My phone pinged with the message, “Today is 25 April.” I laughed. Yes, I haven’t completely lost my mind. My phone still tells me the date, if not the day of the week. But then the second message came through, “Italy’s Liberation Day.”
75 years ago brought the end of Mussolini and a fascist regime. As my Italian friend in Rome put it, “today we celebrate when American forces and Italian partisans got rid of the Nazi fascists and became a free and democratic country.”
Even under quarantine, a ceremony was held in the church square here in Balestrate. A few officials and no public. Even under quarantine, the day is marked and celebrated. Stores are all closed. Across the country, people stayed home. No marching. No demonstrations. No signs of outrage over shelter-in-place. Only solidarity and thanksgiving. The catchy refrain of Bella Ciao was heard everywhere. In Facebook posts, in messages to friends, from balconies. The tune wafted to my ears even from somewhere down the street, origin unseen.
Italians know they are free. And Italians are grateful. How did they show it? They obeyed the rules and stayed home.
This same Italian friend, Mauro, also told me Liberation Day is a “sacred” holiday. He put the word in quotes. Not religious, but sacrosanct. Stores are always closed on April 25th. Some might be open in the morning, and in big cities there are malls… but overall, the day is universally observed with respect.
Which has me wondering… what is still sacred in America? Not Sundays. Not Independence Day (when people wear flags on their clothing, which btw, is against federal law). Not the day we all vote. Only one day a year does everything completely shut down: December 25th. But you can shop until midnight the evening before. Our love of shopping has even encroached on Thanksgiving, with more and more stores opening after dark. Gotta get that Black Friday sale early! If the day after giving thanks is described as black, it’s no wonder the days before Easter are largely ignored. And the President, supposedly a believer, could tweet “Happy” Good Friday!
Only capitalism is sacred in America. More sacred than lives. More sacred than family. More sacred than rest.
Years ago, in the late 1980’s, I visited Germany, both East and West. In those days, Sundays were still sacred – on both sides of the wall. It was an observed day of rest. At home. Absolutely everything was closed. And shopping on Saturdays only lasted until 2:00 pm. Only one Saturday a month would the stores stay open until 5:00. But then the wall came down. The “West” had won. Democracy had triumphed. And capitalism flourished.
Capitalism has become our new god. More revered than our liberties. More worshipped than life.
244 years into our great experiment and people have forgotten what it really means to be free. Forgotten that the basis of every democracy is do no harm to others. No one is free unless everyone is free. No one is safe unless everyone is safe.
Every life matters only when every life is valued, and treated, equally. Every life matters only when we recognize every death. Every child. Every adult. Every elder. If every life matters, than EVERY DEATH MUST MATTER. More than our rights to bear arms. More than our economy.
When we willfully start sacrificing people for our economy, make no doubt about it, capitalism is our god.
Here in Italy, people remember. Today the shops are closed. People stay home.
But, I say to Mauro, what about the small factions that are discontent? Those captured in the news as disobeying quarantine? In the United States and even here in Italy. And those in government who are, as Italians say, “rightists”? So much fear! Fear that gets manifested into hate.
Mauro tells me, “Hope is alive. Fear will be defeated, sooner or later. 25 Aprile is exactly the symbol of this. This is why we celebrate.”
United we stand. Divided we fall.
Have hope, dear friends. Fear is always, eventually, defeated. Italians remember.
So on this, Italy’s Liberation Day, marking the end of WWII and the demise of the Nazi party, may we remember as well. May we, too, have hope. Only love can conquer hate. Only love can drive out fear.
May Love be triumphant! May Love reign supreme!