What makes the Italic Institute different from all other organizations? It starts with our name.
We use Italic to add back the one thousand years linking Roman with Italian history. In short, Italy was created by Rome and its Italic allies in 222 BC, one year before China. It was re-unified in the 1860s. Accept these two facts and you will begin to think like a Classical Italian. Italy makes more sense. To quote Giuseppe Garibaldi: “Rome was the dominant thought and inspiration of my whole life.”
Imagine Jews without a Hebrew past or Greeks without a Hellenic one. That is essentially what has happened to Italian Americans. While every ethnic and racial group in this country is desperately searching for ancient roots, most Italian Americans find theirs irrelevant. Church doctrine and the saints substitute for the intellectual stimulation of our Greco-Roman-Etruscan past.
No doubt, studying Italian language deepens heritage, but the Classic Italian is also grounded in Latin and knows why Rinascimento and Risorgimento both begin with “ri.” An introduction to Latin should be the foundation for Italian American youth. An op-ed this year in The Wall Street Journal (4/18/17) extolled the curriculum of a charter school in Philadelphia that uses Latin to forge identity and raise confidence in African American boys. Latin is our Mother Tongue, it should be to us what Hebrew is to Jews.
The Classical Italian projects a positive image of Italian American contributions, not a negative one. We speak and write of the things we did for America not to America. Our heroes are real men and women who have served, defended, inspired, and bettered our society over 500 years.
The Classical Italian sees The Godfather and its spawn as defamation not art. Neither the films nor the filmmakers and actors should be celebrated. Defamation that romanticizes thieves and murderers – all high school drop-outs, and wraps them lovingly in Italian culture -overshadows five centuries of Italian American accomplishments. In acclaiming these relentless depictions of gutter Italians, our cultural intellect is reduced to one of “cooks & crooks.” No other group would celebrate such degradation.
The Classical Italian doesn’t wonder what happened to the old neighborhood or what time of day is appropriate to order cappuccino. Instead, he wonders how an Italy of 6 million souls came to rule an empire of 80 million people for 500 years. He wonders what values and character moved the Italic people to not merely build the foundations of Western Civilization but expand it with Renaissance art and humanism.
The Classical Italian defends the legacy of Christopher Columbus rather than abandoning him for a Kiss-Me-I’m-Italian holiday. The truth is Columbus Day was established by Congress for Columbus not Italian American culture.
As you can see, the Classical Italian movement is fighting against the tide of superficiality. Beside the lack of a proprietary religion like an “Italian Orthodox Church,” in sync with our ancient roots (as the Greeks and Jews have), the unrelenting tide of intermarriage guarantees that new generations will have only the most simplistic understanding of Italian heritage. Worse, many Italian American academics link exploring Roman history with Fascism. If that were the case, America’s Founding Fathers anticipated Mussolini by 150 years. As made clear in my last blog, our republic is Greco-Roman, as is our society. Italian Americans should be especially proud of that. The Classic Italian already is. -JLM