Having been born in Italy and proud of my Italian-American heritage, I am often the "butt" of well-meaning, friendly jokes and light-hearted banter. Italians join two other ethnic groups (with initials “P” and “I”) on providing the most abundant fodder for jokes, distorted backdrops for movies and endless stereotypes. All other groups tend to be off-limits, mostly due to the PC Movement, thin skin and a lack of humor. Anti-Defamation efforts work for most other groups, but not for Italians and the other “P” and “I” nationalities referenced above. One of the most oft-repeated stereotypes is about Italians always losing wars or easily surrendering in battle or being lousy allies when war is being waged. What happened to our Roman bloodlines and lust for war and domination? The recent disgraceful performance by the Italian Captain of the luxury liner, Costa Concordia, and the tragic consequences for those aboard did further damage to Italian machismo and national reputation. It was not an act of retreat during war, but pure cowardice as a leader under any circumstance. But with due respect to the other wonderful and diverse cultures, races and ethnic groups that make up this world of ours, who wouldn’t want to be Italian and enjoy the smorgasbord of our Dolce Vita or “sweet life.”
I have often used Dolce Vita as my whimsical, rebuttal for peace: “Would you rather make love than war? Enjoy our culinary delights, historic treasures, our music, wines and our indomitable spirit and hospitality? Our passion for life and peace? Usually, it silences the critics for a moment. Either way, I can take it and give it in return :)
I don't think you have to be a conscientious objector or Quaker or Buddhist Monk or Italian to abhor war and hostility...and opt for peace and tranquility. The vast majority of the world’s population yearns for peace and end to hostilities. Without exception, armies and generals win battles while humanity loses in all wars!
Several years ago I happened to be part of an open forum with then-US Senator and “fake Italian” (now presidential candidate) Rick Santorum. As he droned on the need for increased defense spending and being vigilant due to "enemies everywhere in our midst," I had the audacity to ask him: "Senator, is there ever a rightful place or policy platform for peace in Congress or as a major political movement in the United States?” Knowing his politics and his ultra-conservative agenda, I knew that my request was a loaded question. He barely looked at me and continued without missing a beat on war and defense and the countless enemies of democracy…During the past 10 years, my friends have badgered me on many occasions on being a pacifist and rejecting going to war with Iraq and Afghanistan, based on the bogus “weapons of mass destruction” claims of the Bush Administration. Again, I received friendly barbs for being Italian and always retreating or something akin to cowardice or not being patriotic. Who is right now? Who is laughing now? None of us…I have often wondered how many returning, shell-shocked veterans from Vietnam and from the Middle East campaigns now play video games that glorify war, death and destruction---when they are now dealing with the realities of post-traumatic stress, severed limbs and marginal medical treatment and benefits and economic uncertainty. Being a child of the 60’s and "Age of Aquarius,” I have always rebelled against "war as the only acceptable option" to conflict resolution. However, I did not protest or preach about “peace” and against the Vietnam, Middle-East conflicts and other assorted wars over the past 40-years. I have internalized my opinions/beliefs and followed my own “silent” protests. Several important reasons:
1) I don't join mass movements or any group or follow any individual that takes away my identity and my ability to think as an individual and independently.
2) Peace should be self-evident as a way of life. Being war-like does not automatically translate into being patriotic.
3) Most importantly, I could not and would not disrespect the veterans (and their families) that have served for their own reasons and beliefs. They have sacrificed way too much.
However, remaining silent about our peaceful agendas will not make warmongers disappear. We have to make peace a fashionable alternative to war and aggression. It has to be cultivated as state of mind or cultural trait that is seen as a strength and not as a weakness. Without a shadow of a doubt, I do gravitate towards non-violent revolutionaries such as Gandhi, Dr. King, Jesus and even Pope John Paul who fought Nazi oppression in Poland. Even pacifists can defend themselves, their families and their country when backed to the wall, but then want to kiss, make up and return to the Dolce Vita and peaceful co-existence like the Italians have done for generations.
“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace." --Jimi Hendrix