I am sorry to have waited this long for one of my customary letters from Bologna; no excuse except having been occupied with politics, teaching, writing, and enjoying — not least eating the lovely Italian food.
As everyone awaits with horror the war the USA is going to make — no matter what — it is good to be able to report that however encouraging the many and large demos in the USA, here in Europe and elsewhere, there has been an enormous and still growing resistance, little reported in the US papers. Just this past week, I received what some others of you may have, via e-mail, namely a 41-page email of photos twice that many demos all over the world: Really made the heart beat. (You can get them by emailing Ralph Johansen.)
Here in Italy, on the big day a while back, there were at least 3 million people in Rome — as there were last March, for a demo against the Berlusconi government's attempts to move toward "a more flexible labor force" (that is, no unions), a demo that brought out many people who were also against today's globalization and tomorrow's war.
The USA, of course, has innumerable military bases all over the globe, not least in Italy. Beginning two weeks ago, a movement took hold to make it difficult for the U.S. to move its military stuff and personnel toward the ports (and to keep cargo planes from taking off, etc.). On March 8, they will seek to close down the largest U.S. base in Italy, at Pisa: Camp Darby. That will put Signor Berlusconi on an even bigger spot than ever.
A month or two ago, Blair already in Bush's left pocket, Berlusconi squeezed himself into the right pocket: He supported Bush with or without UN support. This week, recognizing that a good four-fifths of Italians are against the war, he stepped back, to say it depends upon UN approval. Berlusconi is a modern Mussoslini, in a business suit (e senza stivali — and without boots), but ready at the drop of a black shirt to bring a new fascism to Italy, calling it something else...Paradiso? (See my piece on Fascism with a Happy Face on this web site.)
It seems clear that Bush and his gangsters are going to invade Iraq — having been bombing it steadily now for six months, a process that used to be called "war"; what that will mean is entirely unpredictable, except that it cannot mean anything but one kind or another of chaos and destruction, going well beyond Iraq. Within a month or two from that war's beginning, it is likely that our only ally will be Israel, whose tactics, strategy, and language we mock almost word by word.
As this dreadful scenario unrolls, however, it seems likely that in the USA and many other countries, large and small, there will also continue what may be seen as a re-awakening or first awakening as to just how awful the USA has been in regard to violence and deceit for the past half century abroad and, perhaps, by the people in the USA, at home.
The "at home" has had many dimensions, among the most important of which have been those creating, deepening, and flowing from our several centuries of racism, in its many dimensions. Happily, and interestingly, here in Italy there has been a rapidly growing interest in that, in connection with the rapidly growing need to deal with it here.
In recent years in Italy (and other European countries) racism, never absent, has now become prominent. A positive consequence has been for at least some Italian academics (among others) to believe that they have much that is both negative and positive to learn from the USA, the world's most experienced racist society — and from its attempt to deal with it by, among other means, multicultural studies.
A prof who is in charge of such matters at the University of Bologna, and who has been asked Anna (my wife) to translate the relevant books, has also had me come to speak to his classes — in Italian, which occasion has made for as much amusement as education.
I have given talks on racism and slavery (reproduced — in English! — on this web site). They led to the same for the Amnesty International group here and, next at the University of Urbino (near the Adriatic coast), and at nearby University of Modena (where I now teach).
In Bologna, that has also yielded a connected talk, on the Vietnam war — which was, among others of its sins, a racist war. A prof has decided to show Francis Coppola's Apocalypse Now Redux at a local theater, and has asked me to introduce the film. My introduction is now posted here on the web site.
Anna and I return on April 1 (April Fools' Day: no jokes, please), and our classes resume soon after. (See 2003 Classes on this site, for dates and places). I dislike leaving Italy, but am eager to be back in the States, where I can join what I see as a growing movement. (See "Don't Waste Time Mourning...", a recent addition to this site).
Yours in solidarity,