13 December, 2009

Violence not an Italian value... unless "Values" in party name

You thought our partisanship had gotten bad? Someone punched Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi in the face today, while he was signing autographs for fans. The year had been pretty bad for Berlusconi; old and new scandals were rocking him, including suggestions of ties to the Mafia, but violence upon him is likely only to re-solidify his popularity among his supporters. (Of course, I've been wrong before.)

Berlusconi is of the Italian right wing party Popolo della libertà, and while "left" and "right" there convey somewhat different meanings than they do in the States, it's not too far off the mark to say that they are the Italian equivalent of the Republican party here. But only a rough equivalent; Italy has a lot of parties and they've changed a lot over the last fifteen years, after the Christian Democracy and Socialist parties were brought down in a series of corruption investigations.

I'm no fan of Berlusconi, and I like to poke fun at him. But I can't really understand how anyone could justify this behavior. Yet the leader of an Italian political party called Italia dei Valori (Italy of Values) has attempted precisely that:

Io non voglio che ci si mai violenza, ma Berlusconi con i suoi comportamenti e il suo menefreghismo istiga alla violenza. Io condivido le rimostranze dei cittadini che ogni giorno vedono un premier che tiene bloccato il Parlamento per fare leggi che servono a lui e soltanto a lui, mentre milioni di cittadini perdono il lavoro e faticano ad arrivare a fine mese.

(I never want violence, but with his behavior and his attitude of I-couldn't-care-less* Berlusconi instigates violence. I share in the protests of citizens who every day see a Prime Minister who ties up Parliament with bills tailor-made for his benefit and his alone, while millions of citizens lose their jobs and struggle to make it to the end of the month.)

*menefreghismo can be read as "irresponsibility" but from the contraction of me ne frego it also conveys an air of not caring.
This is on top of a remark he made a few days prior:
Se il governo continua ad essere sordo ai bisogni dei cittadini, si andrà allo scontro di piazza, e lì ci scapperà l'azione violenta se il governo non si assume la responsabilità di rispondere ai bisogni del Paese.

(If the government continues to play deaf to citizens' needs, the conflict will move to the public squares, and violent action will erupt there if the government does not take up its responsibility to answer the nation's needs.)
Di Pietro is a former prosecutor of government corruption, and helped destroy the old regimes twenty years ago. He is, moreover, a man with a remarkable life story. He has opposed not only Berlusconi, but Italian Socialists and Communists as well, although he's mellowed a little over the years in that regard. His party received a not insignificant percentage of the vote in the last parliamentary election, but his party recently suffered losses in membership, as notable members complained about a shift from "reformist" policy to "antagonist". Many of these members have moved to the Alliance for Italy, believing that violence is not one of the Values they signed up for.

Update: Earlier reports that the assailant struck Berlusconi in the face were mistaken; instead, he launched from extremely close range a metal figurine of the Dome of Milan's Cathedral. The assailant himself appears to be a mentally troubled man with no political affiliation, whose father says they rarely speak of politics, if ever.

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