By Joe Cannavo
Recently, while cleaning the clutter in my office, I came upon a British imported pocket-sized Collins English Gem Dictionary. After skimming through the pages, I noticed that it had an appendix of supplementary materials including tables, figures, charts, detailed technical specs, diagrams, important dates in world history and other materials. On matters of geography highlighted in the appendix, Italy was not mentioned at all. Not being a geography scholar, I can’t comment on whether Italy has some of the highest mountains in the world, longest rivers, deepest lakes, etc. However, I do know my history and to my dismay, on three full pages of important historical event dates, Italy was mentioned only three times. Each mention was of a negative event in Italian history — 1922 Mussolini rises to power, 1936 Italy attacks Ethiopia, 1939 Italy attacks Albania, and 1940 Italy declares war on the United States.
Other than that, there was nothing historically positive at all about Italy. Truth be said, from the days of ancient Rome to modern-day Italy, there were dates far more significant that non-Italos should know about, rather than dates that shed a bad light on Italy during the Mussolini era. Two dates that come to mind are 1861, 1385 years after the fall of Rome, when Italy was reunified as a single nation, and 1946 when Italy voted out the monarchy and became a republic. I highlighted these two dates, but there are others that deserve to be cited in a list of important event dates for all to know.
Which tells me it’s time to get on my “soapbox” and to “preach” again about the mainstream media’s disregard for Italian news and events and add to it that British as well as mainstream American publishing houses tend to ignore Italy or Italian contributions when publishing reference books and world history textbooks.
So as I have written over and over again, if we as Italian Americans really want to know about Italian history, news and events from Italy and the Italian-American community in the United States, we have to depend on our own Italian-American media’s print and broadcasts and research writers whose books genuinely tell a story about the positives and joys of Italian and Italian-American heritage, culture, history and lifestyles.
Today more than ever in my 50-plus years as a writer, broadcaster and teacher of Italian, I am seeing a more concerted effort to rekindle the fl ame of Italian pride and learning of Italian that was extinguished in the 20th century by assimilation, bigotry and World War II. We must not let this renaissance falter, and no other thing can be more damaging to this renaissance than not supporting our mass media, not learning factual and positive events in our history, and not taking advantage of having our children and grandchildren learn Italian through the growing number resources around the Delaware Valley that are available to children and adults alike. Failure to do these things will result in yet another generation lamenting, “I wish my parents had not been ashamed of being Italian” or “I wish my parents had taught me Italian, instead of just speaking to each other when they didn’t want us to understand what was going on.”