The Italian Dream

With the new Center-Left government of Romano Prodi, politics in Italy has been back to being boring (which is, by the way, a good thing – Ask a Taiwanese, not to mention an Israeli, if they wouldn’t rather prefer their country to have a boring political life) and incomprehensible. There has been much drama about a proposal to create a form of civil unions open both to unmarried opposite-sex couples living together as well as to same-sex couples. As best as I can understand it, the controversy is over whether the new law will protect the rights of the couple, or the rights of the two people who are in the couple. Or perhaps it’s the rights of the two people as members of the couple versus the rights of the people as individuals. See? I told you.

Then there is the case of the expansion of the American military base in Vicenza, which has been approved by the government despite widespread, and bipartisan, local opposition. The majority in the Senate presented a motion to have a debate on something about this, but then opposition presented a counter-motion to “approve the decision of the government,” and the motion of the opposition passed. Even though they are a minority, but they voted formally in favor of the majority, though it was to spite them…

Anyways, it’s not wonder that the New York Times has not been talking about Italian politics for a while. Unlike me, they try to write about things that their readers actually care to read. (Even though, for some reason, Maureen Dowd is still writing in the Op-Ed page.)

Until yesterday, that is, when Veronica Lario, wife of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, sent a letter to the editor of Rupubblica, one of the top two Italian newspapers. In the letter, she complains about Silvio flirting with women at an award cerimony for certain TV prizes, sort of the Italian Emmys. The letter was published in the first page, and, as can be imagined, it was widely commented about. In his typical mix of personal, public, and political, Berlusconi wrote a public reply (in which he apologizes and proclaims his eternal love for his wife) that circulated through the press office of Forza Italia (the political party he founded and leads).

Now, this is the stuff that the New York Times likes to write about. Among various cheap shots, the article has the following most insightful quote from Beppe Severgnini:

[Berlusconi] embodies the Italian dream of being everything, of pleasing everyone (and indulging himself in everything), without giving up anything.

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