Who are the posterity of yesterday’s xenophobes and racists? That would be me, and you, and those who read and write at Salon, the AJC, and Black Planet. All people alive today who cherish and live within their own cultures and propagate their own distinctive genes do so for one exclusive reason: their forefathers were racists and xenophobes. They resisted invasion, assimilation, and amalgamation. They were intolerant of and utterly opposed to the syncretic mush of diversity.
Those who were passive to the encroachments of others, or worse yet welcoming, are no longer present to offer opinions on the outcome. Their cultures having been razed to accommodate those more aggressive and numerous. Their discrete genetic endowment now cast into a larger sea: subsumed and forgotten.
In short, the extreme, the racist, and the intolerant can be described more succinctly as…the living. And some faint glimmer of this realization seems to be slowly waking the West from its opium dream. Here’s one such story from Italy, from where so many xenophobes fought and died at Venice and Lepanto.
Rome (AFP) – “Why do they have to be taken care of? It’s me that needs taking care of!”
Like many of Italy’s poor, 51-year-old Elvio has had enough. And the unemployed construction worker thinks he knows who to blame.
Born and raised in a rundown suburb of Rome where residents last week laid violent siege to a holding centre for asylum seekers, Elvio belongs to a strata of Italian society whose frustration is beginning to boil over after years of falling incomes, employment and hope.
And with the country struggling to cope with an influx of tens of thousands of migrants fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, that anger increasingly has a focus.
“Even God has abandoned us,” said Elvio, leaning on a bar in Tor Sapienza, a district on the eastern edge of Rome.
With numerous abandoned properties, some of which have been squatted by illegal immigrants, the “quartiere” has certainly seen better days.
The number of non-Italians living here is higher than in other parts of the capital.
Yet it is worlds away from the bleak housing estates that dot the peripheries of cities like Paris or London and, to outsiders, last week’s eruption of anger could easily appear rooted in ugly xenophobia.
“I’m not racist, but…” has become a recurring refrain as people like Elvio vent widely-held beliefs that immigrants get special treatment from the state and are responsible for increasing crime.
“We are the poorest neighbourhood of Rome but we have so many of them,” Elvio said.
“We are told they are Eritreans, but the war in Eritrea (a former Italian colony) has been finished for a long time.
“They hang around in groups in the park in the evenings. They make a noise, they make a mess and they leave beer bottles all over the place. And there have been robberies.”
As Elvio tells it, the violence erupted after a local girl reported having been subjected to an attempted rape.
“They didn’t speak Italian. We don’t know who they were, who knows?” he said.
What is known is that a building housing around 50 migrants was pelted with stones, flares and other missiles for three consecutive nights. Windows were smashed, rubbish bins set ablaze and there were pitched battles with riot police that became sufficiently serious for the city authorities to order the removal of teenagers from the centre.
There was also some evidence of the local protest being hijacked by far right groups with references to “Il Duce” – as Italy’s former dictator Benito Mussolini styled himself – featuring alongside overtly racist and anti-Islamic chants.
A prominent member of the fast-rising, anti-immigrant Northern League was one of the first politicians on the scene.
“Yes I’m racist if saying Italians should come first makes me that. I know they are fleeing from war but is it up to us to look after them? There are too many of them. “At school I pay for everything, even the toilet paper. They pay nothing.”
Local pharmacist Salvatore says the migrants are easy scapegoats.
“They come and buy stuff from me and I have never had a problem,” he said. [The merchant’s eternal logic: burn the city to the ground as long as you buy the matches from me.]
Alessia Armini, who coordinates the municipal service that deals with the asylum-seekers, agrees.
“We have been made scapegoats for the problems of a neighbourhood in decline,” she says, recalling how, at the height of last week’s troubles, the terrified residents of the centre had to barricade themselves in for fear the building would be overrun by the mob.
“It was very scary for the younger ones in particular. Yes, there were moments of panic.”
Though insufficient panic to induce returning to their place of origin, I note. That may come to change. For the preamble “I’m not a racist but” is politesse. It means, “Nothing personal friend, but you’re in the wrong place. Italy is for the Italians.”
Unfortunately for all, the migrants and those who import them are willfully deaf to these thusfar polite reminders from the increasingly agitated populations they transparently intend to replace.
I’m starting to believe I may actually live to see those terms of etiquette replaced with more direct guidance from the legacy populations: “Get out. Now.” Those who take this stance today will be able to rest gently in their graves, smiling secure in the knowledge that their posterity will live to one day complain of xenophobia.
And perhaps the creation of a habitat safe enough for his children to be fools is the best a man can achieve in one life.