Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Of, by, and for

It was important to me when I started keeping this blog to provide a mix of topical social/political commentary on life in Trenton, and share some stories from my personal life, in the hopes of fostering the feeling that there is a real person here typing away. In sharing the "real person" angle in this space, it shows there are plenty of vibrant, creative people in Trenton, even if most of the news coming out of the city is about our thugs: most of us are not criminals, and in fact, some of us are pretty normal here. That I love politics, and the city of Trenton is, well, very nearly a write-off politically, makes life here, at times, fascinating, and at other times, maddening, and these fascinating/maddening times make for good stories, and it's cathartic to write about them. But I am more than politics: I may not celebrate Easter in the same manner you do, but I hope you don't mind (for more on my family's, uh, traditions, read this); like a lot of other people, I keep a garden, I pay my bills, I cook, I read, I listen to music (sometimes coming from a neighbor's house, or a passing car), and I shop. Unlike many other people, I tend too many cats, mostly Trenton's ferals/strays; I spend more time than my college buddies or family members trying to keep my little patch of the world as knucklehead-free as possible; I go through artsy spurts/delusions, and the results often yield a bunch of little items to glued to my walls (which my husband lovingly tolerates); I like to watch science fiction; and I write.

The point of this disclosure is that as much as my details may be distinct from another person's, we're just not all that different. We all want the same large things in life (comfort and contentedness, namely), and we reside in a society that values our right to explore ways to make our lives complete and full. This brings me back to politics. Politics are imperfect, because there is a tendency to cater to the group, rather than the individual, but usually, that's not so bad, since our guiding principles value the individual, even while protecting the whole. Democracy and capitalism are flawed, but perhaps less so than other forms of government. I wouldn't want to imply that there should never be certain occasional individual considerations, if the circumstances are extraordinary, and/or devastating. But once our politicians start providing dispensation to certain individuals under banal circumstances, we no longer live in a democratic society. Waivers and loopholes and provisions stink of Middle Eastern monarchies and theocracies, and the caste system in South Asia.

Trenton's mayor Douglas Palmer may (illegally) live in Hunterdon County now (which must be addressed soon), but when he was elected, he was of Trenton, elected by the people of Trenton, to provide a service for the citizens of Trenton, a municipality in the United States. He is not, perhaps to his dismay, a king, or in the opinions of others, a dictator, or an autocrat. He may be wearing an Armani suit right now, while I sit here in my jammy bottoms and sweat shirt, but regardless, he serves all of us, because he is (even if he thinks he isn't) one of us. Same goes for the council members. Politicians ARE us — though they often need some remindin'. For any politician in this city to provide a special waiver for any individual — particularly one not interested in being a member of our community — does a grave disservice to us all, and diminishes our democracy.

We are individuals, and we are special. And we are the faceless masses. Yet, there is ample evidence that individuals can thrive in an environment that caters to the will of the collective, because we live in a country that values government of the people, by the people, for the people. This should be happening in Trenton, and I believe it will happen in Trenton, too. I just hope it doesn't involve too much more strife, though I'm sure the people are ready to fight to restore a proper order and balance in this city, if need be.

There must be no waiver for ousted police director Joseph Santiago. No matter what he says, his circumstances for not living in this city are not extraordinary and/or devastating; they're petty, commonplace, and, most of all, selfish. He is not of us, he was not put in power by us, and he certainly isn't acting for us. He is of Morris County, put in office by the some incredibly unfair act of cronyism, and his actions are for his ego and his salary (and pension). Period.

I want to really drive the extraordinary and/or devastating point home. Santiago has said, on various occasions, that he tried to buy a house here, but couldn't afford it. We can afford a house here, and we don't make nearly as much money as he does, though we don't have any other residence, especially one in expensive North Jersey, which helps us pay our mortgage here (and our rising taxes, thank you Mr. Mayor [I know taxes go up; it's part of life; I have a beef with HOW that happened, but the other bloggers have addressed this, so I won't]). There has been talk of medical reasons for his failure to move, but how many sick people are forced to move all the time, especially in a city full of poverty? But one of the biggest alleged reasons Santiago was granted favor by Mayor Palmer is that supposedly Santiago's wife received pornography in the mail, and there were threats made against them — and Santiago's own department was implicated for this. Like many other Trenton residents, I find this maddening. I watch dirtbags pee against a neighbors garage on a weekly basis; I find condoms behind my garage; drug dealers have used my corner as their "office;" there was an armed robbery two blocks from my home the other night (though I suspect, in that case, it was dirtbag-on-dirtbag crime; I'm not really as much implying that "dirtbags deserve it" as much as I'm saying most crime takes place among friends and acquaintances, and since I don't do much socializing with criminals, I don't feel THAT vulnerable here). No one wants to have to confront dirtbags, thugs, perverts, and/or bullies in our lives, but it comes with the territory. It's a challenge to live in Trenton, and I'm up for it. If Santiago, a tough guy, who oversees a squad of strong people with firearms, isn't, then please, SHOW HIM THE DAMN DOOR ALREADY.


Greg Forester said...


I have huge doubts that a waiver provision will get passed by this Council.

They would be committing mass political suicide by doing so, and too many of them are thinking about the election that is now roughly two years away.

Nice post.

Anonymous said...

Very well put. How about a shorter version emailed to