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Why Vote. Italian Elections Through a half-Italian/American’s Eyes

Why Vote. Italian Elections Through a half-Italian/American’s Eyes

Jerry Krase (April 5, 2008)

Why it is important for Italians in America as well as Italian-Americans to vote in the Italian elections. What Italy can do for them and those who are not even Italian.


                I was born in the U.S. of A., as was my Sicilian-American mother. Both of her parents were born on the Plain of the Albanians (Piana Degli Albanesi) near Palermo, perhaps in Corleone before it became so popular with writers and filmmakers.

Yet despite decades of my own activities in support of Italian and Italian American causes, it would be extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, for me to obtain Italian citizenship. Therefore I have not been asked to vote, but merely to give my opinion as to “Why Others Vote?” 

               They have been asked: “So, what? What can be the meaning of voting to be represented in a country far away? Is the voting process of any help to become ‘more Italian’? Is there is any link between my Italian Heritage and my Italian Vote? … The question "why to vote?" has a deeper meaning than the simple extension of basic Civil Rights to the Italian community living abroad. It explores indeed the relations between an individual and the idea of belonging to the Italian community, and goes beyond the Italian citizenship.”

The perplexed Ibero-Jewish philosopher, Moses Maimonides, said that God could only be spoken of in negatives; God is not this and not that. Therefore, I have applied that logic to my own non-ethnicity. I am a non-Italian. Being only half-Sicilian, to many I am a non-Italian-American as well. Despite this deficiency, I have not had much experience with the government and politics of Italy. For example, many years ago my friend, Victor Tesoro (Founder and Editor of the Italian Quarterly) and I, were treated to dinner on Arthur Avenue in Belmont, The Bronx by a delegation from the Italian Right who had come to urge Italians in America to go home and vote for them. If I remember correctly, it was Gianfranco Fini and the Alleanza Nazionale who footed the bill at Roberto’s Restaurant. Another instance of not paying for things provided by Italian politicians trolling for votes stateside was a Federation of Italian American Organizations dinner sponsored by the Christian Democrats. Despite my lack of ethnic qualifications, I was on the Board of the American Italian Coalition of Organizations. Fellow AMICO Board Member, Michael Pesce (now a New York State Justice of the Supreme Court) and I divided the left over spoils of the dinner. I took home a Christian Democratic Party of Italy flag (white shield with red cross; LIBERTAS emblazoned across it).
Then there was the time I said “hello” to Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s brother when I was visiting the Sociology Department at the University of Trento. The most significant direct contact I had with the Italian government was also in Italy while on a Rector’s fellowship at the University of Rome La Sapienza. My hosts asked me to read a report and comment on the possibility of employing the “Giuliani Plan” (il Modello Giuliani). I then was invited to a committee meeting on security in Rome for the upcoming millennium at the lower house of the Italian Parliament  (Camera degli Deputati). A particular concern was the presence of non-Italians such as undocumented (clandestini) and other aliens (stranieri) in the city who it was felt might pose a threat. I urged them not to emulate Rudy because under him, NYC’s police-minority community relations had reached an all time low, and was not, in my opinion, an advisable strategy.
I have also had the distinct pleasure over the decades of shaking the numerous hands of Directors of Italian Cultural Institutes, Italian Consuls, and Consuls Generals at Italian and Italian-American events around the country as I represented the American Italian Historical Association in various official capacities. The Italian government has been exceptionally kind and generous in helping to fund our annual conferences and publications. In fact I might say that if it wasn’t for the interest in Italian America by Italians (here and abroad) and the Italian government there would not be much interest in the subject by non-Italians at all.
Voting is a precious right and extending it to Italians abroad without their having to travel to Italy was an even more precious gift. I have consistently argued that people should vote in order to elect people who best represent their interests. This is just as true for single as for dual-Italian citizens in America. Even if the favored candidates of Italians in America do not win, voting indicates the voters’ potential influence. Non-voting also increased the likelihood that they will be ignored in future. Win or lose, voting counts and the biggest losers are non-voters who complain about being ignored. Please make sure that when you vote, you make it clear that you want the Italian government to continue, perhaps even increase, its support for things Italian-American (non-Italians and non-Italian American ((mezzo-Italo-americani))as well).

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