October 25, 2008
We rose, ate breakfast, and sat outside, savoring Rome.
We then took the bus to the coliseum, which is astonishing in person. I never imagined the size. In addition the area was overrun with tour groups of people and tour buses. Also, people were gathering for a rally so were carrying flags of red, white, and green.
We enjoyed a cappuccino while figuring out our plan of attack. People offer to give tours, and others are dressed as Romans of the past so you can have your picture taken with them and bask in two periods of time at once. All is a bit overwhelming, but we found where to buy a Roma pass, which for 20 euros gives a three day pass to visit the museums and use public transportation for free. In addition, it means you walk right in, so we walked immediately in to the coliseum with our pass, while others waited an hour in line. We spent hours in the coliseum, roaming the levels, honoring the cross, and imagining what it would be like to be there as Augustus, a Roman senator, plebian, lion, or Christian in the ring. It is staggering. It had elevators to bring the animals up to the stage, and, again, I say, it is immense in stature and history. We plan to get a book to understand more clearly how it was built.
People walk reverently, treat it like a church, stunned, I believe, by the vision that built it and the blood shed by those who built it and by those offered as entertainment. Astonishingly, it was built in ten years. There was an urgent need to distract the people from the theft of and diversion of resources.
We overheard one tour leader conclude that the people were overworked so they were too tired to think, and the “circuses” were the way to distract. It was an obvious comparison to today and the distraction of TV and sports that pulls us away from the attention to our politicians that needs to be paid.
There was a wonderful museum exhibit inside one of the corridors with incredible antiquities that have been returned to Italy.
I offer one of the exhibit quotes. Reading it, we both were struck by what we either carelessly or purposely destroyed when we barged into Iraq. The Bush administration not only dishonored the Geneva Convention by instituting torture, but they also willfully destroyed antiquities, which belong to us all.
Ethical common sense was proclaimed in 1954:
The High Contracting Parties, recognizing that cultural property has suffered grave damage during recent armed conflicts and that, by reason of the developments in the technique of warfare, it is in increasing danger of destruction are convinced that damage to cultural property belonging to any people whatsoever means damage to the cultural heritage of all mankind, since each people makes its contribution to the culture of the world.
From the Preamble to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. The Hague – 1954.
The U.S. has been the barbarians we learned about it in school.
We strolled away from the coliseum enjoying the surroundings in 360 degrees and savored another incredible lunch among an array of Italians all enjoying a beautiful Saturday.
We walked back to the area and into the Palatino, one of the archaeological parts of Rome. We saw the casa of Augustus, and ruins and more antiquities, and then, stood overlooking the Circus Maximus. Since we came to Italy, we had been seeing signs for a huge event on October 25 in Rome. There were signs on the streets that bus service would be interrupted, but we hadn’t really understood until we looked down on the huge field and saw all the people, balloons, and the stage below. A recording of Bruce Springsteen was blaring out, and we watched awhile and then, explored some more and then, heard the most beautiful singing. All the people were singing together and now more people were marching in from all directions, slowly and peacefully, and of all ages. It was very organized and the purpose was to protest the conservative policies of the government, including plans to cut funds for public universities and hold separate classes for immigrant children. Their leader says that “Italy is better than the right wing coalition that governs it.” Sound familiar. Everything here reminds us of home. The Circus Maximus is said to hold 200,000 people. Seeing it was full, and masses of people were continuing to pour in from every direction, we decided it might make sense to head back. We walked against the peaceful streams, and finally got to the subway. At this point, I had decided every person in Rome must be on the street, but the subway was crowded with people filling the clean, air-conditioned subways. We marvel at the coliseum and rightly so and we do some impressive things too, or, at least Italy does.
I knew the number of people for the rally was immense. I had never experienced anything like it, and they were so peaceful and organized. I check the news to get the number. What is saddest in this article is how the U.S. is now perceived around the world. We are what people don’t want to be.
The headline is:
2.5 million people rally against Berlosconi’s government: opposition.
Italy's opposition staged a mass rally in Rome Saturday, claiming 2.5 million people had taken to the streets to protest against Silvio Berlusconi's right-wing government.
In a demonstration organised by Walter Veltroni's centre-left Democratic party (PD), left-wing activists marched to the Circus Maximus under a sea of red and green opposition flags proclaiming that "another Italy is possible."
Veltroni, whose PD is riding low in the polls after its defeat to Berlusconi's new conservative People of Freedom (PDL) in May, called the protest "the biggest in the last few years."
"From what I can see and from the information I am receiving, this is the biggest protest organised by a party in a number of years," said Veltroni at the rally.
"It is proof that democracy is alive and well... We could never have imagined such a large turnout," he added.
Although police has not verified the size of the protest, one demonstrator warned that the prime minister, who is also a large media mogul in Italy, could distort the figure.
"Even if we are one million people protesting today, Berlusconi will say there was only one hundred of us. And he will be able to do that because he controls so much of the media," said Livio Giorgi.
Another protester, Maria Turri who was demonstrating against the government's education policy, carried a placard saying: "Hello children... Your mother is protesting for you!"
"My children have no guarantees for the future. We do not want a US-style society where we cannot afford the schools. The government must invest more money into state schools instead of giving it to the banks," she told AFP.
The protest follows a similar demonstration by left-wing activists earlier this month against Berlusconi's conservative policies and his avoiding prosecution for alleged corruption.
We enjoyed dinner out tonight in a beautiful place but once again it was embarrassing to be an American. A loud American was determined to pay for his meal with American dollars. He told the wait-staff he had “forgotten” to change his money, but I heard him tell his wife he didn’t want to pay to change it. I don’t know what exchange rate they gave him, but I hope it was high. His voice reverberated painfully through the well-crowded restaurant. He made no attempt to communicate in Italian. Who would except to come to the U.S. and pay with euros? Why should the reverse be true? Today was not a day to feel pride in being an American. I am thrilled to read the news on how well Obama is doing. It seems Palin managing to spend $150,000 of Republican money on hair, make-up and clothing in a month has turned the tide. Who would have thought? May the issues now speak and the country get back on track and the people of the U.S. come out for education as strongly as the people of Italy today. It is time to take our country back. The Roman games are over. We want peace, education for our children, care for the environment, and health care and dignity for all. May November 4th be the beginning of making it so.