I am an Italian-American and proud of my roots in Italy. I speak Italian fluently, travel to Italy regularly, and treasure the ethic of my grandparents — and so many like them — who came here with nothing but hope and built solid lives for themselves and their progeny.
I do not tell jokes mocking Italians, and I do not tolerate others telling them in my presence. I feel the same way about ethnic jokes that malign other groups. As an American, I am aware of the awesome responsibilities that come with citizenship. Most of the time, I am proud to live here, though the war in Iraq and much of the news flowing from this county’s policies around “terrorism,” have tested that pride of late.
Italian-Americans are just people, and like all people, they come in assorted varieties. So we have our share of geniuses and a few idiots as well. We have statesmen and women of achievement, as well as scoundrels and a few ne’er-do-wells, too. We also have pockets of folks who are ethnically blinded. By that, I mean that they are immediately enamored and protective of any other Italian-American simply because they share a few vowels in common.
This phenomenon has reared its ugly head around the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel Alito. I have heard people who can’t even spell “judicial temperament” singing the praises of this nominee against a chorus of ecstasy over Justice Antonin Scalia.
Usually, the cheering section for Scalia and Alito is made up of Italo guys who spent the better part of their high school days fighting in the school yards with bullies or victims from other groups. Most of these men will privately share their distrust and distaste for those “not like us.” That NLU category includes all other ethnic groups, people of color, and bigmouth women like me who refuse to take a back seat to macho.
What most of these guys don’t understand is that Scalia and Alito share the same philosophies that resulted in Joe DiMaggio’s fisherman father being grounded and confined during World War II for fear — because he was Italian — that he might side with the “enemy.”
Disagreeing with Judge Alito’s views and disliking some of his pronouncements should be an equal-opportunity activity. It is clear he is no friend to women, as Scalia is certainly not as well. When Italian-Americans who respect the Constitution move up in government, I cheer loudly. My love of freedom, however, also embraces the Blackmuns, Ginsburgs and O’Connors who protect it.