Back in April, Nathan and I strolled down to our local roundabout for a gelato. Our roundabout is sort of like our village's piazza, only filled with traffic. Edging the roundabout are businesses which include a newsstand, coffee bar/gelateria, pizzeria, salumeria (very small grocer), butcher, tabacchi, hair salon, and restaurant. The coffee bar has a large patio with tables, and the sidewalk of the road is edged with benches, the better to watch the traffic go by. It's surprisingly entertaining to sit on these benches and people watch the drivers. When my aunt and I did so, we saw a lady drive by with three dogs in her car, the one in the front seat had his head hanging out the window while the two in the back were sitting up very properly, both with heads turned to watch the world go by out of their respective windows. It's also fun to count how many cars go by with young children riding either in laps or just bouncing around on the backseat playing - definitely a unique sight for these American eyes. Across the street is the Metro stop and a large parking lot, empty until this month, when I found out the parking lot is not for all the trash usually heaped there, but is instead for all the summertime beachgoers.
So back to mine and Nathan's stroll...the fence edging the parking lot usually has a banner of some sort hanging from it. Sometimes it's the same banner for months - usually the soccer ones are around awhile. Then there are political ones every now and then, advertising some candidate or other. This particular evening, we were struck by a banner that I never, ever, in a million years thought I would see half a world away from the U.S.:
Best of all are the words that you can't make out with the blog photo resolution, but it says, "The South Will Rise Again." We stood across the street, staring at this banner in absolute awe. We looked up and down the street as if we'd see who raised it. We looked at the store owners standing in their doorways, as they often do, to gauge if this sort of banner was acceptable. There were no clues anywhere. But it was yet another reminder of Italy's youth as a country and as a democracy, and their culture wars as the country grows. I write so much of the ancient history and culture that surrounds me here, but even more so, the modern problems of a growing country are the backdrop of daily life.
Until 1861, Italy was ruled by city-states and/or foreign countries. So 100 years after America became a democratic country, Italy's disparate parts joined together, ruled by a monarchy, then the Facist dictatorship, and finally, almost 90 years after unification, Italy became a republic in 1946. Prior to unification, southern Italy was powerful. The people were rich, cultured, smart, and basically, they were the cool kids. The northerners were considered the peasants and the laborers. Then, unification occurred, and the decades have brought us to today, where the north is considered the land of the educated, the people who know what's best, the rich and the powerful, while the southerners are the farmers, the hillbillies, and are considered to be very lazy. Any of this sounding at all familiar to anyone? Anyone? Now I don't pay close attention to the details of the Italian political culture, but I do know there is a group who wants a divided Italy, who essentially, wants the south to rise again. But what I really found interesting is thinking about the North/South divide in many countries and on a global scale. In considering many of the European countries, they have a similar culture war. Even more interesting, I put North vs. South into Wikipedia and found a great article on the global ramifications - across the globe, the developed, First World nations are in the north while the poorer, struggling nations are in the south (with Australia and New Zealand as exceptions). And so it seems the Weepies are correct...the world really does just spin madly on.