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  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 5, No. 5, 2006
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Robert J. Lewis
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Robert Rotondo
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Leon Wieseltier
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward




It’s not uncommon for those who live by the word -- and for the sake of the word -- to leave us with a final enigmatic thought as they pass from this world to the next. Unmatched in this regard is Martin Heidegger’s disconcerting “Only God can save us,” uttered less than a century after fellow philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche pronounced Him dead.

Oriana FallaciBefore she died in September 2006 at the age of 77, the controversial Italian journalist-polemicist Oriana Fallaci declared that she preferred living mostly in New York rather than in “an Italy more ill than I am.” Allowing the widest possible latitude for metaphor, what could she possibly mean when she refers to an Italy more ill than someone in the throes of terminal cancer? Can Italy be that sick? And if she means terminal, what is it in Italian life and manners that is dying or already dead?

Is it significant that Fallaci chose not to spend her remaining years in the culture-steeped countries of either England, France or Germany – but in the United States, a place many people regard as at least somewhat sick if not culturally suspect, or a country, if you abide by the analyses of doctors Lapham, Chomsky and Moore, not just somewhat but worrisomely sick?

What is it about the United States that bade Fallaci to choose it over Europe’s best? Are European countries so excessively burdened by their pasts and much closer to India than America in their preoccupation with class that, by default, they were unable to attract the free and independent thinker that distinguished Fallaci from other journalists? Or was she drawn to America because of its uncanny ability to turn its immigrants into indigenes like no other place on the planet? Does that mean she regards England as too Pakified, France too Muslimized and Italy -- millennial weathered terracotta roofs notwithstanding -- too much of everyone else and not enough of itself for her to want to live there?

Had she been living in the 10th century, would she have rued the invasions and mutations that were transforming medieval Italy, fearing it would become the Italy of the 15th century?

What sets apart the great journalist besides signature prose and gift for uncovering great truths in times of darkness are the questions he or she institutes. Since immigration is surely one of the compelling issues of our times, Fallaci, in her unbowdlerized appraisal of Islam in the context of Western values, has surely raised questions which need to be asked. For example, if Italy and other European countries are not able to absorb and assimilate immigrants -- Arabs in particular -- like the United States, is it because the latter chooses its immigrants more judiciously or is there something about the European ethos that undermines the assimilation it seeks? Perhaps the immigrant would suffer gladly trading his own culture for another if given the opportunity. Which might mean that the illness with which Fallaci characterizes her beloved Italy has less to do with the Arab and more with her countrymen’s unwitting unwillingness to grant him the access that precedes assimilation. Getting to know the enemy is often the best way to disarm him, and beyond that, turn him into an unexpected ally. In America much more than Europe, we observe people of different races, religions and socio-economic backgrounds mixing and sharing the same public and private spaces, which may explain why Arabs assimilate into American culture with a facility that is unheard of in Europe.

Oriana FallaciPerhaps what Fallaci intuitively understands about America is that its ethos takes its cues more from Nature and less from the nature of Man. Despite sometimes spectacular differences, what remains a constant through all cultures is the manner in which breeding and bonding are encouraged from within the group while discouraged from outside. Nature, on the other hand, rewards the mixing of unlike races and cultures, so that in the advent of adversity, gene diversity prevails while less genetically robust groups flounder or fail. Speaking to the positive effects of exogamy -- the mixing of unlike gene populations -- geneticist Sewell Wright, in the 1940s, coined the term "hybrid vigor." Which means America, despite the course it has followed since 9/11, is going to outlive the Italy that Fallaci correctly characterizes as “ill.”

Based on the questions Oriani Fallaci entered into the public domain during her lifetime, the question her passing now asks is how great a journalist was she? = shared webhosting, dedicated servers, development/consulting
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