In the third installment of The Godfather (1990) saga, Al Pacino a.k.a. Michael Corleone states, “Just When I Thought I Was Out, They Pull Me Back In.” These are the lines that sometimes come to mind when, for completely opposite reasons, someone like Leon Panetta, Geraldine Ferraro, or Ella Grasso, in the past, or Anthony Scaramucci, in the present, are either appointed or elected into a prominent, state or national position. Precisely because, we might think, “Oh, finally, an Italian (read, Italian American) appointed to an important position! Alla faccia to those who see us as mafia-type boors who cannot articulate an intelligent sentence.”
Indeed, in Leon Panetta’s case, we might readily state that we had the best of both worlds: an elected official on the national scene (Congress) subsequently appointed to a cabinet position in two different administrations (Clinton, Obama) who was a beacon of decorum, as one might expect, in those positions, and a champion of his Italian-ness, as one might hope, as an individual.
In Anthony Scaramucci’s case, someone who graduated from Harvard Law School — what some might call the entryway into upper-class America — we have just realized that not everyone is upper-crust with regard to social comportment. When Scaramucci was first appointed, I was intrigued, because I had seen him at work, so to speak, and he was quite the gregarious guy, laughing and joking with those around him, cognizant, so it seemed, not to offend anyone. The occasion was a public event, the gala of a most prominent Italian/American association, where he was celebrated for his business acumen and resultant success that thrust him into the exclusive club of super multi-millionaires.
In receiving a Special Achievement Award in Finance, Anthony Scaramucci told the audience, “It has been the luckiest thing in my life to be born Italian, to grow up Italian, to have Italian grandparents, to eat Italian food and [share in] the pride we all have.” Well, we might want to unpack a bit what Mr. Scaramucci stated. Namely, what does he mean when he says, “to grow up Italian?” Shouldn’t this include a certain modicum of decorum, the notion of “fare bella figura” regardless of the situation in which we find ourselves? This, I would tell Scaramucci, is part and parcel of what it means to be Italian (read, both Italian from Italy and Italian American). Instead, in his phone conversation with Ryan Lizza, another Italian we need to note, Scaramucci sounded much more like one of those boorish, vulgar-mouth uneducated wannabes who pepper their language with f-bombs and c-bombs (male ones, not female), let alone the stock character Scaramouche of the commedia dell’arte.
As we move forward in this public relations debacle both for the nation at large as well as for the so-called representation of Italians in America, another popular culture reference comes to mind, as my title signals, Simon and Garfunkel’s iconic “Mrs. Robinson”:
Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you
What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson
Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away