Friday, December 7, 2007

Pasta and Politics?

I know. You're thinking, "What does pasta have to do with politics?" Well nothing unless, of course, you are one of the many who suspect that our president has linguini for brains.
However, it was last night's delicious baked cannelloni dinner, prepared by my roommate Gianni, that brought my roommates and I together around the table for what turned into a very insightful (and heated) discussion about American vs. Italian politics/society.

I am the first to admit that I am in no way "top of the class" when it comes to political debate, especially debate in a foreign language! But last night was a rare chance for two completely different cultures to unanimously agree on one thing:

The grass isn't green on either side of the fence.

For example, America has Bush, Treviso has Gentilini. He is no longer the official mayor of Treviso because has has already served the maximum of two consecutive terms, but he still maintains shared control of the city with the new mayor, Gobbo. Gentilini is part of the Lega Nord political party, whose major platform is to create greater autonomy in this area of Italy. I have been told that Gentilini has made huge strides to preserve the beauty of the city and keep it safe, but here is a taste of his stance on homosexuality:

In August of 2007, as a result of meetings between homosexuals that was particularly widespread near the Treviso hospital, Gentilini made a number of statements, including wanting to give "...city policemen the right to carry out ethnic cleansing against the faggots...here in Treviso, faggots and things like that don't have a chance." After strong criticism, he then stated: "I've got nothing against gays, lesbians and prostitutes. Everyone is the master of his or her own body. But I'm not going to put up with these amorous exhibitions in the province of Treviso. Ethnic cleansing means tabula rasa." (from Wikipedia)

To even the playing field, here is one of our President's ingenious Bushisms:

"The question is, who ought to make that decision? The Congress or the commanders? And as you know, my position is clear -- I'm a commander guy." --George W. Bush


Last night's topics changed course at about the same tempo as the uncorking of wine bottles...frequently. When we reached the subject of the Italian labor market, my roommates became visibly disturbed. They are disillusioned, mainly because the few jobs available here are given on the basis of who you know. Apparently merit gets you nowhere, which is why there are many young college-educated professionals working as waiters and baristas. To explain the way in which young Italians get (or more frequently don't get) jobs, we did a little role playing at the dinner table. I was the prospective employee, Gianni a prospective employer. His first three interview questions were:

How old are you?
Are you married?
Do you have the intention to have children soon?

I was flabbergasted. None of these questions are even close to being legal in the American system. Of course not all Italian employers are this way, but there seem to be no clear parameters for hiring and firing. Also, negotiating salary prior to accepting the job is considered rude.

The War and oil (not extra virgin), Bush and Osama...we agreed, disagreed and drank until the late hours. It was exactly the kind of eye opening experience I hoped I'd experience in Italy.

1 comment:

gianni said...

it's late for write to you...but i'm still awake..perphaps...
i just have finished to read your post...i'm happy for our talkin' about some important things...and i'm happy for your feelings about italian experience.