East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

The end of the story

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It is not often that we get the opportunity of seeing ourselves through the eyes of others.
When it happens, it is usually disappointing, but it’s also an important learning experience.
I caught a comment about yesterday’s post, the one about the Day of Memory. Found it by chance on Facebook, yesterday evening.
It went more or less like this…

Nice post.
But by tomorrow he won’t remember anything, and that’s it.

indexNow this got me thinking.
Because this was a comment by someone that doesn’t know me, does not read this blog, nor my Italian blog. Never met me, never read my books. He chanced on a link to my blog on one of his contacts’ profile, read my post, found it good, and also thought I’m a hypocrite, a liar, an opportunist.
Which I generally try not to be.
And as someone that mostly expresses himself through the written word, the way in which what I write is perceived by the readers – the way in which I am perceived through my writing1 – is really important to me. So I re-read my post, to see if it carried any hint at my flawed character, and found nothing – but would be really happy to learn about anything I missed, so please use the comments.

But maybe the problem is another.
Because you see, that blasé attitude, that schoolyard cynicism is nothing personal2.
It’s not about me, or my post, my family, my story. It’s not about the Day of Memory, or Christmas, or Mardi Gras or the the 24rth night of September.
It’s about the idea that people might be, you know, a little bit better.
Not much, just a little bit.
That’s unacceptable. Because we’ve been sold this weird idea, that thinking the worst, always, makes us look cool, it makes us feel badass.
Badassery is very important on the social networks, you see3.

Which I find interesting because my post, yesterday, talked about what happens when someone arbitrarily decides that some people are wrong just because.

So now I’ll tell you the second part of yesterday’s story, to make a point, to show that my memory does not come and go with fashions, and because a good story pleases everybody, while a fuck you!, no matter how heartfelt, does not.
Here goes…

After the Fascist Regime fell, the Allies landed and the partisans came back to Turin, one day my grandmother met on the stairs of the place where she lived the mother of that young man that had been in the habit of menacing her with his bayonet.
The woman was distraught: the partisans were looking for former members of the Avanguardisti, the youth organization of bayonet-carrying dorks. The kids would probably face some quick, lone justice.
So the woman asked my grandmother if my grandfather, being one of the aforementioned partisans, could not do something for her kid.
“If they catch him, they’ll kill him.”
And my grandmother, being a good Christian, asked my grandfather.
And my grandfather, being a good man and a father of two, said he’d see what he could do.
And he helped the young, terrorized kid, to hide – by locking him up for two weeks inside one of the empty boilers in the building.
“He’s just a stupid kid,” my grandfather said. “When he gets out he won’t feel so badass anymore.”

The kid escaped execution, but I guess he more than paid for his bullying and violence by spending fifteen days in the dark, with little food, and scared shitless.
Because punishment should educate and reform, and provide opportunity for expiation.
Last time we heard about the guy, he had married a nice Jewish girl and moved to Palestine.

Meanwhile, my other grandfather – being after all an employee of the railways – had been able to trace that German soldier that had saved his life. They wrote each other letters, and they met in a few occasions.

And this, I think, is also worth remembering, even if the Day of Memory is past.
Because life goes on, and maybe people are not absolutely smashing around the clock, but they sometimes manage to be just a little bit better than schoolyard cynics like to think.

  1. which is one of the reasons why, incidentally, I started the KaravanCast – to give people an opportunity to hear me speaking, just in case they thought I’m always ranting and raving and growling like a rabid dog. I’m not. 
  2. it has been in fact pointed out to me that the Italian phrase I roughly translated above could have been intended not as a personal comment on me or my post, but as a general comment on anyone celebrating the Day of Memory yesterday. Some consolation. 
  3. seriously now: the problem is, I think, inherent in tools like Facebook, where anyone can express any opinion on anything, based on no other information. Facebook is an excellent place for prejudice. 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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