May 27, 2012

Italian Heroes: Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino


“My life is mapped out: it is my destiny to take a bullet by the Mafia some day. The only thing I don’t know is when… He who is silent and bows his head dies every time he does so. He who speaks aloud and walks with his head held high dies only once The Mafia is a human phenomenon and thus, like all human phenomena, it has had a beginning and an evolution, and will also have an end” (Giovanni Falcone).

“They will kill me, but it will not be a mafia’s revenge; mafia do not use murder to get revenge. Maybe mafia will physically kill me, but he/she who will actually order my murder will be “others”…The fight against mafia, which is the first problem to solve in our unfortunate and beautiful land, must be not only a cold repressive action, but a moral and cultural movement, involving everyone, especially younger generations, the most fit to feel the beauty of the fresh taste of freedom that sweeps away the foulness of moral compromise, of indifference, of contiguity and, hence, of complicity” (Paolo Borsellino).

A bombkilled a teenage girl and wounded 10 other people in the southern Italian town of Brindisi. The attack on the Francesca Morvillo Falcone School, a vocational training institute named after the wife of a famed anti-mafia judge, horrified Italy and sparked speculation it was the work of southern Italy’s organized crime gangs. We do not know if the attack was organized by organized crime.  Few days later an Italian man who lost job kills histwo young children. Italy is facing a huge crisis. Italy’s President Giogio Napolitano warns that Mafia may take advantage of economic uncertainty and get back on the front stage. Cosa Nostra’s strategy, after the “season of massacres”, made the strategical choice to operate silently, in the backstage of Italian, European and American social, political and economical life.  The economical (political, civic, cultural and moral) crisis might also promote the return of terrorism: “They consider the crisis a goodopportunity to relaunch the fight” said Piccirillo, Italy’s AISI intelligence agency chief.
Italian people will be able to recover from this situation? The oldest ruling class in Europe that is responsible for the condition of our country, will be able to lead us out of this dangerous zone? The new major of Palermo (the capital of Sicily), is Leoluca Orlando, he was in charge 20 years ago. Try to imagine Rudolph Giuliani again as the major of New York in 2021. We can — at least — interpret this as a manifest difficulty to renew the ruling class of a country.
Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino — the two “protagonists” of the documentary In un altro paese (translated in English as Excellent Cadavers) see  the film review by A.O.Scott Excellent Cadavers, an Italian Documentary, Dissects the Mafia, New York Times, July 12, 2006 — can be considered two heroes. Probably the only example of a “hero” that Italian people can think-feel about. Last week was the anniversary of their death.
Giovanni Falcone, the Palermo-born anti-Mafia judge rose from urban poverty to iconic status during a career that ended on May 23, 1992, when he, along with his wife and three bodyguards, was blown up by a bomb hidden on the highway between Palermo and the city airport. Most evidence suggests that Corleone boss Toto Riina gave the orders for his death. One of the highlights of his career was convincing Tommaso Buscetta to return to Sicily from Brazil to testify at the Palermo Maxi Trial (and later at the Pizza Connection Trial in the United States). Buscetta's testimony led to the convictions of 340 mafiosi and associates. Falcone recognized that the success of the trial had sealed his demise, publicly stating he knew he would now have a price on his head for his victory. Despite the success of the trials, over the ensuing years political chicanery at the highest levels of government resulted in most of the convictions being overturned. Falcone's murder, and that of his fellow magistrate Paolo Borsellino two months later, led to the creation of the Direzione Investigativa Anti-Mafia (DIA) and the passage of a witness protection law, which was an overwhelming success as hundreds of pentiti (informers) came forth to testify against the Mafia. Crime Fighters (2010), in Contemporary World Issues: Global Organized Crime: A Reference Handbook.
“Analyzing the stories of local heroes can provide a wealth of information about the societies to which they belong. Heroes are the “embodiment of our ideals” (not including the American comic book hero “Captain Underpants”), and their heroic stories are displays of the values most celebrated by the society of origin. The stories of local heroes also reveal societal issues which the local hero must address. In the case of the Italian magistrates Paolo Borsellino and Giovanni Falcone in the 1980s and 1990s, the local concern was the Sicilian Mafia. At present, Borsellino and Falcone are Italy’s most recognizable, contemporary heroes” (Kelsey Gifford). Here The Legends of Borsellino and Falcone: a Discussion of Italian Values, by Kelsey Gifford (Sociology of Italian Culture, Gonzaga in Florence, Fall 2010).