Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is recovering in hospital after an alleged psycho clobbered him with a weighty souvenir replica of Milan's cathedral on Sunday. The embattled Berlusconi probably can use a moment of repose. He is under siege from the courts on various corruption-related charges. His anti-immigrant posturing and combative quasi-fascistic grandstanding have brought on charges from the left that he's created a climate of violence in the country. (Every judge and every critic that takes him to task is liable to be labeled communist.) And Berlusconi's very public private life, meanwhile, is worthy of Italian legends like the Borgias. But Il Cavaliere, as he likes to be called, remains very popular with his compatriots and rarely misses a chance for self-promotion. So don't be surprised if he writes a letter to the besmirched and besieged American golfer Tiger Woods. It could point up the differences between American celebrity and Italian politics, to the extent that they exist, and in rough translation it might read something like this:
First of all, let me compliment you on your tan. (When I said the same thing about American President Barack Obama, my opponents claimed to be horrified, but they're communists anyway, so who cares? I work like hell on my tan. Why shouldn't I compliment yours, even if it comes naturally?)
As you know, we've had similar problems lately, you and I. Our wives are furious and vengeful; our lovers are venal and talking to the press. (Have any of yours tape-recorded you?). And people are throwing things at our faces. I'm not sure exactly what happened to you. Was it a cell phone? But some lunatic creamed me with a replica of the Duomo in Milan, and those spires hurt! Cracked a couple of teeth, broke my nose, split my lip, opened up a cut under my eye. You know, I've had a little plastic surgery now and then, but I am going to wear these scars like a badge of honor. I only wish one of my ostensible lovers had done it instead.
Which brings me to my point, Tigre. It's time to move to Italy. This is a country that will understand you, appreciate you, love you! And not in spite of your womanizing, but because of it! Maybe in the U.S.A. your image as a bland family guy, like somebody out of 1950s American television, makes sense. But here in Italy, it's not just golf balls that make a man. Does anybody (but the communists) talk about the corruption charges against me? No. They talk about the women talking about me and they say, hey, he's 73 years old. Not bad!
So, just to be clear, here are five good reasons for you to become my paesano.
First, it's a great privilege to be Italian. We don't really welcome that many people with natural tans. In fact, we are constantly looking for ways to throw them out. But you? Sure.
Second, Italy doesn't have so many famous golfers. Actually, we don't have any famous golfers. Think how special that would make you.
Third, Italians would understand the way you drive. Remember that Lamborghini police car that got totaled—by the cops—a few weeks ago? What's a fire hydrant here or there?
Fourth, Italian women may kiss, or whatever, and tell, but afterward they call you a toro, a bull, like they did me. What do American women say about you? Generous, or something? Mamma mia!
Fifth, Italians may be many things, but they are not puritans and they are not hypocrites. None would claim to be puritans. In Latin societies, piousness is a mask that everybody understands, and behind which everyone leads his or her own real life. So Italians watch spectacles liked the ones that you and I have put on and they don't apologize for loving the drama of it. They envy us, and they say so. They feel sorry for our spouses—but they know they're taken care of. They won't pretend they are holier than thou, or even holier than me, except, of course, if they're communists.
Un forte abbraccio (a big hug),