No school today in the tradition of Columbus Day, which of late, teeters on the brink of political correctness. As an Italian-American, I have mixed feelings…some which have roused the ire of the powerful purists and some which bring base humanity back into non-denominational focus. Sum it all up with “Awareness”.
As half Southern Italian from the paternal side, roots are said to go back to the area of Basilicata, (previously known as Lucania), an ancient area, seemingly in many ways forgotten by time. This was the premise of Carlo Levi who wrote the tale, adapted to film, Cristo si è fermato ad Eboli.
Levi, a Jew and brilliant doctor, writer, artist, vehemently anti-fascist, had been banished by the Mussolini government to an abandoned Southern Italy where lack of economic means created division no one cared to cross–coincidentally the area of my paternal heritage.
I tried to watch the film amid the desolation of rock homes hewn into cliffsides. Simple, uneducated people day by day existing, trying to make ends meet in a primitive environment of merely copying what ancestors had done before without regard for reason or change. I watched until an elderly villager skinned a goat, “live”…and then as I felt a surge of emotion…I had to stop.
The realization that I partially arose from this society overwhelmed me. How could I, with tears welling up inside, have connections to the level of ignorance that would inflict such pain on another living being albeit an animal?
More thought into this scenario gently whispered answers of development, progress, knowledge as precursors of Awareness and Spirit. I, who emotionally connect with storm and tragedy because of personal experience throughout a life of learning, understand the suffering actions can cause. Receiving suffering connects us to share in the pain of all those who have come before, as we continue to shape understanding and awareness. It is no longer actions which are relegated to “them” but indeed, it is and has been “us“. And with this knowledge, we have the mandate to bring voice to those without, because we are all “One”.
Levi didn’t just find ignorance in the people of Lucania. He found simple, hospitable folk who welcomed him despite his being ostracized by those in power, with wealth, and social status, those whose views and actions eviscerated people, not goats.
The truth about history exists in the perspective of the tale. Many school textbooks approved for students indoctrinate minds about the glories of winning with little reference to the devastation of losing. The obvious dilemma remains in the many valid ways of how the story should be told…and by whom. By merely exalting the winner, we ignore the pain and trials of the loser whose life and story are equally as significant. By praising only the champion athletes of our school teams, we minimize the roles of all those others whose participation mattered. And as time continues, it becomes more and more significant to realize what our parents admonished, “It’s not about winning or losing, but how you play the game.”
So as people imagine their ascent to power, (and indeed it is only temporarily imagined), they must also remember from where they came and extend a hand rather than a kick to those who struggle to seek a better life.