The other day, a doctor on Long Island was charged with kissing his patient on the mouth and rubbing her thigh and stomach. The judge dismissed the case for lack of corroboration but the police reported that the doctor told them “he is Italian, hugs and kisses his patients, and no one else had complained about it in 37 years.”
I would list the accused doctor along with Italian Americans who brag “I’m Italian, I live to eat,” or “we’re Italian, we yell and scream all the time.” You hear these simpleton Italians and can only thank America for intermarriage. Many of these people can’t get past their own stomachs. Is it any wonder that much of our intellectual heritage has become a pin cushion for other Americans?
We all know how Christopher Columbus went from fearless navigator to Satan of the New World. My colleague Anthony Vecchione recently sent me a CNN report claiming Columbus’s arrival set off a Global Warming cycle. Maybe Columbus should have stayed at home like a normal Italian and spent his life yelling at his family and wolfing down pesto Genovese.
So, Columbus is no longer an American favorite, but the Mafia is. Those thieves and murderers, according to some Italian Americans, protected neighborhoods and were “men of honor.” A movie critic that I lambasted for his joyful celebration of the 20th anniversary of The Sopranos had the temerity to tell me the series was fine because it didn’t “canonize” Tony and his henchmen. I pointed out that his accolades effectively did that. All he could say was he “REVERES (sic) Italians,” whatever that means.
Go down the list and you’ll find that Hollywood and historians have had their way with our heritage. Although the Founding Fathers modeled our republic in function, nomenclature, and architecture on ancient Rome, filmmakers have pictured Rome as the scourge of mankind. Niccolo Machiavelli, also a guide to the Founding Fathers, has become the grand-pappy of Josef Goebbels.
Even the Italian family was derided by sociologists in the 1970s as “amoral familism”- the closed and insular antithesis of a democratic society. Funny, my whole family worked or owned businesses, and served in the military, as I’m sure yours did. We can only wonder if today’s Third World immigrants would be characterized with such terms. Don’t wonder!
That other Italian development, Fascism, has also been fair game for historians, politicians, and rabble rousers. Like the word mafia, fascism has become the one-size-fits-all of political evil. A perfect example is the NY Times Bestseller Fascism: A Warning by Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton.
Benito Mussolini features prominently in this book, rightfully confirming him as founder of the socio/political/economic movement he named Fascism. But Albright clearly has little understanding of Fascist theory and experimentation. Instead, she redefines fascism, making Mussolini the inspiration of every dictator and genocidal murderer of the 20th and 21st Centuries. Even top Commie Kim Jong-un of North Korea is really a fascist, as are socialist Maduro of Venezuela, wild man Duterte of the Philippines, and Vladimir Putin of Russia. In fact, any grade school bully can be a Mussolini Fascist, thanks to Albright. She is doing to Fascism what journalists did to Mafia, make it a catch-all definition.
The term Islamo-fascism used to be in vogue, if you recall, but I believe it was too insulting to Muslim terrorists to remain so. That may also be the case for Zionist vigilantes (as in Zio-fascists) in the Palestinian West Bank, for Albright doesn’t include them as fascists. It may be because she only discovered her Jewish roots in 1997 and saw the light.
We “sinister” Italians (“Machiavellians”) must now accept responsibility for organized crime outside of government (“mafia”) and within government (“fascism”). Elsewhere, we must own up to indigenous genocide (“Columbus”), climate change (also Columbus), and Western Civilization as the scourge of mankind (Roman Empire).
How do we get up in the morning? -JLM