Shadow stains the foreground enveloping a memory of what once was. But where shadows cast, so too must flicker the future, past, and present of what might be. What could be.
What should be is only realized through intrepid rose colored glasses where light may sprout amidst itching iniquity. On this day, the people of Sarajevo cast pink upon their city. Danas, ljudi iz Sarajevo šetali su zajedno kao jedno.
A moment sought in the burning embers of a kafa, carried on by thoughts like wisps of smoke lifted from the mind, and held between pierced lips gazing down the barrel of cigarette butt. Ovo je Sarajevo. A moment that has seen reigns the likes of the Bosnian Kingdom, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian Empires. To understand Sarajevo, one must live Sarajevo, walk, drink, breathe, share, cherish, love and heal among Sarajevans.
The Fulbright program is a cultural and educational exchange program funded by Congress and carried out by the US Department of State. The program was a part of a bill proposed by US Senator William J Fulbright that aimed to use US war sales surplus to fund international exchange in 1945. Shortly after, President Truman signed the bill in 1946 allowing the State Department to send and receive a number of professors and recent graduates each year abroad to either teach English or carry out research projects. As cultural and citizen ambassadors, each individual awarded a Fulbright represents the US and plays a small yet significant role in America's foreign policy initiative.
Prior to international educational and cultural exchange, foreign policy was largely viewed in a realist context where state influence was measured by military strength. Programs such as Fulbright represented America's pivot towards a foreign policy incorporating soft power. Soft power today can largely be seen in Hollywood bringing American pop culture to the worlds doorstep, diplomacy opening and respecting communication, and cultural exchange providing mutual understanding between people from different lands.
Thus, the Fulbright program is a mechanism of US soft power intended to maintain and improve bilateral relations across the globe. Further, it is a program that utilizes culture and the sharing of ideas to spread American values while simultaneously understanding those of other countries. It understands that mutual understanding and knowledge is not always found at the end of a book but in the world one seeks to understand. To this end, I am a tool of American foreign policy, but an individual seeking a moment in Sarajevo, a moment sa zlatnim ljiljanom.
I sat in a dim lit bar on a Wednesday evening after work with my colleagues, discussing politics over a hazy IPA. I was quickly identified as someone who felt the bern. Its quite obvious after a few probes about my views on current issue areas where I stand and always warrants a defense of my position. Within this was probe was my opinion, put simply, of Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
"A good guy" I said, "With loads of political potential, a knack for captivating audiences with his voice, and undeniably smart. That said, whether I like his policies, ideas, or approach in my eyes was and will continue to be jaded not by political mistakes he's made that saw his presidential run come to an abrupt end, but his donor profile."
While well balanced in some respects in terms of contribution amounts, his donor list is comprised of "too big to fail" banks and corporations that are actively monopolizing the world we live in. I told my friends and colleagues that "even the best of politicians with the most genuine intentions are acting in a system in which the money you take dictates whom you serve."
A week later a story came forth highlighting the very precarious nature of donor/politician relationships. Buttigieg is now entrenched in a scandal that reflects a politician that bent to the will of his donors priorities before those he represents and serves, even if unknowingly. Buttigieg's firing Police Chief Darryl Boykins coincided with backdoor chatter between white police officers attempting to use the "money people" (i.e., donors) behind Mayor Buttigieg to persuade him to let Darryl Boykins go once he became Mayor.
Such a turn of events reveals the obvious concerns surrounding Buttigieg's network, but also brings forth larger discrepancies of donors and their influence on presidential candidates. With Bernie Sanders being the only candidate taking primarily small donations, we have an array of candidates representing the Democratic Party whose political judgment may already be inherently compromised.
To bring to the light the full extent of this issue, it is imperative that Citizen's United be brought back to the debate as a subject for voters to see how money driven politics has and is influencing our candidates and the platforms they have and will put forth. Sander's is the only candidate clean enough to carry out his policies proposals with his unique demographic and number of donors and this should be well understood by the public before heading to the polls come this February.
The opioid ruling saw Oklahoma receive $527 million dollars. At face value an enormous amount of money issuing blame to Johnson & Johnson for playing a role in causing the opioid epidemic. While such was celebrated as a landmark ruling, it should be understood that the importance of stated ruling had all to do with the precedent set rather than the check that will be written.
The $527 million ruling is but a meager sum of the settlement requested on behalf of the plaintiffs that only covers one days worth of reparations outlined to heal the state in the wake of the crisis. The plaintiffs originally asked for $17 billion to cover a 30 day plan.
That said, the platform by which the case was tried provides a unique precedent for trying corporations. Judge Balkman held the defendants, Johnson & and Johnson, liable on charges of public nuisance by continually downplaying the addictive risks of opioids. That is, Balkman effectively concluded that J&J interfered with the rights of the public. Such an interpretation of Oklahoma's public nuisance law provides a platform by which corporations can be tried and perhaps held accountable for egregious acts that damage the general publics' well being.
The opioid ruling itself, therefore, should not be celebrated for the dent it makes in the pockets of Pharma but instead the precedent that might allow corporate malpractice and corruption to be checked and challenged.