January 27, 2008

To be or not to be

I just received an invitation to a film event on Tuesday to recognise and celebrate the UN's decision to back the Italian call for a global moratorium on the death penalty.

During my last visit to my parents in Connecticut, I was sitting at the kitchen table, skimming the paper with a mug of American coffee in hand, when I noticed a letter to the editor against the death penalty. I thought about how much discussion goes on in US on the subject with strong forces arguing for and against it regularly in the public arena and the question of its implementation coming up over and over on political agendas. It suddenly hit me that this is a subject Italians never discuss -- it never comes up seriously on political agendas, and not even in the daily batter over your cappuccino at the bar. From the left to the right (excluding the farrrr right, who does raise the issue occasionally, only to have it quickly put in its place) the subject is taboo, the death penalty is not an option. punto e basta.

Catholic culture? Too many skeletons in the closet and hanging from the rafters (the shocking end to Mussolini)? Too many foreign rulers in Italy's past who used the gallows to maintain power? For whatever reason, the cultural roots in terms of values and beliefs are deep on both sides and the gap is wide. It would take a real shift in perspective for one to understand the other. Even those against the death penalty in the US accept that another position exists and that discussion is legitimate. That is the real difference -- here, all agree, across all political lines, that the subject is not even worthy of discussion.

In any case, the good news is that Connecticut is voting to take the death penalty off the books -- it hasn't been applied for over one hundred years anyway.

a domani,

Anyone in Rome that is interested, here is the information.
"In the spirit of collaboration the following organisations will be present: Nessuno Tocchi Caino, Comunita' S. Egidio, the Comitato Sacco e Vanzetti, Americans for Peace and Justice Abroad, the Comitato Paul Rougeau, and others.

There will be a screening of two short documentaries by La7 director Chiara Salvo, exploring the relationships between death row inmates and the Italians who correspond with them, who will be present, followed by an open forum for discussion of the next steps in the campaign.

When: Tuesday 29th January, 8.30pm
Where: Cineclub Detour, Via Urbana 44, metro Cavour"


Rob said...

This is a very emotive subject in my home country as well. With a crime rate spiralling out of control and a situation where 1 in every 3 women can expect to be raped, there is a growing element of society calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty.

The current government however refuses to even discuss the possibility of reintroducing the death penalty, as it was used to such good effect by the former, oppressive regime, in silencing detractors.

It is a difficult subject. On one hand you believe in the basic right of all humans to dignity and life, but then what to do with those who violate that trust?

Europe has found various ways of dealing with the issue, with varying degrees of success, but no perfect model.

It seems to me the only countries that really push for the death penalty are those that still experience a great degree of violent crime in their day to day life, the more 'settled' nations (for want of a better term) seem to no longer need to consider this issue.

Elizabeth Abbot said...

Hi Rob,
Thanks for this thoughtful comment from another country's perspective. THere is no perfect model indeed! Interesting point about more or less "settled" nations. a presto,