Tuesday, February 09, 2016



The crucible of Italian/American families was how dedicated you were to the clan. Italian people are clannish, not only for family, but for Paesanos and anyone Italian in American. They hung together and fought for ech other, when joy came they surrounded themselves with good food and music, and when pain, suffering and death visited, they rallied as one.

When the great boxer Primo Canara fought, when Rocky Marciano and Rocky Graziano fought, all the Italian Americans came out in support, he was ‘one of us’, uno di noi.  The importance that Italian immigrants and their children succeeded beyond the everyday jobs of street sweeping, household help and hard labor meant they were being assimilated into the main stream of American life, which meant acceptance by ‘Il Medican’!

They patronized their own, the new and young doctors, lawyers and businesses that had an Italian name were where they went. Pride in the fact these children of American immigrants were defying the norm, saying to America: we can be just as American as you can! Art, design and writing suddenly had a new level to measure itself, Italian/Americans were making a statement, in English! To this day, when I see a doctor or lawyer, a politician, jurist or professor, I remember those days of discrimination and a rush of pride takes over.

My dad loved baseball and the Brooklyn Dodgers, Carl Furillo was his favorite Dodger but, so was Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and Phil Rizzuto. This was pride in our nationality.

We as an immigrant population were suspected, feared and discriminated against. One of the biggest discriminators or racists was Teddy Roosevelt, the President of the United States of America, yet we respected his office! Our problem was we were not all fair skinned, all blond, we didn’t have the ‘Made in America’ signature. And of course worst of all: we didn’t speak English, we were still foreigners.

My relatives were fugitives in the Fascist state of Italy, hiding in the hills and fighting the government. When grandma and grandpa came to America, they came with a purpose, to make a better life, and to raise a family in pure freedom, with no needing to resort to arms.

But if you broke down the Italian/American, and looked into his/her daily life, what you would see is America, being reborn. Teachers, doctors and airline pilots, mathematicians, professors and clergy, politics and the media were slowly being assimilated into the mainstream of American culture. Children taught their parents to speak and read English, to write and to express their opinions without fear. That so many of the Italian speaking parents demanding that their children speak to them only in English to learn the language.

Grandma loved Caruso, Valentino and La Guardia, because they were Making a statement to America, that they were successful and could be as good as the Irish, German and Pole, as intelligent as the All-American that prided himself in being born on these shores.

Today we have come a long way, Grandpa and Grandma laid the foundation for the generations to come to be part of the American experience. They could look back with pride that their sacrifice and the ignorance of others made their children and grandchildren stronger, perhaps so strong that we became part of the very fiber that America has always taken pride in.

When I think back now, of how they came to a place that didn’t speak their language, didn’t appreciate their talents, didn’t know what quality to family and national pride they instilled, and their courage: I want to cry over the fact.

I am proud of America, I am proud because it afforded my forefathers the opportunity to prove themselves and their heritage, that today has been adopted in so many ways into the American fabric.

Thank you: grandma and grandpa, and thank you all the grandmas and grandpas who came to America, you were perhaps the real “Greatest Generation!”


Post a Comment

<< Home