In Which I Do Not Discuss Politics

So I, um, forgot to (register to) vote in the American election. This is not at all funny. My only excuse is just having moved from one foreign country to another. I got no mail about the election, no phone calls, not even a button on Facebook! I was forced into complete personal civic responsibility, and I totally dropped the ball.

The real problem is, even on a good day I always have to psyche myself up to actually vote for someone. You see, I never learned very well to color inside the party lines. So I’m always getting stuck with double deal-breakers. (Nope, I’m not going to discuss specifics, because we don’t do that on this blog.) Maybe I’m just a bad fit for the two-party system. Or too much of an idealist to fit into politics. The last time I was really on pins and needles over an election was when I had a college class ten years ago on the Arab-Israeli Conflict and I thought Barak was going to save the world. No, not that Barak. Ehud Barak. Am I the only one whose overriding thought upon seeing Star Wars: Episode 1 was that it perfectly mirrored Israeli politics?

Sure, there was that one time that I actually attended a caucus meeting in Utah and almost got my husband elected as a delegate (he needed some hours of political something for his political science class. We ended up going to a rally for some entrepreneurial gubernatorial candidate named Lampropoulis instead). And then there was that other time I spent the whole election season precinct walking. But in general, I don’t consider myself much of a political party animal. It’s not that I don’t care; it’s more that I care too much if I think about it excessively, and after I read everyone’s statements about their positions on the issues, I always feel depressingly disenfranchised. I guess what I should really be doing is starting my own political party, right?

In any case, moving to Italy gives me a whole new set of political feelings to deal with. I thought I’d educate myself a little on Italian politics this time, since last time we were here I mostly focused on learning which types of cheese go best with honey. So I picked up another almost-free book at my favorite thrift store in Ireland before we came. It’s written by a British journalist named Tobias Jones, who followed his Italian girlfriend to Parma and decided to stay forever. He entitled his book The Dark Heart of Italy, and it’s all about Italian politics, or in other words, Silvio Berlusconi. I was too unnerved by reading it to ask the Italians I know whether it’s actually accurate. Maybe I don’t want to know. At any rate, at least now I can make sense of some of the random political graffiti scrawled on the walls here (although I still don’t know about the Darth Vaders stenciled on the porticoes along the Arno in Florence. Can anyone help me out there?)

And as for Prime Minister Berlusconi, I gather that he does own/control the largest publishing house in Italy, as well as most of the television stations. Unfortunately, he hasn’t yet managed to acquire Wikipedia (either in English or Italian), so if you like, you can read even more about him there than Jones’ book tells (in an article that self-admittedly “may not present a neutral point of view”). It’s all there: mafia ties, numerous sex scandals, tax fraud, corruption, bribery, and a long string of inexplicably audacious insults aimed at everyone from the Finnish president to the Spanish foreign minister. His “compliment” to President Obama upon his election, for example, was this:

“I will try to help relations between Russia and the United States where a new generation has come to power, and I don’t see problems for Medvedev to establish good relations with Obama who is also handsome, young and suntanned.”

Is all this true? I don’t know. And what to do about it if it is? Good question. I feel even more politically irrelevant here than I did in America. Perhaps this is why anarchy as a serious option has always enjoyed such popularity in Italy . . .

2 thoughts on “In Which I Do Not Discuss Politics

  • November 4, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    I feel similarly about American politics.

  • November 4, 2010 at 5:50 am

    I think the suntan bit is for real. I heard about that at the time, on NPR. So it must be true, right???


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