Whenever the husband and I complain about the current administration of the United States, friends who know about our dream to move to Italy are incredulous, saying, “But what about the Italian government? How can you complain about the US government when Italy’s is so much worse?” We usually shrug it off, but if they’re really adamant, we explain it thusly.
For the most part, the people of the United States believe what their government tells them. This is because, for the most part, the US government is worthy of such belief. (Calm down, I said for the most part.) We’ve got a tradition in the US of a government that’s accountable for its actions, partly because the press is watching them and partly because of the way our system of government works.
In Italy, on the other hand, it is almost a given that politicians are corrupt. Scandals involving politicians, past and present, are nothing surprising to Italians – it’s what they expect. This is a country which has had nearly 40 prime ministers since World War II, because every time one of them does something even remotely questionable there is a vote of no confidence and a new guy is elected.
The difference, at least to me, is that in Italy the corruption is well-known and well-documented. Italians don’t necessarily trust their government, and with good reason. In the US right now, we’re still trying to operate under the old system of believing what the government tells us, while they’re lying through their teeth. It’s one thing to be lied to, but it’s another thing when you don’t expect it. At least Italians are getting what they expect. As Rick Steves noted recently in a blog post, “many politicians are corrupt, enriching themselves with their power. When some Romans vote, they actually slip a slice of salami into their paper ballot, check the box, and say, ‘Eat this, too.'” Defiance with a sense of humor – fabulous.
(And yes, in case you were still wondering, I’m a Democrat.)
Photo by: Aneeka Patel