Thursday, November 13, 2008

“Il Mondo è cambiato”

So, once again we need to take a step back in time to Summer 2008, when plans for this newlywed year were just beginning to unfold. While the twin prospects of Martello’s job and building a life together on the banks of the Mediterranean were growing more enticing, Trofie Wife was increasingly concerned about missing what was clearly going to be an historic presidential election. “Can we maybe push your re-start day back one week?” Trofie Wife asked. Martello, having a pragmatic moment, intoned that this arrangement likely would not be reasonable to his future employers, as they were already granting him a multi-week leave in order to get hitched. Martello alluded that Trofie Wife was free to stay behind in New York for a week in order to be able to vote (and either celebrate or impale herself). And while she did, in fact, consider it, Trofie Wife realized that it would probably be more prudent to just join Martello at the get-go (especially if the electoral college returns called for impalement; having already fled the country would be a better alternative than a samurai’s death, no matter what the Asian Hum books said).

On Monday, the eve before the election (or rather, back home, the day before it) while having a lovely caffè with the Anglophone girlfriend of one of Martello’s colleagues, we discussed our nervousness in the run-up to the ballot box. We worried for the US, the UK, and the wider world—what would be the consequences of installing a relatively unchanged regime? Continued—and in all likelihood, escalated—warfare? I really did not want to have to apologize for the actions of an American leadership that I vigorously opposed wherever we travelled for the ensuing 11 months (yet I also didn’t want to become one of those Americans who sewed a Maple Leaf onto her backpack; that’s just stupid). In addition, frightening referenda opposing gay marriage and reproductive freedom were also up for grabs, and since the states in question were several time zones away from NYC, news on these ballot issues would not become available for a frustratingly long amount of time. The anxiousness was so potent that by Tuesday I remained shut-in even after siesta, incapable of leaving the house, although returns would likely not start rolling in until 2 a.m. Perhaps if I pressed “refresh” repeatedly on the CNN Web site, the electoral map would change more rapidly! I made it until 4 a.m. (10 p.m. EST, one hour before the close of the California polls), with Martello (soundly asleep throughout my news rampage) having only 3 hours left before his wake-up call. If I just had waited one more hour I would have seen the relieving, remarkable, and exciting (!) news that Barack Obama had been elected President of the United States! But alas… I crashed.

I did wake up around 8:30 a.m. our time as Martello was walking out the door, and I saw the news. (Later that evening we watched The Daily Show’s “Indecision 2008” coverage online. How thrilled was I to be able to relish Jon and Stephen’s take on this amazing event!! I am in great debt to whoever decided not to firewall Comedy Central over in Europe!) I was teary while watching Obama’s victory speech on YouTube (and I somehow missed his words to the kids regarding the acquisition of a puppy, something that apparently Joe Biden was also promised by his wife, should he win; I knew I loved this ticket!). I watched amazing videos of New Yorkers taking to the streets to celebrate and was beyond bummed that I had missed this moment in our history. (Coincidentally, my father was stationed in Italy when JFK was elected to the presidency. I am happy that I am in a technologically better position than he was at the time and at least able to virtually experience the excitement, which I doubt was conveyable via telegram. Perhaps a kid of ours will be in Italia when another groundbreaking individual is elected president and will mock us for not having been able to teleport back to the States for the event way back in 2008 as he/she may be able to do in another few decades!)

So with my patriotically-induced homesickness now subsiding, I decided to turn on our antique television set in order to see what the Italian street was making of our momentous national occasion. Turns out, not much at that point. But while I waited for some news of our event, I watched (and half understood) an interview on bike sharing in Genoa and learned about a large student protest unfolding in the city. (After doing some English-language Googling, I learned, as I shared with some friends and relatives via e-mail, that there are multiple national protests being undertaken by students regarding major funding slashes for higher education throughout Italy; it should be an interesting story to keep an eye on.) That afternoon I also discovered a fabulously trashy Italian talk show! I don’t yet know the name of it, but it’s on all the time. The host is a blond woman with a husky voice. Her show places opposing sides of a domestic conflict on opposite sides of the studio, and while watching each other spill their guts onscreen, they try to work it out (or they just fight; there doesn’t appear to be any chair tossing, though). I will also add that, surprisingly, all the guests, despite their improprieties, are dressed fantastically, not at all in the style of Americans on Maury or Ricki Lake (not that I regularly watch those programs; daytime soaps are as low as I go). While it looks fascinating, and I definitely plan to view again soon, it is, in fact, not a helpful activity for comprehension practice, what with everyone shouting over each other. But I digress… Now back to the election!

So, due to the time difference, none of the November 5 Italian newspapers said anything about the American election, as it had not yet been decided when they went to press. However, on November 6, all the papers ran the Obama victory as their lead story. (In fact, the title of this post is taken from La Repubblica’s headline.) The papers ran multiple stories on the election and Italian opinion thereof. Having stayed up til 4 a.m. on the 4th/5th, I found myself reverting to EST, not a good thing in a country that’s closed from 12:30-3:30 p.m. I managed to rouse myself on November 6 (my birthday!), just in time to buy three papers from the newsstand before the hawker took his lunch break. Il Giornale, La Repubblica, and La Stampa all ran election inserts (think US papers would ever devote so much coverage to most international elections?), and terms such as “obamizatta” were employed, which I’m guessing is akin to Obamania— I’m hoping that one day my Italian will be far enough along so that I can understand more of the articles. In addition, the daily e-mail that I receive from the Italian Jewish community ran several pieces about the great excitement over the election both in Italy and the US, with a particular focus on Jews rallying behind Obama because of their shared “outsider” status. The community also commented on Italian PM Berlusconi’s unfortunate comment that went something like: Obama looks great going into the presidency—he’s well-rested and even has a tan. Now I think (and perhaps Pollyannaishly hope) that the bumbling conservative leader was trying to make a joke and not purposely aiming to speak disrespectfully (read: discriminatorily) of our President-Elect, but either way, he should be experiencing a major case of foot in mouth right about now.

But getting away from pasta-nation punditry and back to American political punditry for a moment, I do have to say that I think the unsung hero in both Obama’s victory and the Democratic gains in the House and Senate is my man Howard Dean (and not just because he was steamrolled away from the nomination in 2004 at the hands of some unfortunate microphones, which led to the uninspiring rise of John Kerry and thus the continued presence of 43 in the White House). No, as my Democracy for America e-mails reminded me, as Democratic Party Chairman, Dean championed the 50 State Strategy, the elegantly simple idea that Democrats should compete for seats at all levels of government in all 50 states, not just in the states long deemed “blue.” Pretty much a “duh,” but also ingenious, since apparently for decades no one thought it was worth attempting. I also would like to register my suggestion that in 2012 or 2016, just for kicks, the networks consider flipping the colors and making Dems Red and the GOP Blue.

With the election outcome now deciphered on both sides of the Atlantic, I spent the rest of my birthday basking in the glow of victory (for Obama and reproductive freedom, yet mourning the unfortunate outcome in the case of homophobic referenda) and e-mailing and Skyping with well wishers. It turns out that I share a compleanno with our landlady, so we swapped wine and cupcakes. When Martello came home, we went out for a great meal just around the corner. All in all, an excellent way to leap into 28! (And so much better than my actual birth date, just a few days after the Reagan Revolution succeeded. Yuck.)

Baci e gelato,

Martello e Trofie Wife

1 comment:

hillel hammerman said...

Sorry about my delay in reading this blog entry and now wishing you the best on your 28th. I knew from convesation with Caren that it was coming up but the date escaped me-I'll remember to do better next year. As for election excitment and feeling like being an "outsider," I'm sure your election night was memorable and different from mine when I drove, at 11:30pm 11/4/08 through Harlem, on my way home.