04:01:51 pm on
Tuesday 28 Sep 2021

Mom was a Fascist
AJ Robinson

Given the state of political unrest in the United States, today, many people, myself included, feel compelled to speak out. Yet, what to say? How can I express a view that’s not going to echo a dozen other people?

Opinion from familial past.

That’s when I thought about my past, my family’s past. I remembered reading the autobiography of my mother. I most especially what she said of her youth.

My mom was an Italian fascist. Not many men can say that, but in my case it’s quite true. I tend to think we can give her a pass on it, as there might not be much choice, given her age at the time.

Mom was born in 1925, in Florence, Italy. Yes, again, you read that right: 19-Two-Five. My mom is closing in on one hundred of life.

When she was born, Benito Mussolini was ruler of Italy. One of the institutions he to was education, that is, controlling the education system. The fascists felt it was important children be raised correctly and be properly indoctrinated into the fascist mentality.

Mom grew up learning all there was to know of the great and glorious leader, Mussolini. How everything he did or said was great. How he was never wrong. How people should pretty much worship him. How they should only believe what he said.

Gosh, sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it? Mussolini proudly proclaimed the trains would always be on time. It was almost an international joke, even today. The media dutifully reported that it was true.

Alas, according to published reports after the war, many of the fascist soldiers stationed on the trains to insure keeping to the schedule said they didn’t do as intended. They falsified reports because they knew how important it was to Mussolini. They didn’t dare incur his wrath or that of his followers for having failed to keep the trains running.

Haven’t we heard similar stories recently?

In school, Mom was taught the glory of Italy and how, Mussolini, Il Duce, would rebuild the Roman Empire. As a child and young teenage, she marched in the rallies and sang the patriotic songs of the beauty and splendor of Italy and its dictator. Of course, as the war progressed, Italy went “go south,” as the saying goes.

The state-run media lied and concealed the truth, if only for a while. Eventually, it became harder and harder to hide the truth, especially as people saw the day-to-day changes in their lives: fewer men in the neighbourhood, less food and fuel for most everyone; then the bombings and the wounded veterans returning from the front.

I could write pages on the horrors of her life during the war. Here are a couple little bits of Italian history. First, Mussolini was married twice and had multiple mistresses. When he was finally overthrown and executed, by firing squad, his latest mistress died with him.

Not a nice way to go. This is especially true as the two were then hanged, upside down, in a public square for all to see. Nasty, but also a bit of karma.

Next is a story that I think is quite relevant given recent events. In October 1922, the fascists marched on Rome, the capital of Italy. The country was mired in the Great Depression; there was massive unemployment and economic hardship s well as tremendous social unrest.

Giovanni Giolitti, the Prime Minister (PM) at that time, did not have control of the military; the king still had that authority. So, the PM asked for the army to intercede to restore order. He called for martial law to be implemented.

The king refused. With the nation descending into chaos the PM had no choice but to resign. Mussolini was offered the position.

Mussolini did not take part in the fascist march. He remained safe and sound back in his headquarters, in Milan. For those up on Italian geography, the distance between Milan and Rome is close to three hundred miles.

Yes, Mussolini was quite the coward. More than willing to inflame his followers and send them off to fight his fight. He was ready to participate.

Gosh, that also sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it?

As a student of history, I’m well familiar with the notion that one should not forget the past lest be condemned to re-live it. I even mentioned it several times in various articles I’ve written. This time around, I truly hope we learn from the past and make a real effort to avoid it.

Not learning from the past turn out so well for Italy, Germany or Japan. As a final note of encouragement, Mussolini, himself, admitted how small a group the fascists were in number. How, if someone, anyone, stood up to them, they would have collapsed and run.

Let’s keep that little morsel in mind in the coming weeks. It might just save our republic. The American version of Il Duce is yet to fade into obscurity.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Working, again, as an engineeer, after years out of the field due to 2009 recession and slow recovery, Robinson finds time to write. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true. His teen vampire adventure novel, "Vampire Vendetta," will publish in 2020. Robinson continues to write books, screenplays and teleplays and keeps hoping for that big break.

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