October 12, 2007

Expat call to arms

Sunday, October 14 is your day to enter Italian politics. The Partito Democratico is holding its primary and you can vote if you are resident. You do not have to be a member of the party.

If you live in Rome, in the areas of Parioli, Pinciano, Salaria or Trieste, you can even vote for the "lista Partecipazione, Territorio e Solidarietà con Veltroni per Zingaretti." One of the six list members is my friend and fellow American long-term resident abroad (expat), Rebecca Spitzmiller.

How did she get involved in local politics? She had made a political name for herself a few years ago by campaigning for toilet paper and soap in her son's middle school and later for "dog-poop free sidewalks" -- complete with posters and fliers. Her name came up in a meeting to help bring in votes from the local foreign community and she accepted the challenge

Last Saturday I stopped by to visit and accompanied her to the first electoral campaign activity in a local piazza. The scheduled meeting time was 5:00. It was raining and the piazza was already occupied by another organization, S. Egidio. "Why", we wondered out loud, "hadn't someone checked that the piazza was free?" At 5:20 she finally got a fellow candidate on the phone who said, "We are deciding what to do because of the rain." Ten minutes later, two of the other candidates strolled in with a carload of fliers -- but they decided not to set anything up due to the rain, "People don't appreciate being approached with fliers when they are carrying umbrellas."
Rebecca collected a pack of fliers for a sunny day and we all exchanged good-byes.

The Italian democratic process in action -- a bit disorganized, but flexible. For the first time there is even a list made up of immigrants and citizens of Chinese origin supporting the candidate Piergiorgio Gawronski in the electoral college (collegio) for the Prenestino area of Rome. Marco Wong, the list spokesman, says, "The intent is to demonstrate that the foreign community is interested in contributing positively to Italian society; they are not just a separate enclave."

If the Chinese can participate in the democratic process in Italy, why can't we? The excuse, "I can't understand anything about Italian politics" is really not a very good one, especially if you live here.

So, jump in there, ask around, figure it out, and, if you would like some things to change, even vote!

a domani,


Anonymous said...

toilet paper and soap in her son's middle school and later for "dog-poop free sidewalks"
She's got my vote!!!
I think the political system here could use a foriegner's eyes and viewpoint, it could help "fix" the many issues.

Elizabeth said...

I guess she is in!
Yeah for Veltroni.
She tells a great story about her first campaign meeting -- lots of "blablabla" with no content until she stood up and said, "I'm American, I need some straight talking."
They all loved it!