in HS for their great future, then they, the parents end up in unbelievable debt. Let’s face it ‘higher education’ ain’t for most.
    Personally, I couldn’t wait to get out of HS. I literally hated it. The last place for me was college. I hated the structure, the generalized discipline of school. I was taught this at home by my widowed Mother. Besides she no way could afford the reasonable expense of college in 61. I worked a myriad of jobs since 11, like my 4 older siblings. No way was I going to go back to the confines of schooling. I didn’t know what the hell I wanted to do, but knew it wasn’t college. The kids today, it would seem, go to college for the fun. They can’t wait to get out of HS for college for all the wrong reasons. Not all but many. College today is a scam in my humble opinion.
    Oh, the only meatballs we ate, and raviolis was out of can. Sorry guys! We were meatloaf and mash potatoes! Mom made the greatest!! Didn’t have a homemade meatball & spaghetti until dinner on occasional Thursday nights at a friends house on Judson St. in Swamp Poodle (Swampoodle.) I was 18. The rule was if you left your bread unattended it was up for grabs! Great memories!

      Back in our day, the only way that you were going to go to college, was if you got a job there as a janitor. One of my many jokes. Blue collar neighborhood. That’s the next one up. We’re no color. My generation was the first to go for the diploma. Myself, I took the long way. Construction, then the degrees.
      You are so right about college not being for everyone. Mike Rowe ( dirty jobs fame ) sponsors a grant that pays for the working class degree. Welding, sewing, cooking, etc. Highly skilled labor that pays highly.
      just say’n’

      1. Yeah, Mike was always talking about all the available jobs, free training, computer and many other out west somewhere years ago. Now he is a sponsor!

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