Well, the last several days have been unbelievably exhausting. The Italians have been eager to speak with me about politics and my experience in Iraq. One thing that has been troubling me is the amount of militarization that our society has suffered from without even understanding. In Italy, being a veteran or in the military is no big deal. It is almost just like any other job, soldiers do not enjoy extra attention or sympathy. The loss of Italian troops was felt deeply only because they were seen not as heroes of war or anything, but kind of like everyday Italians. It is disturbing to me only because I think I expected a system like the US, where vets and active soldiers are held on a pedestal sometimes (billboards saying “God bless our troops,” military discounts, etc.).
This idea struck a deep chord with me. I am beginning to see how destructive militarization is. Someone said in a documentary I was watching that one of the distinctions of an empire is a permanent standing army. We did not have this in America until the mid 50’s, when the rise of the ‘military industrial complex’ began. Eisenhower saw it and fought against it, in fact, he is known to have said “God help us if someone sits at this desk who does not know the military as well as I do.”
I wont go on for long, I am just trying to update everyone on what has been going on. After I sent off the first email, my host, Phil Rushton, and I went to an anarchist bar in the city of Bologna, to the north. We ate dinner with a woman who is the local organizer for the peace movement there. She was extremely gracious and offered us a gift from Bologna, a map of the city. We talked mostly about organizing and political actions that could help stop the war in Iraq.
We washed dinner down with a shot of some kind of liquor made from grape skins (not a huge fan). The meeting planned was for information and spreading the word about the rally on the 9th, when Bush was to be in Rome visiting the Pope. I was introduced by Nadia, the woman who invited us, and Phil, my host. I kept my bio short (it is really hard to keep your train of thought when you have to pass the mike every minute for translation) and quickly went into a question and answer session.
The questions were very well-thought out and reflected a desire to understand why Bush has been acting with such reckless disregard toward the global community. I did my best to express the political and social atmosphere in America. Some questions were personal, which made it easier to answer, and gave me a sense of intimacy with the group. After nearly an hour and a half, we closed and thanked everyone for coming out.
We both ordered a beer and chatted more personally with stragglers, older intellectuals and young radicals alike. It was great.
The next day we headed back down to Rome for our busiest day. Over the last two days, Phil had been getting calls from all kinds of media asking for interviews. Thursday was the day that the schedule allowed for all this to happen. First was a meeting at Rome university #2 (they number them for some reason…). There, we spoke to a group of students who had organized the local chapter of the peace movement. The day before, the two students who picked us up from the bus station told us about a brutal attack on their friend who was putting up posters advertising for the No Bush No War day on the 9th. They were rushed to the hospital where a few stitches were used to mend their injuries.
I thanked the group for inviting me, as I am familiar with being turned away from universities and other places who refuse to discuss openly the repercussions of the war. I again kept my own comments brief and opened it up for questions. As we were speaking, the group grew as students in the common area began to become interested. The area we were situated in was an outdoor square next to the cafeteria, in the philosophy school. The weather was hot, so we stayed until lunch was over and shot back inside.
Next up was the national Italian news RAI TV 24. Initially, we were going to have to meet them very early to shoot a live interview in their studio (they were going to “send us a car”), which made me very nervous. Instead, they wanted to make sure the translation was right, so they agreed to meet us at the university. They got there and immediately began to fill me in on what questions they were going to ask. I was a bit unprepared, since I thought they were going to be promoting the rally on the 9th. They asked me mostly personal questions about my journey and thought the tie to the book “catch 22” was hilarious. Ill explain later…
The interview was very brief, but I felt like was as stiff as a board, still nervous and struggling to keep my responses short and to the point. Plus I was still sweaty from sitting outside and uncomfortable from the chair they used. Oh well. They did not take long, and were kind enough to give us a ride to the train station. On the way I found out that they have done many features on IVAW members and similar organizations. It was a relief to figure out their angle, hopefully I wont be made out to look like an idiot (it would be too hard though).
The next appointment was with a film crew making a film-adaptation of a popular play describing the marines in Fallujah. I was clear that I had not been in the city, but in nearly every one besides it and Baghdad, but they were ok with that. They asked very poignant, critical questions. They also did word association and had me respond to “fear” and “regret.” They were VERY eager to have me, many handshakes and “ciao’s” and kisses on the cheek. Film people are weird like that I guess.
Finally, we had an interview with a leftist newspaper called Il Maifesto. This was probably my favorite, I was able to respond credibly for IVAW as well as provide very personal answers to great questions. We did this over what must have been over two hours. I am very pleased with my interview there, I think my true colors came out and I was able to respond passionately and personally to politics and war and the idea of nonviolence.
After that last interview, we wandered around until midnight, but my strength was totally tapped. We were looking for some meeting, but I didn’t even know it until Phil realized we missed it. then we started making our way to the place we would stay. When I hit the bed, the only thing I remember is waking up this morning at 10 am. It felt good to catch up on sleep…