Posted by: Mark Nielsen | October 1, 2017

Trump, The Mafia and Me

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Above is a classic wedding celebration photo of my Italian-American grandfather, Sebastian Stella. He was decidedly working-class, never owned a house (tho he did own a condo rather late in life), and was in the produce/restaurant supply business, mostly potatoes. He was also a son of immigrants who, despite himself, was a Republican–apparently over some beef with FDR. When certain Italians have a vendetta, they hold that sucker tight, and they hold it forever.

I find myself thinking about Grandpa Buster a lot lately, partly because my work-in-progress novel is set in 1959 south Manhattan (the place of his birth in 1904), where Little Italy’s quaint storefront restaurants hid many a dirty deed being planned in some smoke-filled back room, over a $100-a-hand card game.

Speaking of gambling moguls and dirty thugs… I’m also wondering these days if Trump would have changed Grandpa’s mind, finally, about the Republican Party. Not that there isn’t corruption that runs rampant among Democrats, too. Growing up in Chicago, he (and I) saw plenty of dirty deals, Mob-sponsored union corruption, rich-WASP-sponsored anti-union/anti-poor-person sentiment, and (mostly in his case) thinly veiled bigotry against Italian-Americans.

But we are in unprecedented territory now. For example, the new loan sharks that Trump likely owes big money to are in the Russian Mob, not the Sicilian Cosa Nostra. The Chinese are our main business partner, not the “godless Communists” they formerly were demonized as. And we weathered a Second Depression from 2008-2012 under the careful (if hamstrung) leadership of–Buster wouldn’t have believed it!–a black man.

Yet now the Backlash President has made us second-guess even our most sacred (and equally mis-informed) former stereotypes about the relationship between criminals, businessmen, and politicians.

So when I discovered the item below during my novel research, I was not at all surprised.

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It was at a sort of Mafia fan site called “Friends of Ours”. I didn’t track down the details about Felix Sator, nor of Trump’s likely dealings as a real-estate developer with dozens of other mobsters from the famous Five Families of New York. I should find out more, shouldn’t I?

Or do I instead want to bury my head in the sand –like we have since at least the Kennedy era (his millionaire father was a Prohibition bootlegger, and good buddies with The Other Dons!) . Yes, the line between “businessmen” and criminals is razor thin. It’s a dotted line at that, with plenty of grease (and men with greased palms) flowing back and forth between the two worlds.

Am I supposed to just excuse that, like my forefathers did? Is how things USED to be done just the way of the world, or is there a better way?

If I end up “sleeping with the fishes” by the time I finish this novel, just for telling the truth, then please leave your sympathy comments in the space below… and continue to tell my story to the muckraking bloggers and history students of the future. I want Grandpa Buster to be proud of me, that I stood up for something, that I’m trying to advocate for poor working schmucks like him.

Even though nobody with ACTUAL POWER listened. They never do.

[This is David with his little slingshot, signing off…]


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