June 9, 2015
Some background info for my Italian trip…
According to the legend, it started with the wolf kids, Romulus and Remus. Romulus established Rome and Remus did not come to America to become Uncle Remus, a fictional character telling folk tales in post- reconstruction era America. He was killed by Romulus. In fact, the wolf story has never been true. Rome had a
boring start on a marshland with three tribes they were not Martians. The three tribes were the Ramnes, Tities and Luceres. If you wake me up in the middle of the night and ask me to recite the names of these tribes, I would not know them, even though, I’ve learned them in school millions of times. I had to look them up for the blog.
We all learned the great Roman stories. in school, from books and from the silver screen. Hollywood has kept delivering the big budget epic dramas, Ben Hur, Quo Vadis, Cleopatra and the others with tons of buttery popcorn. Hate to break the truth for younger audiences however, Marc Anthony did not play Mark Antony and therefore, Jennifer Lopez was never Cleopatra in the 1963 movie directed by Joseph Mankiewicz.
When we go to Italy, we want to hear the great stories again and again retold by a tour guide with a charming Italian accent, even though, we do not understand half of the guide’s stories because of his accent. I am not going to go through the entire history of Rome you can rent it from Netflix University.
Italy is a relatively new country, younger than the United States. The country was not fully unified until the Pope was defeated in 1870. In light of this outcome, honestly, I do not really understand the fuss about the Pope’s famous Swiss Guard.
The twentieth Century has kept up the excitement. Among the many “isms,” Italy has given us the relatively user friendly fascism (the Italian version.) Did you know that Mothers’ Day is a Fascist invention? In 1933, Mussolini met 93 mothers at the Palazzo Venezia. He greeted these mothers as heroes of Italy. These 93 mothers, gave birth to 1300(!) children combined (that is about 13 children each…) as part of the Fascist national policy to revive the Empire and double its population.
Mussolini also rallied the nation to finance the occupation of Ethiopia in 1936. On “The Day of the Wedding Rings,” married women were asked to donate their gold wedding rings for the cause of the war. Thousands of wives gave up their rings to be melted down in support of the war effort. Ironically, close to a thousand wedding rings were also collected from the United States and sent to the DUCE. Racist policies did not start until WWII in Italy. In fact, Mussolini had a jewish mistress for ten years. Fascism was especially unkind to women with regard to such issues as employment, emancipation and independent welfare. Unfortunately, post war and even 21st century Italian politics and policies have problems to fully disconnect from the heritage of pre-WWII women issues and welfare policies. Inequalities of women has been integral part of the cultural DNA and has been woven into the Italian social fabric.
Italians also had a serious affair with Communism after WWII. Eurocommunism was made popular in Western Europe by Italy. I remember, Eastern European communist leaders had a hard time to explain back home the phenomenon of church going Italian communist party members during the 1970s.
In 1963, after decades of fights against Communist ideologies, Pope John XXIII officially recognized the Italan Communist Party as an organization that mission has been to improve the lives of ordinary Italians including women. He made his decision against the advice of the Papal administration. He was dead in two months after his famous Pacem in Terris – go figure… One of the big sensations was when the Pope exchanged Christmas cards with Nikita Khrushchev after the Cuban Missile Crisis. John XXIII was also a vital actor in the diffusion of the Cuban Missile Crisis (it turns out that after all it paid off to elect a Catholic president in the US…)
The 1970-80 have been poisoned by leftist terrorism in the north and violent Maffia activities in the South. The economy still has not opened up for the majority of the women. Southern men migrated to the North to be part of the industrial boom. Their families and wives have been left behind. This wave of migration created the “white widow” class of southern women who basically lived from the money their husbands send back home from the Northern cities. Economists and sociologists blame the feminization of Italian agriculture in the south due to the lack of men who migrated to the north and its direct consequence the feminization of poverty, on the post-war labor and welfare policies of the Italian state.
In 1987, Hungarian born pornstar, Ilona Staller aka Ciccolina, ex wife of Jeff Koons American artist, has been elected member of the Chamber of Deputies and remained in office until 1992. A MP from an unlikely sector of the economy to promote women’s rights….
After Ciccolina, politics has never been the same again in Italy. Today, Italy has the largest number of women in parliament in the history of the country. One of the main goals is to reduce violence against women in Italy (one women in every three days becomes victim of violent crimes in Italy) Do they have the will to crack stubborn traditions? Future will tell.
So when you visit “The Boot” next time, the least you can do is to hire a woman tour guide.
P.s. Currently, Italy is facing its latest crisis, the waves of North African refugees escaping poverty famine and violence in their countries.