Wednesday, September 29, 2021

It's Better In Italy

My absence from columny was due, in part, to having been nine time zones and more than a world away from the Trumpic outrages that have consumed me for the past few years. Italy. How calming to spend hours in magnificent medieval – and older – churches, absorbed in fantastic mosaics and frescos, statuary and architecture. Wandering ancient Greek and Roman ruins. 

We – my wife, one of her many sisters, and I -- were accompanied by a friend, a brilliant professor of art history, whose broad and deep knowledge of such things and ability and willingness to share it were gifts beyond measure. I’ll never process it all.

For many miles every day, we walked in 90ยบ weather; in Palermo, Napoli, Roma, Apulia, and surrounds, such that, despite indulging in perfectly legal, recreational gelato, we lost weight. In Italy! Home of pasta and pizza and cappuccino. Even as we gained knowledge.

And something more politically pertinent about our trip: Masks. Vaccination ID. Testing and vaccination stations on the streets. No one complaining. It was Italy, after all, at the beginning of the pandemic (which really happened and still is, in case you believe the deniers), that was hit hardest. Maybe it takes that amount of death and economic devastation to seal the message, in ways it seems not to have here, for selfish, deluded Trumpists. 

Maybe Italians are just smarter. Or traditionally more tuned in to family and friends; to caring about them. A tradition, for the last two thousand years, that actually follows the teachings of Christ, as opposed to the grifting, phony, fake Trumpochristianity that doesn’t.

To enter every museum, we showed proof of vaccination, had our temperature taken. On every bus, train, and subway, in which sanitizer dispensers were abundant, as they were in stores and restaurants, everyone wore masks without drama. Amazing. In a grocery store, I’d forgotten to put mine on and was reminded. “Mi dispiace,” I said, embarrassed. The clerk smiled.

How comforting to be surrounded by caring people, to whom it was as natural as, well, breathing. Who cared because it’s right; and because it’s what revitalized their economy. Streets were full of people strolling, enjoying life. Restaurants were full, too, as were other businesses. Not just with tourists. All because of uncomplicated, shared empathy; anathema to today’s Republican core. Why is it so impossible for them?

If America isn’t the only country with anti-maskers and anti-vaxers, ours are louder, more ubiquitous, more violent, more unrepentantly stupid and dangerous. Claiming it’s about freedom when, in fact, they’re prolonging the need for restrictions. Encouraging more dangerous mutations of the virus. Killing themselves by stupidity and denial.

And, by filling hospitals when they needlessly fall deathly ill, killing others from whom they’ve taken up beds. Swallowing unproven and disproven “cures,” refractory to facts about them. (It was in doses 100 times higher than achieved by ingesting the stuff that Ivermectin was shown to have some activity against the Covid-19. In a Petri dish.)

Made helplessly defenseless against the lies, Trumpists believe they’ll become magnetized, or sterile, or chipped, or bearers of “mutant” DNA, or mega-testicular, or, as a “doctor” recently proclaimed, that the vaccinated will be dead in five years. Clearly, there are people spreading those lies who do so deliberately. One can only wonder why. Especially when the victims are now, nearly exclusively, of their own political ilk

Even at that human cost, they’re willing to keep the pandemic going, so, come the next election and the second coming of Trump, they can blame it on Democrats. What other explanation is there for creating their cult of death? Other than making a ton of money off it, of course

To enter Europe, we had to show proof of vaccination; and have a negative Covid test within 72 hours of returning home. By golly, the tests were negative, despite being body to body in public transportation, in which everyone was masked and most, presumably, vaccinated. No surprise. Not mysterious. All it takes is a spirit of cooperation and common cause. And a lack of unpatriotic idiocy.

In the apses of many of the churches we visited were beautiful mosaics of Christ Pantocrator, in which He gives a sign of blessing with His right hand, holding the New Testament in His left. In some images, the book is open, indicating the path to paradise. In others, it’s closed, portending the fate of people who reject His teachings. In those, it seemed He was speaking through the ages and directly to Trumpists. Who, while pretending to godly patriotism, couldn’t care less.  


  1. WELL SAID, Doctor... I will share your words with my family and friends that are among those who eschew masks and vaccines, one of whom is in hospital right now, on a ventilator, with the outcome wholly uncertain. I don't expect them to reverse course, but at least they'll be slapped up side the head (once again) with reality. THANK YOU!!!!!

  2. My grandparents emigrated from Northern Italy in 1906. Your thoughts and insights of the cultural history you shared about Italy remind me of them. They left Italy because of political and economic inequality there at that time to raise their family in our great democracy, but the values and familial love they brought with them were truly Italian.
    The difference you observed concerning Italy's covid-19 response and our countries politically motivated ignorance is stupefying.
    In my two visits to Italy, I was impressed with observing the happiness of the youngsters and the hospitality toward travelers by people. The food and ambience was incomparable.

    ps. I loved the book you recommended "Pilgrimage to Eternity" by Tim Eagan.

  3. Welcome back, Dr. Schwab! I feel that my Spirit Animals have returned, as yesterday the Lincoln Project folks also returned from well-deserved vacations.

    Three of my sisters and I are planning a European trip for September 2022. Two weeks in Italy, one week in England, and one week in Ireland. I haven't been out of the country since a 1994 trip to the Netherlands, Belgium, and France with sisters and Mom.

    1. That'll be a great and well-deserved trip. Italy has so many treasures it's nearly overwhelming. And entirely worth it. And gelato.

  4. I'm sooper glad you got the time to get away for a while and really feel "away" from here.

    The other thing is the Biden agenda...

    It's all or nothing...We pass both or none. Period end of discussion don't waste my time with anything but a "yes". Now go away.

    THAT is the deal. Take it or leave it. Progressives didn't start this fight. But we sure af will finish it. You've pissed us all off Man-Chin. Now you can take it and like it you bought and paid for liar. Sinema is a coward and won't last another term. She knows it too. So it's all corporate wants and needs from her and nothing more.

    That's the truth as to where we stand.

    1. Sinema spent part of her youth in the Florida panhandle. Seems like the rot that place fosters got her too.

      I saw someone call her a "Dance Mom past the pull-date". Couldn't have said it better myself.

  5. Man-Chin is now threatening reporters. Man-Chin is a corporate lackey and a bully. Asking about his stock shares is what triggered him.

    1. How tone-deaf do you think someone is who holds a Q & A about fiscal responsibility from the stern of his houseboat/ yacht? He just ticks me off in all kinds of ways.

  6. I thought this was appropriate...

    "You people of the South don't know what you are doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization! You people speak so lightly of war; you don't know what you're talking about. War is a terrible thing! You mistake, too, the people of the North. They are a peaceable people but an earnest people, and they will fight, too. They are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mighty effort to save it … Besides, where are your men and appliances of war to contend against them? The North can make a steam engine, locomotive, or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or pair of shoes can you make. You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical, and determined people on Earth — right at your doors. You are bound to fail. Only in your spirit and determination are you prepared for war. In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start with. At first you will make headway, but as your limited resources begin to fail, shut out from the markets of Europe as you will be, your cause will begin to wane. If your people will but stop and think, they must see in the end that you will surely fail." ~ William Tecumseh Sherman

    1. Smoothie,

      History teaches many lessons. The Drumpfsters obviously never learned about history.

  7. I enjoyed reading your column earlier, Sid, and wished that we too could have had a similar experience. Or that somehow the Trump nightmare might wane and be replaced by behavior similar to what you witnessed.

    Something that has begun to eat at me, something that you also left behind when you flew to Italy, are the prominent displays of the American flag. I'm not referring to flag poles. It's the waving display at Trump rallies, protests, on vehicles, and on property.

    For me it's gotten to the point of resentment. If I see a flag hanging in someone's yard I feel irritated and even angry because it's become an in-my-face thing for me. Now I don't see patriotism in the red white and blue unless it's on government property or a business establishment. I see Trumpism.

    I need a mental trip to Italy.

    1. I agree, totally. Because people waving flags at Trump rallies are as far from supporters of American values as they can be.

    2. I agree too. Any sign of nationalism makes me cringe.


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