This past March I visited Italy & Sicily for a family vacation. My father is a civilian employee for the military, living near Pisa. The first thing that struck me about this visit was the difference in the graffiti outside of the small army base, Camp Darby, from two years earlier. The writings have turned from the ubiquitous championing & taunting calcio (soccer) graffiti to a pointed response to U.S. involvement in Iraq & the Middle East. They read "US = A$$A$INA," "Buck Fush" (hey! that ones international, I guess), "Yankee go home," "Berluska caga verde," (Burlusconi shits on the Green Party), "Guerra alla guerra del petrolio," (War to the war on oil), "Bush Terrorista... Diserta" & my personal favorite, "Bush e maiale" (Bush is a pig). Judging from the tags, I was expecting to find a more hostile attitude toward me as an American, but was not treated any differently than another tourist, at least as far as I could tell. Granted, I didnt hang out with any hardcore activists; I was too busy eating gelato, buying bootleg CDs with titles like "Super Dance Hits 2004!," & meeting relatives I never knew I had for my 10 days there to really know what the political political climate was really like. I did however get to talk to a few people casually about Bush & the War. Most people seemed politically aware; many houses & apartment buildings were adorned with pace flags. The people that I spoke with were anti-war/Bush & were very kind about talking to me about it.
A Sicilian man told me, "I think that not very many Americans want Bush to be president again." This sentiment echoes the way some Italians view their own president, Berlusconi. "Ahhh, he was just voted in because he is the richest man in Italy," one woman said, "people just saw that and thought that he was the right person to vote for." The countrys richest man & president, Berlusconi also controls the main networks of Italy, & as such makes the choice to downplay the political activity organized & carried out. Stories of marches in Rome & the Tuscany region are reported days after they take place, if at all.
Shortly after returning to Portland, I heard that al-Queda issued a statement demanding that countries of the European Union remove their troops from the Middle East. Italy was the first country singled out to do so, under the threat of an attack. Im sure that the people will have something to say.
The Destiny Church Christian groups "Enough is Enough" rally at Parliament was supposed to be about persuading MPs to end the supposed heresy of the Civil Union Bill. (The proposed new Bill creates an alternative to marriage for both straight & gay couples, giving effect to the rights of civil union & de facto couples across other laws.)
Maybe half the Destiny crowd were Maori.
The biggest welcome was saved for Destinys founding pastor, Brian Tamaki, who still declares he will not stand for Parliament. Whilst only having been in the country for a week, I think I can safely say that I can judge this to be a good thing.
"The cornerstone of any nation is family," Mr. Tamaki preached, dressed spiffily in a designer three-quarter-length jacket & blingy, thick gold bracelet. "And the cornerstone of any family is marriage. You cannot touch what God has ordained. You cannot touch the sanctity of marriage."
The protest began with a special Destiny haka from a 300-strong kapa haka group, many of them children wearing only their black-T-shirt uniform in the bitter Wellington cold.
As a South African, intimately acquainted with the phenomenon that is rugby, I have seen those tongue-mad Kiwis in action. Theyre a scary bunch. Whats even more terrifying though, than seeing the haka performed on a rugby field is the haka performed by a group of fundamentalist Christians.
Pastor Tamaki offered to help Prime Minister Helen Clark draw up a "healthy family policy" an invite that she later resisted, given that Tamaki had described the prevalence of women leaders in New Zealand as "the work of the devil".
The Christians were dressed in black shirts. Of course its attention grabbing. Thats why those Salem-girls were always decked out in it.
While the black shirts may be attention-grabbing, they allow opponents to cubbyhole it as having fascist overtones.
The congregation fell short of its 10,000 target, but amassing 5,000 or so supporters was still a triumph of organization.
Well, look at it this way: at least 5,000 made the effort. Good for them. You have to stand up for what you believe in, right? The other expected 5,000 saw the light. So to speak.
In light of these recent developments, the churchs political offshoot, Destiny New Zealand, has catapulted itself from anonymity onto the wider publics political radar screens. And they would thereby like to give their heartfelt thanks to all those nice gay & lesbian boys & girls for giving them the opportunity to reach out & touch someone.
On public television.
Did you ever have the pleasure (?) of Corsos company? He had this high-pitched whiney Brooklyn squeal of a voice, a joke really, but thats what he had. He used it to comic effect. Gins is reading before several hundred poetry fans & suddenly from the audience comes this voice asking, "Allen?"
Gins stops, looks out into the audience & sez, "Yes, Gregory?"
"Allen, did we ever get it on?"
"No Gregory, we never did."
"Yeah, thats what I thought but I couldnt remember. But we shared that chick, right."
"Yes, we did." And then the reading proceeds. He was great at puncturing sanctity balloons. He was always telling me that I could get anything I wanted if I knew how to ask. One day were at this garden cocktail party. Were sitting on a bench drinking red wine & Gregory sez, "Now check it out. See that rich bitch over dere, watch dis." He signals to some social x-ray patroness of the arts & she comes over. After the briefest exchange Gregory sez, "Now dis here red wine, it leaves an awful stain, doesnt it."
X-ray sez, "Oh, its impossible to get out."
Gregory takes his glass & pours an ample amount on his white pants, rubs it in while the X is shitting her silk knicks & sez, "Oh jeez, these pants will never come clean. Say, could you give me twenty bucks?" She, gasping, reaches for her purse & hands over a Jackson.
George W. Bush,
Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, & so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country & our people, & neither do we. Q