That title is a play on where I worked out of when I lived in Rome – it was called Romalife. But, the Roma I am thinking of today are the nomadic people whom Europeans, and tourists, in a word, hate.
I’m so serious this week on my blog, aren’t I?
Anyway, I saw this CNN report about Italy’s desire to count and fingerprint all the Roma living within its borders – even the children. I find this to be a gross violation of civil rights – especially after Italy, seeking to calm down human rights watchers, came out saying that ALL Italians will be fingerprinted starting in 2010.
Cal and I discussed the Roma after having watched the video, and I can’t recall a more uncomfortable conversation. At one point I said that we must sound similar to ignorant white Americans talking about Africans. It’s maddeningly hard to wrap my head around the Roma; they refuse to assimilate and they have no one who properly represents them in the public eye. I don’t mean Roma who’ve “made it” – I mean someone who can stand up and loudly defend their existence, other than non-Roma human rights workers. So, they remain a mystery to me and, I think it’s safe to say, to Italians as well.
And, as we all know, the unknown breeds prejudice.
The conflict inside me while watching the video was this:
- My heart goes out to a misunderstood, misaligned culture that has served as a scapegoat for every social ill that has befallen Italy. They are an all too convenient target for those in power who choose to ignore the reality of their own failings. A part of me wants to find out more about the enigmatic Roma; I’d like to learn their history and their reasons for consciously rejecting modern conveniences and societal norms. It seems to me that it takes much more effort to live they way they do than if they, say, had electricity and plumbing.
- “They treat us like animals,” one woman says in the interview. Guess what? “They” are not that smart. So, when They see you CHOOSING to live among trash and open sewage, seemingly without any regard for basic hygiene or the safety and welfare of your many children, then that’s how They’re going to treat you, because that’s how feral animals live. Get it together. You can choose to live like your ancestors, but it’s not like you don’t know how the world works. You’re in the middle of Rome, for chrissakes.
The one thing I have realized as a result of this post is that it is pretty much impossible to discuss the Roma without sounding like a complete asshole. I’ve written and rewritten it a thousand times, and everything I want to say simply sounds like everything ignorant people have said about every foreign race and culture since the beginning of time. That’s frightening to me, but it also interests me.
I just don’t understand why they choose to live the way they do.