Italy before Italy
Italy has been a united country since 1861.
Until that year, the italian peninsula was divided into states, kingdoms, cities, and ruled also by 'foreign' powers, such as Spain and the late Austrian Empire. We didn't have a common language, either: less than 10% of the population in the 1800 knew and could speak italian. 75% of us could not read nor write. To communicate, the soon to be italians used dialects or regional languages, sometimes spoken in just a few square kilometers in a remote mountain region in the center of the peninsula, or on an island. We were, in fact, so divided that even now we still live by traditions, cultures, languages that instantly change when we cross the border between two regions, or even two villages. We had to go through 3 wars of independence (Risorgimento) - 1848, which failed, but set the milestone for a common feeling of wanting to be, finally, one united country; 1859, with the well-known figure of Giuseppe Garibaldi who, with his legendary mille, succeded in uniting the country, south to north; 1862, which took 10 years to resolve - and 2 World Wars to finally see Italy as one Country. The 1848 uprisings, though a failure, were so fierce and so deeply felt by the population that, even now, we say 'è successo un quarantotto' to indicate something sudden and chaotic, but decisive for finding a solution to a problem.
We had to wait until 1946 to choose the Republic as our form of government, one more year to finally have a Constitution. The referendum of June, 2nd, 1946 came after years of political turmoil in Italy: the fascist regime had been defeated, but the King had run from the peninsula and then abdicated to his son. Italy was completely destroyed, both phisycally and morally. Anti-fascist parties and movements strongly wanted new elections, both for choosing the form of government and to elect the assemblea costituente, the Assembly that had the difficult but vital role of writing the new Constitution of the country.
The referendum was a success: 89% of those eligible to vote went to the polling station, like never again in italian history. It was also the first time women could vote in a national election, and they did: 12.9 million women went to vote, and even the Church looked favourably at this modern innovation. At the local elections, two women became mayor: Ada Natali and Ninetta Bartoli.
The italians chose: the Republic won over the Monarchy 54% to 46%. We have to point out, though, that italians showed their non-union in the polling station as well: in the south, Monarchy won, whereas in the north the population voted for the republic.
The italian republic was born. Soon after, the Constituent Assembly went deep into work, and on december, 27th, 1947, italians had their new Constitution, signed by Enrico de Nicola, first President of the Italian Republic.
Italian history has not been easy since then. The 50s and 60s were the decades of the economic boom, unions and strikes. The 70s and early 80s, the so called anni di piombo, saw terrorism, daily killings and huge and terrific massacres. Hundreds died, including politicians, trade unionsts, journalists and military men. Civilians were also a target - the terroristic attack of piazza Fontana, piazza della Loggia, Italicus and stazione di Bologna, among others. Italian politics was divided into the two main parties, Democrazia Cristiana (whose leader, Aldo Moro, was kidnapped and killed by the terroristic group Brigate Rosse in 1978) and Partito Comunista Italiano. The lenght of the peninsula was broken economically into the rich and propsperous northern regions (the triangolo industriale of Turin, Milan and Genoa) and the poor south, where youngster and even whole families run from to seek a job that would allow them to live a decent life. The questione meridionale, that governments and states had tried to solve way before the unification of the Country, is unfortunately still an issue in modern Italy, though the situation is better than it was 40 years ago.
Today's situation is not fully positive in terms of unity: there still are separatist factions (as in Sardinia, my island), differences in the levels of economic growth, education and jobs. Immigration from african and middle-eastern countries, devastated by wars and famine, underlines racism and sharpens anti-migration policies. The new decree ratifying the opening of the Country after the pandemic is creating policies of closure even towards italians, intensifying old and stupid habits of inner racism.
Doesn't look like unity is winning, these days.
But we were all Italians, after the Second World War, when 70.000 children from the tormented mezzogiorno boarded trains directed North, where families hosted them and gave them food, clothes, the possibility to go to school. We were all saved in those treni della felicità.
But we were all Italians in 1966, when the river Arno in Florence flooded the city. Thousands of people run to the city from all over the Country to help save the huge and priceless artistic heritage. Even if not knee-deep in the mud, we were all angeli del fango.
But we were all Italians, in Cinisi, that 9th of May 1978, when the body of political activist Peppino Impastato was found, killed by the mafia he wanted to fight. And we still are, Italian, when we shout MCR's song, I cento passi.
But we were all Italians in San Giuliano di Puglia, L'Aquila, Finale Emilia, Amatrice, Norcia, where the disastrous earthquakes killed people and destroyed cities. We donated money, food, livestock, we volunteered ourselves to help those in need, without asking nothing in return.
But we were all Italians, this year, when the pandemic hit, and we went grocery-shopping for our neighbors, we stayed home to avoid the spreading of the Virus, we donated money to the Protezione Civile, we helped those we could help and called for help for those we couldn't.
Our President, Sergio Mattarella, in his message to the Nation, said:
"c'e qualcosa che viene prima della politica che segna il suo limite. [...] l'unità morale, la condivisione di un unico destino, il sentirsi responsabili l'uno dell'altro. Una generazione con l'altra. Un territorio con l'altro. Un ambiente sociale con l'altro. Tutti parte di una stessa storia. Di uno stesso popolo."
>> "there is something more important than politics, something that marks its boundaries. [...] the moral unity, the sharing of a sole destiny, the feeling of being responsible to one another. One generation to the other. One place to the other. One social environment to the other. All part of the same history. Of the same people."
So, let us be Italians, today and in the future, recalling all the things that united us in the past. And yes, let us be Italians also when the Nazionale plays, because there has never been anything as strong as football when it comes to uniting the Country.
Buona Festa della Repubblica!
We are now witnessing to the protests and riots happing in the United States and all over the world after the killing of George Floyd.
June is also Pride Month.
On this note, I would like to quote articles 2 and 3 of the Italian Constitution, hoping that these fundamental principles of our Republic will be used both in my Country and all over the world.
The Republic recognises and guarantees the inviolable rights of the person, both as an individual and in the social groups where human personality is expressed. The Republic expects that the fundamental duties of political, economic and social solidarity be fulfilled.
All citizens have equal social dignity and are equal before the law, without distinction of sex, race, language, religion, political opinion, personal and social conditions. It is the duty of the Republic to remove those obstacles of an economic or social nature which constrain the freedom and equality of citizens, thereby impeding the full development of the human person and the effective participation of all workers in the political, economic and social organisation of the country.