By Anonymous Marist Italy Student
According to my friend Eric, there are four categories of people: those who are informed and vote come first, those who are informed and don’t vote come second, those who just don’t vote come third, and those who aren’t informed but still vote are in the fourth category. Currently I sit in category number two. I didn’t put forth the effort to get my absentee ballot sent over to Italy, yet I’ve done my best to stay up to date on current issues, although its difficult. Back home in Massachusetts, every YouTube video you watch begins with a mesmerizing ad for Scott Brown or Elizabeth Warren. Here we get to see the newest Italian cleaning product and Kinder Bueno chocolate bar promotions instead.
Yesterday was election day. I was busy frantically searching the Internet with election events happening in Florence, as well as updates and articles. I came across a link for a Democrats Abroad event via Facebook. On the page was a link to register to vote or, if you were already registered, to get a write-in absentee ballot emailed to you. I quickly filled out the online form and immediately received confirmation via email. I printed out the eight page form and filled out all the required info. Everything was complete and ready to be faxed, when I read the fine print that said to check the state deadlines for when it had to be postmarked by. In addition to faxing it, you were supposed to email it to your town election official and my Massachusetts deadline happened to be on the election day. There was no way I could get to the post office in time for that to happen. Though disappointed, I was a tiny bit proud of myself for making that one last-ditch effort to try to be a good American citizen even if I was thousands miles away.
One observation I made yesterday that surprised me was the amount of activity going on in Florence involving the election. My first plan was to go to the Democrats Abroad party, where all political parties were welcome and Obama cupcakes were to be served. I then found over 300 people had rsvp’d to that, so our chances of getting a cupcake were slim. My friends and I then planned to go to a classier function that included a free shuttle ride and coverage of all prominent news stations in the US. But we realized we weren’t quite at the level of class as other people attending. We ended up deciding to just go to one of our favorite pubs to get some fries and see if they were covering the election. Sure enough they were. We got to see all of the projected outcomes and were updated to the second as to what candidate had won which state. As the night went on so did many political conversations, some educated, some not so much. Even the Italians, once finding out my friends and I were from America, would ask Obama? And then proceeded to question thumbs up or thumbs down. After getting a thumbs up they would smile and give high-fives. Who would have thought even the Italians had an opinion on who would run a country that they don’t live in?
How is it that this country cares so much about mine, yet I’ve been living here over two months and I have no idea about this country is run? I know nothing about politics here unless it dates back to the time of the ever-powerful Medici family. It just goes to show how much of a western influence there is here in Italy, Florence specifically. They speak our language, listen to our music, watch our bad reality TV, and even imitate our style. It’s a dilemma because as much as I love America and the comfort of home, I truly want to be able to immerse myself fully into Italian culture. I have found small pieces in various places, But I am now going to make it a mission to attempt to know just as much about Italian culture as they know about American culture. Sounds like an impossible feat to some, but definitely a challenge I am willing to embark on during the remainder of my stay here in Firenze.