The vote of Italian expats, a right and an asset
The vote of Italian expats, a right and an asset
TORONTO – There is something in the air. Reactionary impulses to any collective progress seem to be bub- bling to the surface; you name the country. Call it Brexit, the Trump phenomenon, the emergence of the ethereal “our cultural values” debate driven by Conservative MPs from the last mandate and this. Everyone has a pet explanation for why Nations decline, countries collapse and political structures become brittle. Canada, considered by many to be a “serious country” is not without its challenges to pan- Canadian strategies.
And, Heaven knows, Italy is a place where Nature and Barbar- ians have wrecked their will on the Peninsula. Over the ages, both have helped shape a sense of community among those whose origins are in the Belpaese.
Nonetheless, sometimes, local energies and resources are unable to overcome external factors or the cataclysmic forces of Nature. Still, these change agents – “crises” – tend to focus the mind, define “common- alities” and develop “vision”.
A sense of Citizenship and Citizenry drives the agenda. People with purpose develop the responses that identify the challenge, address it and carry on. Those who cannot, learn to whine and to shift responsi- bility. The Trump campaign had an army of them as foot soldiers.
This latter group usually lives in a parallel universe where the “woe is me” religion generates its own dynamic, its own set of values; where the concept of “if I cannot have the best, no one else should have even the least”, prevails.
It is a defeatist attitude incapable of tolerating, much less accepting, anything “different”. In fact, every difference of opinion is cause for “civil war”. And this attitude is infecting Italy. The dynamic distorts realities, blurs goals and lashes out at non-existent bogeymen.
This is not a world inhabited by normal human beings. But it is the one preferred by those who, not satsfied at having seen the defeat of Matteo Renzi’s initiative to change the Constitution, now long to settle the score with those Italian citizens abroad (who voted overwhelmingly SI) by taking away their right to vote.
They will let them (the ex-pats) keep their citizenship, but, deprive them of the right to exercise its benefits.
Mind you, with the classic sophistry designed to cloud issues, these myopic minds are not suggesting that anyone who steps outside Italian borders would be stripped of their citizenship. Rather, their mantra is now “those who don’t pay taxes here should not decide for us”.
Setting aside the fact that tax avoidance and tax evasion have become an insidious part of the culture, putting into effect such a “principle” would result in disen franchising a sizeable segment of the population.
On the more serious side of the discussion, citizenship is “acquired” in essentially two ways: (1) by birth, and with it, we inherit all of the cultural patrimony associated with an act in which we have no proactive part, (2) by “merit”, through which we undergo a naturalization process in order to become something that we were not at birth.
In the second case, military service – a time honoured method of acquiring “membership in the club” – is no longer a compulsory requisite in democratic societies. The default position is now residency; but, for a specifid period only to ascertain some level of acceptable “acculturation”. Were it otherwise, the “right of citizenship” would not include mobility rights. What purpose would citizenship then serve for he/she who possess it?
Progressive countries and peoples around the world embrace extension of citizenship and voting rights as an asset that opens doors worldwide with their agent-expats. Their cost? Facilitating the connec tion via mail-in ballots for matters of national significance, such as general elections or referenda.
Modern technology and media coverage make it easy to be as famil iar with the necessary issues prior to expressing a ballot, irrespective of distance, as those who live in greater proximity to the Central au- thority, and often more honestly so.
A different type of balloting is reserved for those “administrative”, municipal elections, more dependent on a familiarity with the what shadowed by the local clock tower. We would not expect a resident of Calgary to vote on the sidewalk repair in Chicoutimi, nor would a resident of Frosinone allow a citizen resident in Genoa to vote on the povision of the water supply in the Ciociaria.
It is a dangerous argument that proposes to wrest from citizens what is their “birthright” by utilizing some bureaucratic technique or definition. Ex-pats struggle to achieve acceptance and integration in new soicieties through the “acquisition” of citizenship.
They should never do it because some small minded person is sitting in the home country waiting anxiously to cut them adrift.