Friday, April 25, 2008

Today is April 25th

Today is April 25th. So what? Well, it's a national holiday in Italy. What does it commemorate? The liberation in Italy in World War II. So what happened on that day to mark the liberation of the Italians? The taking of Milan by the partisans (the Resistance).This naturally implies that Italy was (unwillingly) under the subjection of Germany and that it was then self-liberated by Italians.

The interpretation is so ingrained in the country that I myself had not noticed it until my father, a career American Army officer who was drafted right after Pearl Harbor, pointed out its fallacy. Its glaring fallacy. Italy was a willing ally of Germany and there was a vast consensus for Mussolini. The Resistance started up in earnest after the Allies' debarking in Sicily in 1944, followed shortly by D-Day in France. I do not call it principle when you jump on the bandwagon. I call it opportunism, which is the opposite of principle.

Further, the claim to having liberated Italy was hijacked by the then Communists. This is also not a historical fact, as the Resistance, such as it was, was not merely composed of Communists. There were also Catholics and others. While I do not think the Resistance was a myth as some maintain, I know that it did not liberate Italy (or France), and that the vast majority of Italians went along with the Fascists. They turned against Mussolini viciously because he lost, not because they thought he was wrong. He was summarily executed on April 28th, and his body and the body of his lover Claretta Petacci were strung up by the feet at a gas station in Piazzale Loreto (above), in Milan, where the corpses were jeered at and vilified by the people.

This reminds me of the often-quoted saying of Santayana, that those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. In this case, they never perceived the facts correctly in the first place. It's hard for me not to connect the present sorry state of Italy to this ongoing, fundamental distortion. But then, there is no word in Italian for "insight."