Today, Christine has local politics on her mind, and after reading her post, I can easily imagine the tension that creeps up at the supermarket, at school, at the cafe, or on the street when everyone in a small town has been made to feel like they needed to pick sides. Jets or Sharks? Crips or Bloods? North or South? Donkey or Elephant? As she mentions next door, this kind of contentious politics is new to the area, and unfortunately, it seems to be the beginning of a wave that might take a long time to recede.
I wish I had more knowledge about how our local politics works here in Bologna, but I’m going to need a bit more time to figure that one out. National Italian politics, as you might have heard, is populated by a colorful cast of characters, chief among them, the infamous Silvio Berlusconi, ex-Prime Minister, who was quoted all over the place last summer saying that since he was being convicted for tax fraud here in Italy, his next career move would be running for State office in New York. Move over Cuomo.
Italy was understandably a little bored by his two successors who concentrated more on economic policy (yawn) than on the “boom boom” parties that Berlusconi favored, so last month, the country decided to spice things back up by naming their youngest ever Prime Minister, 39-year-old Matteo Renzi. Never mind that the ex-Mayor of Florence had never been elected to Parliament or held any other national position, he’s very charming and comes armed with uncommonly straightforward messages, espousing the need for radical change in Italy’s notoriously bureaucratic government. Not only that, he’s even got his own snazzy website. With an economy that’s 2+ years into recession and dealing with unemployment close to 50% for people under 30, it seems like this old world population might actually be ready for the kind of transformation he’s promising. And as if all this weren’t exciting enough, he’s also a dead ringer for Marcello Mastroianni in La Dolce Vita! It’s as if Fellini, himself, had handpicked the guy to play the smooth talking Prime Minister. Let’s hope he’s as effective in his role as Marcello was in his.