Silvio Berlusconi, the controversial Prime Minister of Italy, suffered a severe physical attack in Milan this past week. The man who attacked him with the plaster model of the Duomo cathedral, at the site of the same Duomo cathedral, is said to have a history of mental illness. He was immediately arrested and found to have also possessed a vial of pepper-gas.
Berlusconi's face was bleeding, his teeth were broken, and his lips torn when he stood up from his car to wave with a desperate face at his confused audience. He was immediately taken to the hospital.
The day after, his first question was: why do they hate me so much? The scandal-prone prime minister has been the center of sexual, political, and mafia-linked scandals over the past year. Only a week ago, a big worldwide demonstration was held to demand that he resign from power, and set Italy free from his dubious ways of ruling, which involve corruption, underage girls, prostitutes, and attacks on freedom of press and the civil rights of both citizens and immigrants.
The president of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, declared immediately that the spiral of violence must end at once. Other Italian political officials condemned the physical attack, but some did mention the personal responsibility of the premier: whoever hits will be hit in return.
One hour after Berlusconi was hit in the face, a Facebook protest page was opened and 1,000 signatures appeared. In a couple of hours that number grew to 50,000 people who were pleased to see the head of state assaulted. Some were asking for the attacker to be declared a saint. Other websites representing opposite opinions but just as impassioned, appeared very quickly. The authorities are considering closing some violent websites.
This is a very dangerous turn of events. Milan and Italy remember the 'years of lead' in the 1970s, when extra-parliamentary terrorist left and right groups were tormenting the city, causing the death of innocent civilians and massive political confusion. The spiral of violence ended in the kidnapping and execution of the politician Aldo Moro. Until this day some dark acts of those years have not been resolved, the witnesses have been eliminated, the political pressures clashing.
What will come next? The government can use this episode for repressing public demonstrations and other political freedoms. The security issues are on top of the national agenda.
Was this episode the random case of a lunatic, or a calculated step in the escalation of hate and violence in Italy? Berlusconi denounces partisan polarization and bitterness, yet he provokes it. As prime minister, he has the first responsibility for this sorry state of affairs.
The president Napolitano claims that opposite parties should not accuse each other, but that each side should take its part of responsibility and try to bring peace.
Medical reports say that Berlusconi will need to stay in the hospital to heal his jaw, but that his blustering sense of humor is undamaged.
It is Italy that seems hurt, sorrowful and trembling, from top to bottom, and justly so. Everybody wants to go back to normality, in a normal democratic state, but that normality was not lost this week in any single wild attack.
Italian political stability and dignity have declined over the course of many years, slowly and painfully. To restore civic health and a sense of pride in their public affairs, many Italians will have to take action.
Previous essays by Jasmina Tešanović on BoingBoing:
• Report from anti-Berlusconi demonstration in Rome
• On Marina Abramovic, a "grandmother of performance art"
• The Murder of Natalya Estemirova.
• Less Than Human
• Earthquake in Italy
• 10 years after NATO bombings of Serbia
• Made in Catalunya / Lou and Laurie
• Dragan Dabic Defeats Radovan Karadzic
• Who was Dragan David Dabic?
• My neighbor Radovan Karadzic
• The Day After / Kosovo
• State of Emergency
• Christmas in Serbia
• Neonazism in Serbia
• Korea - South, not North.
• "I heard they are making a movie on her life."
• Serbia and the Flames
• Return to Srebenica
• Sagmeister in Belgrade
• What About the Russians?
• Milan Martic sentenced in Hague
• Mothers of Mass Graves
• Hope for Serbia
• Stelarc in Ritopek
• Sarajevo Mon Amour
• Killing Journalists
• Where Did Our History Go?
• Serbia Not Guilty of Genocide
• Carnival of Ruritania
• "Good Morning, Fascist Serbia!"
• Faking Bombings
• Dispatch from Amsterdam
• Where are your Americans now?
• Anna Politkovskaya Silenced
• Slaughter in the Monastery
• Mermaid's Trail
• A Burial in Srebenica
• Report from a concert by a Serbian war criminal
• To Hague, to Hague
• Preachers and Fascists, Out of My Panties
• Floods and Bombs
• Scorpions Trial, April 13
• The Muslim Women
• Belgrade: New Normality
• Serbia: An Underworld Journey
• Scorpions Trial, Day Three: March 15, 2006
• Scorpions Trial, Day Two: March 14, 2006
• Scorpions Trial, Day One: March 13, 2006
• The Long Goodbye
• Milosevic Arrives in Belgrade
• Slobodan Milosevic Died
• Milosevic Funeral