Paladino: Not Only a Fool, A Disgrace to the Italian Ethic
It may have been naïve of me, but I kept hoping the Sons of Italy, the Italian-American Anti-Defamation League or some such outfit would have spoken up by now on what an embarrassment NY Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino is to the rest of us in his ethnic group. Given our traditional ethic, those outfits are still controlled by men, and most of them the same type of closeted macho men that Paladino is. But when top Rabbis and Archbishops are photographed embracing this fascist candidate, all bets, it seems to me, are off.
Many Italian-Americans of my generation (and, sadly, of our children’s generation as well) have known men just like Carl Paladino: we’ve had uncles, godfathers, or even brothers or husbands just like him. These are the men who would never dream of dropping the F bomb in front of a woman, yet privately they say and email to each other the most disgusting misogynist comments and jokes.
Beyond their fantasy of subservient women, barefoot and pregnant, spending their days longing for the moment when their “Italian stallion” returns to the nest to “light their fires” the Paladinos of the world also dislike and degrade anything or anyone not “just like us.” Blacks, Asians, Latinos, Native Americans – all people of color—are obviously “inferior.” Gays and Lesbians are “unnatural” objects of ridicule and hatred. Even other ethnics—Irish-Americans and Jews, to name just two—can never really be colleagues to the true brand of Paladino bigot
Puzo’s Godfather sums it up this way when he warns his consigliere Tom Hagen that his enemies will move to murder the Godfather by trying to work through someone in his inner circle. Hagen is a likely candidate because, as the Godfather explains, “…you’re Irish.”
Hagen protests that he is not Irish at all, but, in fact, German.
The Godfather nods and clarifies, “To them…that’s Irish!”
The xenophobia of the macho Italo mind is difficult for many outside our circle to understand: it is even difficult for those of us in the circle to understand, but we know it exists because we have been subject to it for generations.
And, I might add, many of us are sick of it and we are even sicker about being defined by men like Paladino, who paints himself as typical of our group in 2010.
Carl Paladino is not the Italian-American we have struggled to become by now. He does not represent the majority of our group who have educated themselves, worked hard, and learned the lessons of brotherhood and sisterhood, equality, tolerance, and the advantages of a homogeneous society based on mutual respect.
While Andrew Cuomo, Paladino’s Democratic opponent, may be an imperfect candidate as well, he does not, at least, carry the generational baggage of bigotry and even flaunt distaste for those unlike himself.
If Italian-Americans continue to allow men like Carl Paladino to define who they are and what they believe, they are sentencing themselves and their progeny to more generations of stereotyping as smarmy fascists with a high tolerance for bigotry, sexism, and hypocrisy,
I, for one, don’t think my forebears came to America and endured all they did to have their children and grandchildren cast in such a disgraceful image.
And I thought it was about time one of us said so, aloud.