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Lisa, if you don’t like your job you don’t strike. You just go in every day and do it really half-assed. That’s the American way. – Homer Simpson

The Italian military – or some branch thereof – is on strike. I garnered this information last night from the BBC News. Sometimes I like to expand my horizons beyond Arnold Diaz and his Shame, Shame, Shame segments on WNYW. Diaz did the Shame On You segments for twenty years on WCBS before switching local stations. I met a kid when I first moved to New York who had gone to school with Diaz’s son. There’s one family counseling session I’d like to sit in on. “I seem to sense a theme here ..”

Back to the Italians. “Military strike” could only mean one thing there, and it has nothing to do with a premeditated attack. I lived in Perugia, the Umbrian capital, when I was twenty-four. If there’s anything they love to do in that country, it’s strike. Sciopero, they call it. During the time I was there, the banks, students, and museum workers all walked out in protest over… something. In the case of the banks, I’m not sure that anyone noticed. The lines were only slightly longer and more disorganized than when there were actual tellers on duty. The striking students were even less identifiable. They sat in the piazza outside the administration building smoking cigarettes and bullshitting, thereby replicating typical behavior when classes were normally in session. Anyone figuring that America has the market cornered on pointless civic uprising need only visit Italy.

But it’s an OK place, provided you don’t need to cash a check or get an education. They’ve mastered the three-hour lunch break over there, followed by the early evening passeggiata. As fundamental as it may seem, there are plenty of Americans who could benefit from setting aside time to both eat and walk. Italians also tend to dress better, which fits in with their concept of bella figura or making a fine public appearance. Some would claim that the effort is largely cosmetic, as evidenced by packs of sharply-dressed young dudes wolf-whistling and cat-calling anything within earshot resembling a female. I was accosted by an inebriated young local in a bar one night, bent on practicing his broken English by slurring through a description of what he’d like to do to my sister. Not having a sister, I didn’t pay the kid much mind, but my buddy Des pointed out what his brother Mick would have done were he there.

Des was an older Australian guy I met while taking an Italian language class. He was a political columnist on sabbatical, and his slant ran somewhere to the right of Mussolini. One day in class, the instructor was attempting to make a delicate and opinionated point about a certain segment of the Italian population whom he deemed less than sophisticated. “Kind of like the Abbos” Des piped up, in slang reference to Australia’s indigenous inhabitants. The remark drew some confusion from the predominantly non English-speaking classroom, but elicited glaring daggers from the two more liberal-minded Australian women sitting in front of us. “Well,” one of them reprimanded Des, “we did steal their land from them, didn’t we?” His response came immediately. “And it’s a good thing we did, too,” he shot back. “Because I’ll tell you what would’ve happened if the Japs had taken over. There would be two of  them left – one in an anthropological museum and another in the zoo.”

The women sat open-jawed and dumbfounded, amid a lot of curious looks from the other students. This was in the days prior to the coining of the term “politically correct” – but I’m fairly certain that it entered the vernacular sometime the next week. Despite his fascist overtones, Des wasn’t a bad guy. He bought me a lot of beers, related plenty of interesting life experiences, and never once did he go on strike.

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