God save us all – literally – from a day when crucifixes can’t be displayed in Italian classrooms. The battle rages in Europe, where the European Court of Human Rights declared in a ruling late last year that the sight of crucifixes would disturb non-Christian students in state-run schools, which should be religious-neutral environments. Europe’s highest court made the ruling in a 2002 case brought by a Finnish woman who was outraged that her children had to look at crucifixes in their Italian classrooms. The decision is supposed to be binding on the 47 members of the Council of Europe, including Italy. However, at least a quarter of the member nations, such as Greece, Malta, Lithuania, Cyprus and San Marino have lined up with Italy. A hearing on the matter was held by the Court’s Grand Chamber last month and a final decision is not expected till the fall.
It may be Italy’s cross to bear this time but at what point do nation’s stop cowering to every outsider’s demand for political correctness or elimination of any cultural identity to the point of extremes. Must we lose ourselves, along with sovereign identity, in an Orwellian globalization of life without passion. It is our very adherence to culture and tradition which fills our soul and ripens the historic DNA within each of us. Shall we vaporize any reference to our past so that all that is left for the future is a society of automatons?
Catholicism is to Italy what Judaism is to Israel. That is not to say that everyone in Italy is Catholic, nor that everyone in Israel is Jewish but these are two countries where religious symbolism is intrinsic to the culture and traditions of its people. If the Finnish woman didn’t like Italy’s culture, heritage and customs, then she should have stayed in Finland. I feel as strongly about this as about the “Spanglization” of America. Why must we, as Americans, lose our identity and our language to immigrants who flock here for the “American” way of life? My immigrant grandparents were forced to assimilate, accommodate and learn the ways of their new country. It was a choice they made. Not once did they ever expect their new country to be culture-neutral or adhere to Italian customs and traditions. They forged a new life with new traditions.
George Orwell predicted this sad state of affairs more than 60 years ago and when I read his “1984” novel in high school I could not imagine that our world would ever become such a sanitized system of sameness. “We shall squeeze you empty and then we shall fill you with ourselves,” Orwell declared. Sadly, I don’t think Orwell, himself could have ever imagined that the crucifix, such an iconic symbol of Christianity, would be removed from Italy in the shadow of the Vatican.
To put it bluntly, if Berlusconi and the Italian leaders had any coglioni, they would withdraw from the Council of Europe and tell them to go suck a cannolli!