American politics, especially President Obama, sparks a curiosity among Italians and leads them to ask question after question.
Local Milanese will ask, “Who did you vote for?” while prompting your answer with a quick “Obama?” even before you had the chance to open your mouth.
You cannot flip through the World section in the daily newspapers without an accompanying picture of President Obama to every story having anything to do with the United States.
I have spent morning after morning explaining American politics to an ever-so-eager coffee shop owner as he continues to point to his postcard of President Obama with the red, white and blue flag flying in the background.
In my Italian classes at IU, I had briefly learned how messy Italian politics are, but never before had I grasped what that meant.
My eyes were recently opened to the reality of foreign politics.
While living in the American bubble, it is hard to understand the struggle that other countries and citizens of those countries face. Not only to Americans is Italy one of the most confusing government entities to understand, but most Italians themselves will tell you of its complications.
On my weekend getaway, I unknowingly walked into a situation that forced me to realize these complications and the fight that many citizens here are willing to be a part of.
I traveled to the coast for a concert. A local who is the drummer for one of the bands that would be playing had invited me. We walked into the event – stage set, microphones on, band ready to play.
The music began. I danced along with the two other American girls I had traveled with. We danced and sang along to the foreign words coming from the speakers.
As we danced, certain Italian words became clear to me – americana, sciopero, rosso, communista. Stopping, I looked around and saw things I had not been paying attention to before.
Red banners flew in the air, “Down with Berlusconi” posters marked the entrance to the event, and the Italian communist party flag hung as a piece of art displayed along with other communist symbols.
What does it mean? What does it stand for? I have never felt so completely confused, so completely innocent and naive to the world and everything in it.
Embarrassed, I asked Daly D’Amico, a 17-year-old Italian citizen I had met at the event, what all of this meant to her.
“It means everyone is equal,” she said.
She explained the current situation of the Italian government, which had been explained to her by her father, also a Communist.
This is what I now understand. Silvio Berlusconi is Italy’s current prime minister, but he is also the longest-serving prime minister that Italy has had. He has been in power three separate occasions beginning in 1994.
This year, he founded People of Freedom, a center-right party. He also owns many broadcast and news magazines, which together amount to more than half of Italian media.
Berlusconi’s political uprising was quick and surrounded by much controversy. This is controversy that causes the Italian Communist Party to protest against the current Italian government.
D’Amico left the concert by telling me, “This is what I believe in. You believe in change in the United States. That’s what I want here, too.”