March 16, 2005
Dear Italy, forgive us. Bring your dear soldiers home from Iraq. Teach them about peace. Teach us in the United States about peace. We need to learn from you.
I spent some terrific years of my life in your bel paese, and one of the first things that caught my attention was your humility and your cosmopolitanism. When I was a young exchange student in Italy I had the pleasure of making myself liked, of making myself almost a movie star, simply by telling people that I was an American. That has changed, of course – drastically and bitterly changed, and so swiftly! But it went deeper than that. You wanted very much to know what Americans thought of Italians. It was always with shame that I confessed to you that most Americans don’t think much at all about Italians or about the residents of any country other than their own.
Forgive us, Italy, for we know not what we do. Our news media does not tell us. It is only recently that some of us in the United States were able to read briefly about likely CIA kidnappings on your streets. Employees of our government are apparently snatching people off your streets and shipping them to other countries to be tortured.
I can open my mouth, Italia, but what can I say?
We killed the negotiator who got your journalist out of Iraq alive. Then we lied about it.
What can I say to you, after that? How can I ask you to treat me as a human?
We have an established practice of killing journalists. We kill our own, and if others raise questions they lose their jobs. How were we to know that it would cause a fuss if we shot at one of yours?
How were we to know? We need only have spent a few days with you! Decency is alive yet in your Berlusconized terra.
Several years ago I was living in Rome and watched a little news drama play out on your television news and talk shows. An American couple and their child had been visiting Italy. They had been attacked and the child killed. The couple had then done something that was more common in the United States than in Italy. They had donated the child’s organs and saved some other people’s lives. But then you, Italy, did something that is unimaginable in the United States.
You engaged in an extended public debate and self-examination over what you might have to learn from foreigners. You questioned your violence – which is as nothing beside that of the heavily armed nation I call home. You admired and learned from the tourists’ generosity. You thanked them and asked them to teach you.
Carissima Italia, over here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, we don’t learn from anybody. And we’re proud of that. Our arrogance is beyond your comprehension. Not Berlusconi himself can fathom it.
But there are those here who oppose what our soldiers are doing in Iraq. As a matter of fact, we’re in a majority. See these polls:
On the 19th of this month I would be ashamed to be with you at your rally in Rome, much as I would love to see you again. I will be ashamed, because your rally will no doubt – once again — be larger and more powerful than our own on that day in Fayetteville and elsewhere.
We have much to learn from you. Please work with us.
Please find a house on Elba for George and Silvio.
David Swanson is a board member of Progressive Democrats of America. His website is https://davidswanson.org