The world is aghast at President Donald Trump’s alleged description of “developing” countries as “shitholes.” Had Trump quoted the plaque on the Statue of Liberty and called Haitians and Africans “wretched refuse” he might have instead been lauded as poetic.
But where would any discussion of wretched refuse be without dragging in Italians? Sure enough, a few days after the Trump revelation the New York Daily News invited Manhattan’s Tenement Museum President Kevin Jennings to pen a half-page op-ed titled “Italy Was Once a “S—thole Country.” (I thank my brother Dennis for a copy.)
Indeed, southern Italy was on the shithole list only a century or so ago. Ruled for a thousand years by foreigners and popes our homeland was devoid of public education, plagued by malarial marshes, pummeled by earthquakes, subjected to Muslim kidnapping and pillage, exploited by its northern cousins, infested with organized crime, and cursed with the tribal mentality of campanilismo – no civic responsibility beyond the sound of your church bell.
Millions of our people confirmed that image as they fled Italy. But southern Italy’s problems didn’t sink to the level of shithole. Perhaps half of those who fled returned, including my paternal grandfather. Many of those who remained here brought skills – as masons, bakers, barbers, tailors, musicians, carpenters (including my father), or business acumen that enriched America.
Italian culture and history, even in the south, had a glorious past. The south had universities, a sustaining agriculture, and ancient housing and infrastructure beyond that of most of today’s Third World countries. It had a homogenous ethnic population with one religion and a common language of varying dialects. Best of all, it had family values and structures many modern Americans can only dream about.
Our wretched refuse was offered no cash safety nets, no dual language assistance, and no exemption from military service, and certainly no OSHA protections at work. For some of our forebears, the degradation, discrimination, and violence inflicted on them made America purgatory rather than heaven.
Of the current developing countries, dire poverty is more pronounced than it ever was in Italy. An article in the NY Times (7/15/14) reported that 50% of Indians defecate outdoors. We read in the newspapers every day of the ethnic and religious “diversity” that consumes non-Western countries with strife. We read of female mutilation, wholesale rape, caste systems, and a Stone Age tribal existence that drive today’s migrants to risk death to reach Europe and America.
According to UNESCO, women are estimated to grow 80 per cent of food produced in Africa, and yet few are allowed to own the land they work. “They are the household managers, providing food, nutrition, water, health, education, and family planning to an extent greater than elsewhere in the developing world.” No wonder they export their children by leaky rafts to Italy.
Given the opportunity, the poor of Asia and Africa would all empty into Europe, Australia and the Americas. They need our help where they are, not over here. A Eurostat forecast predicts that within 60 years, at the current pace of migration and low Italian birthrate, 50% of Italy’s inhabitants will be of African or Asian descent. (I thank colleague Anthony Vecchione of NJ for this information.) Doubt this? Last Thursday, Italian police busted a major Chinese crime syndicate in Tuscany that controls much of the trucking, prostitution, gambling and drugs across Europe. The Chinese capo even has an Italian nickname il nero (“Blackie”).
The media should spend less time on past Italian immigrants – who were legal and able to assimilate – and more time analyzing the future consequences of open-ended immigration from “developing” countries and illegal aliens. Today’s immigration is markedly different from the old model.
Japan, whose population is also spiraling down, would rather remain ethnically and culturally homogenous than gamble that Third World immigrants can assimilate. Despite all the moral rhetoric, assimilation not diversity is what makes nations work. -JLM