Tuesday, July 16, 2013


I write tonight as a resident of a country in which a senator who has held ministerial office can make a disgraceful sexist and racist remark and, seemingly, get away with it. As a lover of Italy, this saddens me. 

Most of you will by now have read or heard that Lega Nord Senator Roberto Calderoli, who served as Minister for Legislative Simplification [quite what he simplified I am not sure] in the last Berlusconi Cabinet, insulted the current Integration Minister, Cécile Kyenge, on Sunday by saying that when he saw photos of her he "couldn't help thinking of an orangutan".  He also said that, although Cécile Kyenge had done well to become a minister, she should carry out this role in her own country [a reference to Miss Kyenge's Congolese origin].

To be fair, expressions of outrage quickly followed from all sides of the political spectrum and from all sectors of Italian society:  The PD [Democratic Party] has called for Mr Calderoli's resignation, President Napolitano has expressed his indignation and Prime Minister Letta has spoken of the bad press that Italy is receiving all over the world because of this episode.  Mr Letta has not called for Mr Calderoli's resignation but, in a strongly-worded statement, has urged Lega Nord Federal Secretary Roberto Maroni to "close this page quickly" - that is, to put an end to such racial slurs from members of his party. Meanwhile, petitions calling for Mr Calderoli's resignation are circulating on facebook and twitter. All this has caused Mr Calderoli to issue an apology, in which he said that the remark had been a joke, born out of his love for animals.

Miss Kyenge said today that it is not her place to call for Mr Calderoli's resignation but that she would ask people to reflect on the role of those who hold public office.

I would pose another question: disliking our politicians is one thing and disagreeing with them is a democratic right. However, being ashamed of them, time and time again, is quite another matter. What are you going to do about it, Italy?


Lee said...

I'm ashamed of so many of our own politicians down here! I think they're all tarred with a similar brush...worldwide.

Where are the leaders today? There doesn't seem to be any who deserve our respect...as far as I can tell, anyway.

Rowena said...

I was aware of this mess but didn't really investigate all the details, and then my husband came home and told me all about it. You're the first blogger I know of to post about it though, and the orangutan remark just makes me see beyond red. Mr. Calderoli, lover of animals, you are a JACKASS!

Whispering Walls said...

Julia Gillard, Diane Abbott, Cecile Kyenge - they all have to put up with crass male colleagues.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Yes, indeed, Lee - where are they? Hi, Rowena. It was outrageous, wasn't it? Couldn't agree more. Hi, WW. Yes, they do and what a sad comment that is on our times.

James Higham said...

W-e-e-e-l-l-l, perhaps, as a politician, she should just develop a thicker skin [and there is no pun intended there - I mean become less offended].

If I worried about all the horrible things said about me, I'd be a nervous wreck.

James Higham said...

Julia Gillard, Diane Abbott, Cecile Kyenge - they all have to put up with crass male colleagues.

The last one I know not of. The first two are known to be appalling.

By the way, you forgot Cecile Duflot as a put upon lady. There was a big issue over her. :)

Jenny Woolf said...

She comes out as dignified and impressive, he looks like a boor. Does this matter? I confess I am quite ignorant about Italian politics, generally, and it has always been a mystery to me how they can elect such bad politicians there. I presume it's something to do with the way their system is organised. Perhaps you could do a post about it sometime, Pat?

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Race, James, is something that we cannot change and no one should be targeted for it. Whether Gillard and Abbott are appalling or not is a matter of opinion and nothing to do with it. They should be challenged on their politica and not on their sex or race. Cécile Duflot has the right to wear what she likes.
Hi, Jenny, It's partly the system because Italy is largely about who, rather than what, you know. Also people will vote for the candidate they feel "safe" with - even Berlusconi!


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