So the Pope snubbed an invitation to speak at La Sapienza University in Rome, unleashing a torrent of blather, further balkanizing the soi-disant Left, and giving Giuliano Ferrara, the shameless jackass that Italy’s media continue to treat like an intellectual, an additional excuse to propagandize for the Right during his inexplicably influential television program, Otto e Mezzo; the Minister of Justice, Clemente Mastella, finally resigned after the mountain of corruption allegations against him grew to roughly the height of K2 (and I’m not even talking about the accusation that this “very observant” Catholic, who boasts of attending Angelus in Piazza San Pietro in Vaticano every Sunday at noon when he’s in Rome—though not with his wife, of late, because she’s under house arrest for her own crimes and misdemeanors—was present at a yacht party tricked out with hookers, cocaine, and other favors de fête); and Salvatore “Toto” Cuffaro, president of Sicily’s regional government, resigned—not because he’d received a five-year prison sentence for “aiding and abetting” the mafia, but because of the outcry that followed the publication of a photograph in which he was shown celebrating that sentence by handing out cannoli in his office.
Oh, and the government of Romano Prodi collapsed after a “no confidence” vote in the Senate.
Just a typical couple of weeks in Italy.
I’ve left out some of the most entertaining parts, such as when, in the run up to the confidence vote, Senator Stefano Cusumano was physically attacked and “taunted” by his colleagues (so puts it the New York Times; what actually happened was that they called him a “fucking fag”)
because he said he planned to vote to support the existing government; or when, after the vote was counted and the “no confidence” results were official, the pack of hooligans and petty thugs that make up Italy’s “Center Right” broke out trays of mortadella (one of Prodi’s nicknames, in addition to “Valium” and “The Professor,” is Mortadella, for his long association with Bologna) which they gobbled on the floor of the Senate, notwithstanding the admonitions of the president of the solemn proceedings, who furiously rang his little silver bell and demanded order: “Per favore, per favore. This is the Senate, not your neighborhood pub!”
Okay, now you have to pay attention to catch the irony here. Last December, New York Times writer Ian Fisher wrote an article entitled “In a Funk, Italy Sings an Aria of Disappointment,” in which he described (and extremely well) the “malaise” that’s eating Italy. (You can search for it in the NYT archive, if you’re registered, or go to my clone of the page.)
The article unleashed something of a tempest in a teiera. You can find a description of Italians’ reactions to Fisher’s piece, along with an interview with Fisher, on the NYT site, but the gist is: Italian citizens largely thought Fisher got it right; Italian politicians were offended and incensed, and Giuliano Amato, the Italian Minister of the Interior, went so far as to write the Times to complain.
(Amato’s letter, in English, is linked to Fisher’s article as well, but I can’t help but point out that it contains the same “Made In Italy” boast that’s in virtually every commercial translation I do, and with the identical words: Italy’s exports products are marked by “higher quality, more research and innovation” – “ricerca e innovazione.” If only someone besides Italian businessmen believed it. If only someone knew what those overused buzzwords actually meant.)
Though it’s an intriguing anecdote, historians tells us that Nero didn’t really fiddle while Rome burned. No, he probably just passed out cannoli.