On September 25, the same day New Yorkers finished celebrating the 10-day San Gennaro Festival in the city’s Little Italy, the Italians, elected the country’s farthest-right government since the fall of Mussolini.
For the past 96 years, the festival, which attracts over a million people each year, has been organized by New York’s Italian-American community. Over four million Italians immigrated to the US between 1880 and 1920, with hundreds of thousands settling in New York City alone, making Italian-Americans the largest ethnic group in the New York metro area.
It’s ironic, therefore, that in Italy Giorgia Meloni was elected mainly by rallying against two political boogeymen — the “obscure bureaucrats” of the European Community in Brussels and undocumented immigrants. It is clear that the progressive movement was not capable of taking advantage of the current immigration crisis to reaffirm and remind their electors about the value of solidarity and the importance of denouncing selfishness, egoism, and individualism. Do you think the Italians in Italy know about their historical exodus to the US a century ago? How many documentaries in Italian have been made about this historical period?
Italians-American have had an influence on everything in the US, from cuisine to the arts to sports to politics. Today, opportunities for other cultures to contribute to American life are being thwarted. Instead, thousands of asylum seekers coming from Central and South America are being bused from the border states to so-called “sanctuary” cities like New York by right-wing governors, not for their benefit but just to earn political points. NYC Mayor Eric Adams’ dispassionate statement on the crisis reveals his deep discomfort with the issue and highlights his unpreparedness to address this humanitarian disaster. It’s difficult to imagine, but, as in the past with Italians, New York’s future depends on what will happen to this new wave of immigrants from Central and South America.
In fact, right-wingers are taking advantage of the dehumanized political identity of the Left in the West. In Italy and in New York, the Left should seize this opportunity to redefine immigration and the meaning of solidarity. They should remind people of the Golden Rule, shared by most of the world’s religions, to treat others as you want to be treated.
As Colombian president Gustavo Petro said in his historic UN address on September 20, “You observe that people are filling up with hunger and thirst and migrating by the millions towards the north, towards where the water is; then you enclose them, build walls, deploy machine guns, and shoot at them. You expel them as if they were not human beings. You reproduce five times the mentality of those who politically created the gas chambers and the concentration camps, you reproduce on a planetary scale 1933.”
Italians on Sunday got a step closer to exposing their deep contradiction. Forgetting about their own history will have dear consequences for the generations to come.