Reaping What We Sow

I wonder if Anthony Scaramucci, President Trump’s former Communications Director, realizes he grew up with the Mob, and that he’s been whacked?

As a 41-year old Gen X’er, “The Mooch” as he calls himself, is the end product of all the Italian American stereotypes that have saturated our society for half a century.  Born in 1964, Scaramucci had little choice in his media entertainment growing up but mob movies, “The Fonz” of Happy Days, and all the countless shows featuring nicknamed goombas, guidos, and dummies.  The Mooch may have graduated from Harvard Law School and he may speak without a local accent, but his personality is straight out of a Scorsese movie.  He’s been labeled vulgar, hypocritical, and insulting.  Comedians are having a field day exposing his double-talk and threatening manner.  This is one Italic mover & shaker who doesn’t know the meaning of la bella figura.  He may dress to the nines and know how to find the spotlight but he hasn’t a clue that his prominence confirms our worse fears – our cultural chickens have come home to roost.

However, Scaramucci presents us with a dilemma.  Although he arrived on the national scene as a fat-cat friend of Donald Trump rather than as a token Italian American appointee, the media is nevertheless attacking him as an Italian stereotype.  So, does that mean we should defend Scaramucci?  After thirty years of running after every insult heaped on our community I can tell you that the fault lies with us – in this case, The Mooch himself – not with the media.  Italian American filmmakers, actors, and writers manufactured all the ammunition that stocks the arsenal of media pundits and animates Scaramucci’s personality.  Fifty years of Italian American collaboration and apathy tore down all the defenses that we once shared with other racial and ethnic groups, now known as “political correctness.”  I am guessing that Mr. Scaramucci is a devoted fan of The Godfather and GoodFellas, judging by his crude behavior.  He has mercifully been yanked from his pedestal.

Our community is cursed with ignorant descendants of a classical people.  They don’t even measure up to their own grandparents or great-grandparents who crossed the Atlantic to make them Americans.  You can find hundreds of Scaramuccis on Facebook, with their ignorance of history and parroting Mafia mannerisms.  But consider the parallel story of another Italian American on the Trump team – Mike Pompeo.

Mike Pompeo is the newly appointed CIA Director, who is only a year older than Scaramucci and also graduated from Harvard Law School, and like Scaramucci, a conservative Republican.  The difference in the two men is Pompeo graduated from West Point, served in the military and in Congress (from Kansas).  In short, Pompeo followed what the Romans called the cursus honorum – the path of honors.  From what I have read of him he developed his personality from life experience not the movies, plus he is only half Italian.  Consequently, the media critiques his politics not his deportment.  The same can be said for former Obama appointee Leon Panetta, who served as Budget Director, CIA Director, and Defense Secretary.  Scaramucci, in short, is the odd-ball but not a rarity.

Here is another observation:   as much as half the country despises President Trump but he has never been subjected to any anti-German jokes or jabs.  His actual family name is reportedly Drumpf, changed by his immigrant ancestor.  Comedian John Oliver launched a campaign in 2016 to ridicule “Donald Drumpf,” but nowhere were there overtones (or undertones) of German stereotyping – arrogance, disdain for others, demand for unwavering obedience, a superiority complex, or even references to the embarrassing German American Bund of the 1930s.  Why have comedians, who mostly hate Trump, stayed clear of his Germanic roots but have little trouble skewering Scaramucci’s heritage?  Beats me.

Apparently, Italian Americans lead with their chins.  Scaramucci proves that money and education are no guarantors of personal dignity or ethnic pride.  For our new generations are now reaping the genetically-modified Italian heritage sowed so cleverly by those who conned us into believing that movies were only entertainment.  Unfortunately, those movies and their recurring themes will shape the self-awareness of generations to come.                                -JLM

5 thoughts on “Reaping What We Sow”

  1. Anthony Vecchione
    Your insights are spot-on, John. Adding to your narrative.
    At first glance, Scaramucci seemed to be an unlikely candidate for this kind of behavior. Harvard-educated and articulate, he embodies more of a Wall Street persona than a street-corner thug.

    But as the old saying goes, sometimes life imitates art. Scaramucci’s behavior reflects decades of tired old negative portrayals of Italian-Americans on television and in the movies. As President Trump often says about other things: “sad!”

    Other ethnic groups reject negative stereotypes and pushback against them because they know that ultimately they work their way into popular culture. They don’t justify the bigotry with excuses like: “It’s artistic,” or “the cinematography is good.” Some Italian-Americans appear to be averse to that fact.

    Maybe the Scaramucci episode will persuade them that tolerance for this endemic stereotype is no longer tolerable.

  2. (Revised) Colbert’s almost nightly tirade employing negative stereotyping of Scaramucci has lowered the bar concerning how Italian Americans can be treated in the media, and with apparent impunity. We may give the impression that we don’t care about such treatments, or are powerless to stop them – which will encourage more of the same.

  3. Wonderful, incisive observations, John. Bear in mind that the Michael Pompeo(s), Leon Panetta(s) and Anthony Zinni(s) who comport themselves with a dignity any heritage would admire, never draw in the values of their heritage for public observation. This is an additional painful stab lacking to offset the negative broadcast image we endure,

  4. Thank you for the cogent thoughts re the latest nonsense, and I consider it that, for when a situation such as has occurred with a man in office for 10 days, appointed by the POTUS, and then exited so quickly, well it reflects on us – that is, we Italian Americans as he is one. And indeed, what with all his education and money, what did he learn about life and treating all with respect and dignity. Hardly! And so it continues with the references to US, yes, we Italian Americans! A blight indeed and more of the systemic views that we have fought for too many years!

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