If not now, when?

One American woman. Twenty acres and a 1650 farmhouse in Tuscany. Random introspection and hilarity, depending on the day.

02 April 2006

Strange Bedfellows

Politics here in Italy are perhaps MORE hotly and passionately debated than they are in the US - indeed, it's one thing that quickly evokes familiar memories of my Washington, DC home. (Though here, blissfully, I have neither a vote nor enough working knowledge of the issues to truly form an opinion, which allows me to step back and more easily see the humor in it all). Here, the election for Prime Minister takes place in a week's time: televised debates occuring, among friends emailed jokes are rampant. Berlusconi is hardly well-loved, but there doesn't seem to be a coherent and compelling alternative who can ultimately muster popular support (is this sounding familiar?!?!). People will vote on the lesser of the evils, and it is a tight race at this moment. Judging from my neighbors' commentary, it may be an issue of the devil they know. (There *is* an interesting law, that I would love to see the US adopt, that no further results of 'opinion polling' can be released starting 15 days before the election.) Like many things here, their political system is a fragmented and unsustainable situation with not much hope for long-term improvement.

Italy is home to more than 15 political parties, each with a pet issue. The two candidates for prime minister are actually put forward by 'alliances' made between these parties. The two alliances are called La Casa delle Liberta' (House of Freedoms) and formerly the Olive Tree Coalition, now known more obliquely as L'Unione (The Union). Some of the sub-parties have almost comical names (translated, of course): Rose in the Fist, Italy of Values, Movement for Autonomy, and Tricolor Flame.

What I *do* like about the system is that the alliances between smaller parties allows for possible, indeed probable and frequent, shifts in the balance of power. I have long thought that the US two-party system is overly simplistic and concentrates too much power on the fringes of both (case-in-point, witness the far-conservative-right in the immigration debate).

I am barely conversant in the Italian socio-political dynamic, but I do feel that it is my obligation to try to be a student of it while I am here. I appreciate the opportunity to see another system from the inside, to attempt to learn its complicated structure, and to realize the rhetoric from both sides so rarely reaches the lives of real people. We have more in common than we think. Humor becomes the only common ground, I recall thinking as a slideshow poking fun at ALL the candidates was shown at a dinner last night. When intelligent people truly feel they can do nothing to do but laugh at the options, it is indeed a frightening reality.

Speaking of humor, today's post was inspired by a debate with my friend Timmo-san a few weeks ago. We have since been trading good-natured email jabs on 'why he's not a democrat' and 'why I am neither Democrat nor Republican - but less a Republican'. I stumbled across this (attribution to Rep. Linda Sanchez), and simply couldn't resist:

Why don't I date Republicans? Because they make love like they make war: they lie to get in and don't have a plan for what to do once they get there.

Hyperbole? Sure. Sometimes laughter is the best medicine.

*(speaking of laughter, I moved from a city that can't get convicted criminal (former Mayor) Marion Berry out if its political system to a country where one of the players in the elections is Alessandra Mussolini, you guessed it, granddaughter of Benito. Indeed, we who cannot learn from the past are doomed to repeat it...!)


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