Reaction in Italy soothing as I wonder when sun will rise again
The first reaction came at 8:37 Wednesday morning here in Rome. My best friend, Alessandro, a journalist for the Italian wire service ANSA, had been all over me this year about my many anti-Trump rants. He kept telling me — in two languages — to stop worrying about it. He will not win. I am wasting energy.
Then he wrote, moments after the world as we knew it collapsed, “We all were wrong … I can’t believe Trump won. Anyway, you are Italian now … so try not to think about it.”
When you’re retired in Rome, you don’t have many bad days. Mine usually consist of not getting enough foam in my cappuccino or getting in a fight with my landlady. Stress and anger left my life when I left America nearly three years ago. But for one horrific 12-hour stretch over Tuesday and Wednesday, I was in the middle of a country I no longer knew. I was trying to ward off a right-wing mob scene’s maniacal fervor made up of uneducated, fascist, sexist and racist Americans from towns I’ve never heard of and now never want to visit.
Donald Trump’s election was the worst day of my life since 9-11. However, I have one advantage over my fellow Democrats weeping in each others’ arms: I live in Italy where I’ve yet to meet a person who thinks Trump is anything more than the gatekeeper in Dante’s “Inferno.” I am in no danger of getting in a bar fight this week. I received enough pats on the back to get me through the last 24 hours. Italians know what I’m going through.
They lived with Silver Berlusconi, Donald Trump without the bankruptcies, for nine years.
Tuesday started out so well. For three months I was hoping to attend an election returns watch party. I wanted to stay up until dawn celebrating with my fellow American expats. Rome’s chapter of DemsAbroad finally announced a watch part at the Roadhouse, a steakhouse near my apartment. However, they wanted 30 euros with a cash bar. The high cost was due to rent after hours and security in case some local Isis chapter thought a steakhouse full of captive, giddy Americans would make a good target. The cost convinced me to stay home alone and have my own party. With voting returns starting at 11 p.m. Central European Time, all my expat friends were doing the same.
I looked at this not as an election but a coronation. I thought Trump’s chances of beating Hillary Clinton were similar to Chattanooga’s against Alabama next weekend. I saw Nate Silver, the Nostradamus of American elections, gave Clinton a 6-point advantage — and that was before the FBI announced it found no wrongdoing in her “evil” emails.
So late Tuesday afternoon I pulled the couch in front of my small TV, cooked a steak and, for my first time in Rome, drank a glass of wine by myself. I already felt like celebrating. Then, slowly, like a deadly virus of unknown origin, I dissolved into despair, disbelief and acute illness.
When Trump won the first few states, I remained calm. American elections have nearly always gone according to plan. Some states are as predictably right and left wing as the sun rising and falling. I poured another glass of wine.
Then came the battleground states. Florida. Ohio. Pennsylvania. North Carolina. The maps on CNN filled with Republican red. No problem, I was told. CNN’s John King said returns from the liberal urban centers are still to come. And they did. However, so did more votes from the backwoods hamlets. Trump had to run the table on every battleground state and he was doing it.
Hillary Clinton was losing.
Then, before CNN declared Trump the winner of any key state, I received a distressful message from Colorado. My good friend and ex-newspaper colleague, Adrian Dater, wrote, “Trump is winning, and he will win. Unreal.”
Huh? A little early, don’t you think? I wrote.
An hour later, at 2:57 a.m. Rome time, Dater wrote, “MSNBC is saying Trump will win.” Eight minutes later: “Trump will win. Even Chuck Todd says so.”
I stopped messaging. I merely watched CNN, my jaw agape, watching Florida, North Carolina and Ohio turn as red as my face was getting. I couldn’t take it anymore. Clinton was leading Pennsylvania but King said she also needed another Republican state to pull it off. I went to bed at 3:45 a.m. wondering what world I’d wake up to.
I only slept two hours. I turned on the TV to find Trump six points from the needed 270 — and Clinton had punted Pennsylvania. It was over. Donald Trump, a man running on a racist platform and who believes in guns but not global warming, will be our new president.
I wrote my first text to my girlfriend, Marina: “LEI HA PERSO!” (SHE LOST!).
“Non ci posso credere” (I can’t believe it.),” she wrote.
“E’ vero. (It’s true.),” I said.
“Un incubo. (A nightmare),” she replied.
Later came a phone call from Robert, my Italian-Australian friend. “America is stupid,” he said.
“Tell me about it,” I said before launching into a long diatribe about growing racism and fascism in the U.S. I went into a speechless funk. I spent the day walking around like an extra in a zombie movie, not speaking, moving very slowly with my eyes wide open as if I’d just seen a meteorite vaporize a small planet. In a way, I had.
On the subway last night to see Marina I saw Mariangela, an Italian friend. I barely acknowledged her existence. I looked at her with a frown that must’ve scared some gypsies on board.
“Che cosa? (What?)” she asked.
I said nothing.
“L’elezione?” she said. “Mi dispiace. (I’m sorry.)”
The Italians are shocked but not traumatized as I am. Marina’s friend sent her a satirical message:
“Dear President Trump, Compliments for the Election. We Italians are the (only) nation in the world (to understand) what will happen in America in the next 20 years, because we have gia avut (already had) a president (Berlusconi) with strange hairs, a lot of sons, many money to spend, a (large) passion for the women, Putin’s friendness. For this motive, remember us when you will attack the Europe because ospit (we host) arabian people, and please don’t bombard Italy, that we have gia abbastanz (already enough) problems between terremot (earthquakes), Big Brother Vip, Moda (reality TV shows), maltemp (bad weather) and allenator (coach) of Inter (Milan). Kisses.”
This morning I walked by my local newsstand and saw the headlines screaming from the newspapers hanging on the facade:
Il Manifesto: “American Psycho.”
Il Messaggero: “Cambia tutto, c’e’ Trump” (Everything changes, there is Trump).
La Stampa: “Rivoluzione Trump.”
Others were even more negative. L’Espresso wrote that America first “invented globalization and now has retired behind its own borders, frightened at what it had created.” It called Trump, “a billionaire of dubious public morals, tax evader, liar, xenophobe and racist … Donald Trump will hold in his hand the suitcase with the nuclear codes, and along with it the destiny of the United States and a large slice of the planet.”
In Il Messaggero, Rome’s main newspaper, Italian Foreign Ministry undersecretary Benedetto Della Vedova said Trump’s “isolationist policies” might isolate Europe, “at a time in which we will be called on to play a crucial role for democracy, tolerance, multilateralism and international trade.”
Italy, however, does have a Trump element. Beppe Grillo, the founder of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, wrote on his blog, “It is those who dare, the obstinate, the barbarians who will take the world forward. We are the barbarians! The real idiots, populists and demagogues are the journalists and the establishment intellectuals.”
The far-left Il Manifesto blamed the Democratic Party which, it said, “has long ceased to consider the workers their electoral base, and helped to make it weak and subordinate to their organizations.” La Stampa wrote, “Meanwhile, the rest of the world has to digest what happened in the night just passed: the people of the revolt is knocking at our doors.”
Myself, I Unfriended my first Facebook friend at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. I unfriended my second, a buddy I’ve known since junior high, later that afternoon. I found myself engaged in a vicious Facebook war with a woman I never knew until Trump’s victory put venom in everyone’s words. I apparently wrote some things I should regret. I don’t know. I don’t recall any. I’ve been in a blind rage since 3 o’clock Wednesday morning.
I’ll eventually return to the living. The nice thing about living in Rome is no matter how depressed you get, you always have dinner to look forward to. The words and hugs from my beautiful Marina put a smile back on my face. Also, the dollar has not gone the way of the Greek drachma and the market actually had a bit of a spike.
But financial experts say trouble is ahead and I’m worried about more than my stock portfolio, which all of us retired expats depend on to survive. I’m worried about another war, inside and outside America’s borders. I’m worried about a total recall of the environmental gains Pres. Obama made against global warming the last eight years. I’m worried, as a journalist, about my own free speech after the onion-skinned Trump warned of tweaking the First Amendment to protect public figures.
I’m not alone. I’ve had a dozen friends in the U.S. ask if they can move in with me. They’re asking about jobs in Italy. So instead of choosing what bridge across the street looks the best to leap from, I should be thankful. I live in Italy. I’m happy in Italy. I don’t live in the U.S.
And Donald Trump and the Republican Party gave me a very good reason never to move back.
Deborah Payne Maske
November 10, 2016 @ 7:25 am
Dear John – Karon shared your blog with me & I’ve been enjoying it for several years. I’m sorry it’s taken this disaster for me to reach out to you. You are so correct in saying Trump’s election is the greatest calamity to befall our country since 9/11. God (or who or whatever) help us all.
November 11, 2016 @ 12:19 am
My God, is this Debbie Payne from South Eugene High? Did you mean Karon Stirling? My old Karon? Really? I had no idea she read me. I feel for you. I’m just so glad I grew up in a town as liberal as Eugene where we believed in helping others, that we’re all equal and that there’s more ways of thinking than the American way of thinking. I’m thankful to my parents for teaching me to treat everyone the same, that only circumstances make us different. I’m shocked that such wide swaths of America have become so wrapped up in the American flag they can’t see past their own scruffy county line. I’m inundated by people asking how they can live in Italy. I tell them all to get out. It’s going to get ugly. And it’s wonderful to live in a country with like-thinking people, who value food, wine, spare time and family more than making money and inflicting their way of life onto others. I’ll never leave here.
So what have you been doing the last, oh, 40 years? What every happened to Karon? Drop me a line sometime. I’m at Johnhenrome@gmail.com.
November 10, 2016 @ 8:36 am
I felt exactly the same when I lived in Rome years ago and more recently here in Brexitland.
Don’t feel ashamed, it happens (it is happening) all over the world. It is not of a much consolation, I know.
November 11, 2016 @ 12:13 am
Thanks for the note, Elisabetta. Some Trumpeteers wrote me saying all this doomsday talk about the stock market crashing was said about Brexit, too. Huh? The pound lost 33 percent of its value. These people who voted in the most unqualified president in our nation’s history are complete, 100 percent morons.
November 10, 2016 @ 8:43 am
Another shocked American in Rome. I’m here for the year. Spent most of yesterday being angry with people I don’t know on Facebook.
Right there with you on the whole zombie thing.
November 10, 2016 @ 8:44 am
As usual, your article was well written. As I am trying to calm down, I have done the following: I have a draft age son of 20 which I am insisting that he gets his passport sooner, rather than later. I have lowered the price of my house so I can get to Italy quickly. I have like the worse realtor in the world. He won’t let me out of my contract grrrr. I, too, have unfriended some people. I’ve read that Florida is a “sleaze magnet.” It is also a magnet for racists. I think it was last Saturday that I spent a little time with an old boyfriend (originally from California) who actually STILL claims that Obama is from Kenya and that he thinks every white person should “own a black person”. I seriously do not think he was kidding. Told him to go to hell and he – yes – voted for Trump. In this area – Tampa Bay – we see many, many Mexicans. Probably quite a few are here illegally. They, for the most part, are VERY hard working and take care of their families. They are sweet, polite and respect people. I am NOT a praying person but I do hope that Trump surrounds himself with clear thinking, intelligent people to guide him. I find myself suddenly hating the presidential veto powers and the fact that he will have the nuclear codes. Sure, I will be out of the country, like you, BUT I will still have 2 sons living in the U.S. ANYWAY, I am getting ready for my yard sale on Saturday where I am selling everything except my doggie 🙂 LOL . Keep writing and keep us informed of what is going on over there !!!
November 11, 2016 @ 12:02 am
Charlene, that was a great email. I’m so sorry your realtor is such a dick. But you’re doing the right thing. Get out of there. I woke up angry yesterday but as I walked around Rome doing errands, I was surrounded by like-thinking people who said they were sorry and went on with their daily lives. None of them looked forward to deporting an entire race. All my friends consoled me and asked what the hell is wrong with the American people. I know but I don’t have to worry about it, living here. However, I do worry. I care about my country and the people who live in it. And I hate to see this guy get away with the policies he was elected on. Hillary supporters tell me, “We lost. Get over it. Let’s get behind this guy.” VAFFANCULO! I’m not going to support him. I’m not going to unite with Trump backers. If he can raise the average salary of the middle class, improve the stock market more than it already has been and get a better national insurance policy, fine. I’ll applaud him. But until then, I hope he fails with his wall, his deportation plan, his attack on the First Amendment and … and … there are just too many things. Good luck. Let me know if you need any help.
November 10, 2016 @ 9:36 am
Gee – what a ridiculous overreaction. The president is not a king.
November 10, 2016 @ 10:58 am
You are right – the president of the United States is BIGGER than any king!
November 10, 2016 @ 10:59 am
If you look at the REAL winner it was Hillary. The popular vote reveals the truth. THE real problem is the Electoral College. IT is obsolete. I am glad I live in Europe because things are going to get ugly in the USA. I remember ’68 -cities will burn and innocent people will be hurt. My heart weeps for my country.
November 11, 2016 @ 12:11 am
Doria, I totally agree. It’s a bit more comforting to live here now, isn’t it? But I do feel for people who have to work alongside others who voted for whom I think will be the worst president in our nation’s history. Oh, I can imagine the line forming at the ISIS recruiting window as I write this.
November 10, 2016 @ 3:20 pm
John, I totally feel your pain and shock. Myself, my kids, my family…we are all so numb and reeling, shaking our heads in disbelief and hoping to make our world come back into rational focus. Big money, little minds and fear created the outcome of this election and created a bigger rift in the American people then any tectonic plate could. The first thing I thought about was moving to another country. Seriously. Right now, I am embarrassed to be an American because of *trump and all those who elected him. These next four years are going to be very challenging for me and all those who didn’t want trump in office. It will be challenging to not let the same fear that drove this election, to consume us and make us hate. Yes, I’m b-e-y-o-n-d furious, that he will be our next president and those emotions will come and go BUT… I will not allow hate to stay and permeate my being, my life. It is what it is and I can not do anything to change that. What I can do though, is continue to support those people, organizations and events, that foster equality in all men, women and children, here in America and around the world. There’s a great quote “What you resist, persists”. For me that means, feel what you feel, when the anger or frustration about someone or something comes up, do what you can but then let it go. If you don’t, those negative thoughts and feelings consume your life and suddenly, you don’t think about the good that is all around you. I don’t want that to happen. I won’t let it happen because then, I would be just like trump and his trump-eteers.
Take care John and as always, it’s great to read your articles 🙂
*when he respects all, he will earn my respect. Until then…no capital t.
November 11, 2016 @ 12:08 am
Thanks for the great email, Cari. I feel for you. I feel for all my fellow Americans — except for the hate-filled Trump supporters who really want to make America great. Yeah, take it back to the 1930s. I’ve taken your philosophy. Yes, I hate what happened but don’t let Trump and his mob affect the way I feel about others. Granted, it’s easier here in Rome. I’m surrounded by liberal, kind people who don’t want to kill everyone who’s not like them. There’s a reason Italy has a tolerant immigration policy. It’s because Italians are tolerant people. Sure, there is an anti-immigration strain here. You can find racism — but it’s mostly confined to soccer stadiums. It’s been almost three years and I have yet to meet an Italian racist. My landlady said Americans are selfish and got what we deserved but she’s bat-shit crazy. (Never rent from a woman who can’t get a date.) Anyway, thanks for the note. Consider moving to Honduras full time. Why not? Soon the U.S. will become just as violent. (Can I post your email on my Facebook page?)
November 15, 2016 @ 8:30 pm
Hey John. Thanks for your kind and empathetic words. It’s always great to hear from you and read your articles. And yes, you can post my email on your Facebook page but please post this too. I’m feeling a little more centered and wanted to add these thoughts.
I commented earlier that I was embarrassed to be an American right now and seriously wanted to move out of the country. I felt like that briefly but not really in my heart. I’m definitely staying in the US. That may change but not because of this election or what happens in the future. If I bail because of that, then I’m letting fear run my life and what kind of life would that be? I think this whole election, start to finish, was fueled by fearful people, on all sides of the spectrum. And continues.
Real fear is a gift, in a life and death situation. Imagined fear is a thief. It robs us of so many things. Feeling connected, valued and hopeful. It takes away confidence and possibilities. It adds barriers and beliefs that help feed it and we have no clue, that each and every one of us, are the ones keeping it alive.
The dictionary says fear is the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or a threat. All of us were and are, still being fed by the political factions and each other, the belief that the opponents are dangerous, will cause pain and are a real threat to America and all it holds sacred. Propaganda and opinions, at best. I remember when Obama was running, the conservative consensus was that if he got elected, he would take away our rights and destroy America. Sounds like a drama queen to me. 🙂 Yet, it’s what a lot of people think about trump. Will he really destroy America? I think we’re given him wayyy too much credit. Yeah, he may f it up but then again, the bushes, got us into two wars in the middle east. I think that’s pretty f’d up and we still survived. If he doesn’t instigate a nuclear war or another American Civil war, then we will persevere. I’m sickened by trumps behavior and beliefs, don’t get me wrong and don’t get me started. I just want to be the person that I wish trump and his trump-eteers were and being angry, fearful and hate filled, isn’t it.
Un po' di pepe
November 11, 2016 @ 2:21 am
I still can’t believe Trump won. Let’s make America grade 8 again. He’s a pagliaccio like Berlusconi. I live in Canada, but I do have lots of friends across the border and they are all in shock. I almost feel bad saying this…….but I really enjoyed reading your post! The message from Marina’s friend almost made me pee myself! My friend in Boston ( she’s Canadian) is really overraught. I will send her his link so she can at least have a laugh about it. Mannaggia l’America! Ciao, Cristina
November 12, 2016 @ 2:38 am
Thanks so much for the kind note, Cristina. The note from Marina’s friend has been circulating around Italy all week. I howled, too. I had to include it. My anger has lessened after walking around the lovely city of Rome and surrounding myself with like-minded people such as the Romans and fellow expats. In nearly three years living here, I’ve never met a Roman who liked Trump, voted for Berlusconi or hated black people. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live in America and working next to Republicans high fiving each other. Che cosa un incubo!
November 11, 2016 @ 9:37 am
Dear John Thank you so much for your powerful, truthful, painful, and insightful post about the debacle called the US election. You spoke to my very broken heart. I actually have been meaning to write to you since September when I read your equally excellent post regarding Colin Kaepernick. I thought “Ahhhh, an ally who understands!”. Let me explain.
My name is Patti DeRosa. I am a 59 year old white woman, both Italian and American (gloriously a dual citizen), born and raised in NY and lived in Boston since the 80s. I moved to Firenze a little over a year ago, and like you, I have no interest or desire to return to the United States to live. I adore my life here and am so grateful every day for the privilege of my dual citizenship. Here in Firenze, I work as a musician, as a singer-songwriter-guitarist performing at cafes, restaurants, and bars. However, my “main” job, that which has been my life’s work, is as an educator/activist focusing on racial justice (as well as other equity issues.).This work calls me back to the US two-three times/year for 2-4 weeks at a time. You can learn more about it at http://www.changeworksconsulting.org Several of my articles that you may find interesting are posted there. As for my music, you can visit: http://www.pattiderosa.com
I am totally distraught at the election of Trump and the values he represents and which seem to have painfully resonated with so many white people (that 96% of Trump voters were white is no accident That tells us their concerns were much deeper than just economic). Like you, I stayed up all night, have barely slept for days, have engaged in bitter FB battles, and have unfriended and unfollowed. After the results came in, I took a long walk around the city, marveling again at the Duomo and the Palazzo Vecchio and sitting along the Arno in the sun, just to remind myself that there was still beauty in the world.
I have to say that though the election night result was a surprise in the moment, as it looked like Hillary had it in the bag, I was sadly not totally shocked that he triumphed. I had been saying since the start that he could do it, Most folks laughed me off, both here and in the States. After studying and teaching about US racism and doing workshops, classes, and community meetings in every part of the country for 30 years, I knew better. I had heard and seen too much, I knew how deep racism/white privilege/white supremacy ran in America’s core, eating it alive and corroding its soul. I tell folks abroad all the time – anytime there is something in the US that does not make sense, no matter what the surface issue appears to be, peel back the onion far enough and sooner or later you will smell the stench of racism at the core. It is sadly written into the very DNA of the nation from its very founding.
I was so pleased to come across your blog. As you have been living here in Italy much longer than I, I am wondering if you might have any suggestions for me for learning more about racism and social justice here, as well as any activist groups and anti-racism organizations that are working against discrimination and challenging the anti-immigrant backlash? I am also wondering about schools: multicultural curriculum, social group patterns of who is achieving and who is not, how teachers are reflecting on their own biases regarding immigrant children and families, patterns between the North and South, how safe are schools for LGBT kids and families, what is in place to help immigrant children and families who are just learning Italian, what about gender patterns, etc. So much for me to learn….especially with my limited language skills!!
My own observations, as well as conversations with African American friends living here, seem to confirm your own: Though I have certainly seen and heard expressions of very blatant personal prejudice and racial/ethnic stereotypes, there is less evidence of the kind of structural/institutional racism that infects every aspect of life as it does in the States. As a Black friend here put it “Here the cops can sometimes be a nuisance. But in the States, I have to worry that they will not just hassle me, but wonder if they incarcerate or even kill me”.
I know what you mean when you said that you do not need to worry about getting into a barroom fight here. I find that is true on so many issues, be it health care, guns, education, human needs, foreign policy…..Basic things that would be cause for an argument among too many Americans are not much of a concern here where there is a more communal value system of what is needed for a loving, caring, and compassionate society.
I return to Boston for two weeks in December to again work with teachers about issues of equity, diversity, and achievement in schools.I know feelings will be raw and exposed, including my own. Already we have the reports of many many students being harassed, threatened, intimidated, and assaulted – right in their schools! – because of their race, their culture, their religion, their sexual orientation, their disability, all done with the name of Trump on their lips or written in graffiti. And this is just a few days into this nightmare….We will have much to talk about and process together….
I have to stop now….the tears that have been flowing for days are returning. But as you said, at least living here, there is always dinner to look forward to! Tonight I will meet with dear friends, make music, laugh, eat, and drink wine and feel the joy of the living.
When you have time, I very much look forward to hearing from you, learning from you, and reading more of your posts. In peace and solidarity, con abbracci Patti
November 17, 2016 @ 12:59 am
Buongiorno, Pati. Sorry I took so long to reply. I usually wait until I have quality time to write a respectable response to a good, intelligent email. That’s why I take 30 seconds to give some chortling, right-wing racist Republican some impossible sexual advice for the evening. I’ve now defriended enough “friends” to fill a Nazi war room, which is an appropriate analogy. My own recovery has been trying to wean my way off Facebook. I’ve punted most people I never knew were card-carrying fascists but occasionally some rogue friend of a friend writes in some blatantly racist response to one of my contacts’ left-wing emails. Then I start engaging in a message war no one can win. It’s my way of venting. Sadly, it helps.
To answer your question about organizations and schools, I don’t have any. I’ve never heard of any in Rome. I have no children and I’ve never addressed the issue with friends here who have them. I hang with a very liberal crowd in Rome and have never heard of an organization that fights racism. Maybe they don’t need them here. As I wrote, the biggest signs of racism are at Lazio soccer games. It’s a shame as throwing bananas at black players paints Italy as a racist country. It isn’t. I’ve never even seen the African beggars in my neighborhood get harassed. In fact, they sometimes make more money than I do freelancing. Maybe I should stand next to them with a sign reading, “I’LL WRITE FOR FOOD.” But I will ask my friends and at my Meetup groups.
You definitely have a worthy calling in life. I can’t think of anything more rewarding — and, possibly, frustrating — than fighting racism. But how do you change someone’s views handed down to them by generations of ignorance? The best way is through exposure. I’ve never met a racist who travels a lot, especially to third world countries. Did you know only 10 percent of the American population has passports? And that doubled only after Canada and Mexico started requiring them. Rednecks like to go to all-inclusives in Mexico. A perfect redneck vacation: all-you-can-drink tequila on a Mexican beach without ever having to meet a Mexican. I think if every American had spent at least six months overseas, we never would’ve invaded Iraq. Bush made everyone so terrified of all Muslims, his decision to invade wasn’t met with much resistance. Where the hell were Vietnam activists when we needed them?
It’s interesting you’re doing that work in Boston. I was a sportswriter for 40 years and did lots of stories about racism in sports, particularly on Jackie Robinson Day when I covered baseball. Many black major leagues said they had more problems in northern major league cities such as Boston than they did in small Southern towns in the minor leagues. How bad is it now? It’s strange as Massachusetts is so liberal. I don’t think Trump even bothered campaigning in Massachusetts. Yet I hear there are some families who don’t associate with others that weren’t descendants of those who came over on the Mayflower. That might be an urban legend. I certainly hope so.
That’s a very impressive resume you have. It’s an even more impressive list of articles. I read part of your journey toward white awareness and you are definitely a kindred spirit. I grew up in Eugene, Ore., a town so liberal the Black Panthers used it as a base, merely because we welcomed them with open arms. We were the first town to start farmers markets. We were the first state to decriminalize marijuana. My whole family was just to the left of Gandhi. This was in a town that was about 99 percent white. However, the 1 percent minority were all middle-class blacks. They all played sports and as an athlete my entire youth, I knew all of them. My two best friends were black twins down the street and their father, a lumber company executive, was our first baseball coach. Hell, in Eugene, I didn’t know blacks were poor until I started taking social studies classes in junior high.
Then the ’68 Olympics came about and my junior high spent a whole week talking about John Carlos’ and Tommy Smith’s raised first protest. I don’t remember any student or teacher at my school condemning them. What they did was launch discussions about why they did it. We studied. We understood. We agreed. They did the right thing. That was the background that pushed me to write about Colin Kaepernick, another black athlete who made a peaceful but very powerful protest that made America talk. Unfortunately, the talk was so overwhelmingly negative, looking back I should’ve seen that as foreshadowing of what would happen on Nov. 8.
Ironically, I will be giving a talk in April in Toledo about racism and sports. It’s ironic because the man organizing it is that former black baseball teammate. He left a long medical career to become a medical professor at the University of Toledo and is doing a series of discussions about inequality in sports. He follows my blog and surprised me with the invitation. I’ll discuss the Mexico City Olympics, my thoughts on Kaepernick and why I think the U.S. is more racist than blacks even think. Why? Because I hear what is being said behind their backs.
Such as women I’ve dated who said they’d never date a black man. Why? Oh, well, um, I’m just not attracted to them. Huh? You’re not attractive to an entire race? Denzel Washington isn’t attractive? I’m hopelessly heterosexual but I can tell Denzel Washington is a good-looking guy. Or they say, well, I don’t want to risk having mixed race children. What are you talking about? Maybe he just wants to go out for a beer. It’s a deal breaker for me. I drop them like a hot skillet. Or fans in sports bars telling me black quarterbacks don’t win championships. They forget Doug Williams in the ’88 Super Bowl or Florida State’s Jameis Winston, Auburn’s Cam Newton, Texas’ Vince Young. Then the “N” word I heard dropped all over the Mississippi State campus in 2004 when I came down to do a story on Sylvester Croom, the first black football coach in the SEC.
So what made you move to Italy? Like you, when I walked out my door following the election and surrounded myself with like-minded Italians, I realize the world won’t end. Not just yet anyway. Trump doesn’t take office until January. Keep in touch. I’d like to hear what discoveries you’ve made. I’m at Johnhenrome@gmail.com.
November 15, 2016 @ 1:24 pm
I’m a stranger in a strange land. The rancid underbelly of US politics had now given us: propaganda in the place of journalism, a woefully ignorant public and a cold war in Washington.
November 16, 2016 @ 12:14 am
Is this THE Hammer? Donnie! I had no idea you read my blog! Thanks for the kind words. I’m a little shocked at how many Phi Psis voted for Trump. Hap. I’m sure Hosfield. Gowdy. How the hell did they get through four years in Eugene being such fascists? So how’ve you been? What’ve you been doing the last, oh, 30 years? Life in Rome is fantastic, particularly now when I’m away from the madness in America. Hap and his wife visited me over the summer. I put down one ground rule: No politics. And we didn’t discuss them. So he and his wife sat on my terrace with my girlfriend and I and had a grand time. Drop me a line at email@example.com sometime. So how are those Cheesemakers doing these days?