Buona sera, ragazzi.

Mel Gibson's film, „The Passion of The Christ, has now opened in Italy. The response is enormous. Some people are talking about a resurgence in Latin dialogue, even amongst directors as committed to colloquial forms of speech as, say, Spike Lee and Quentin Tarantino.

PUH-LEEZ tell me I'm not going to have to suffer through Ben Affleck intoning „Tete fututure, te saluto. (That's the future participle denoting intention or likelihood. It means „You who are about to f-ck yourself, I salute you. )


A dear friend and I traveled to Bologna for the Easter break. In between rounds of the world's best food (tortelloni to die for, which seemed a fitting tribute for the Passover/Easter celebrations), my friend admitted she had once found Mel sexually appealing, but his religious fervor had recently caused her to switch to Ralph Fiennes; the latter is addicted to yoga but my friend feels that is sufficiently far away from any fundamentalist form of organized religion so as not to come between them. I agreed.

Then we played a round of AND YOU MUST CHOOSE ONE. Here's how it works. You are given a choice of two names from which to select your next sexual partner. Sometimes it's fun; e.g., you're asked to choose between, say, Sean Penn and Benicio del Toro. I mean, talk about a dictionary definition of Win/Win. Other times, it's more along the lines of the late Ayatollah Khomeini versus Michael Jackson&Mac183;Ugh.

That afternoon in Bologna, my duo was Mel Gibson and George Bush. Plague or Hepatitis C, if you ask me.

After much hemming and hawing, I finally went with Mel. Okay. I'm not big on Dad's Holocaust denials or the possible anti-Semitism, but I really couldn't see myself with Curious George, a man who has yet to realise the anti-aircraft jumpsuit ensemble is NOT his best look. Besides, he's way too busy looking for those weapons to think about a romantic tryst...

Confident in my response, I then went the extra mile and tempted the fates. Said I, rather smugly: I have never knowingly had carnal knowledge of a Republican. I added, I will go to my grave untainted by the scourge of conservatism, small c.

So that's the set-up.

I returned from Bologna earlier this evening. Poured a glass of wine (certo) and sat down to read through e-mail. There, at the top of the list, was a message entitled „Hello, Stranger! from an individual I will simply call Mistake is an ex-boyfriend from university days. I haven't heard from him in more than 23 years. And that hasn't been a bad thing...

Wrote Mistake, „&Mac183;assume you've forgiven me for...!... &Mac183;tracked you down via the Internet&Mac183;now living in the Washington, D.C. area&Mac183;working at the State Department&Mac183;close to what's happening in Iraq&Mac183;working with the Bush Administration&Mac183;much smarter than people give him credit for&Mac183;interesting work&Mac183;committed&Mac183;


Have you ANY idea how soul-destroying it is to suddenly realise you've done the deed with someone who lunches with Paul Wolfowitz? I think I would've been less horrified had he announced he was in charge in product development for Philip Morris and had accepted as a life goal the dream of addicting all African children to Marlboros by the year 2014 AD.

A wee bit of background is required here. I dated Mistake back in 1976-1977. Like most other Cornell University students of the late 1970's, Mistake was a pot-smoking liberal who marched in support of Equal Opportunities for Women and Minorities. He professed undying devotion to the French feminist diarist, Anais Nin. In other words, no obvious signs of aberrant behaviour.

It was Mistake who first suggested I audition for the more progressive theatre programme. No one could have been more supportive when I was cast in my first production: Tom Eyen's „Women Behind Bars. Mistake said it was brave of me to discover the joys of self-expression.

Meanwhile, back in the dorm, Mistake was bravely discovering the joys -- and breasts -- of a grocery heiress named Corky. She hailed from New Mexico, Land of Enchantment. NO KIDDING.

I got great reviews and Corky got Mistake. In fact, he dumped me on opening night. Naturally, this being the seventies, we remained „friends (complete bullshit, of course --- who the hell stays friendly with someone who cheats and says it's „refreshing to be with „a woman with a lower IQ? Anais Nin my ass).

Okay, so then I suspected Mistake wasn't the man of my dreams. He broke my heart and it hurt for a long time. Still, I never thought Mistake would go so far as to become a Republican.

Mistake's e-mail went on to say he'd been thinking about me and wondering where I was. He'd heard I'd moved to Europe. He wondered about the European perspective on the world in general and on Bush in particular.

I toyed with many responses, obviously. The first one that came to mind read like this:

Dear Mistake,

Thank you for your recent enquiry. Unfortunately, and sadly, our beloved daughter, sister and friend, Amy, died last year in a peace rally, brutally slaughtered by the Bush Administration while folk dancing for serenity. Took a bullet while performing a Salute to the Sun. Yours, The Family and Friends of Amy Selwyn

I decided, however, that this might cause some concern amongst those college friends with whom I maintain steady correspondence.

However, some kind of response to Mistake was in order. Why not take the opportunity to share some of the lessons of my life as a European with someone who might be in a position to relay that information to Giorgio W. Bush, il secondo?

I allowed myself the indulgence of thinking Mistake would take my e-mail into the office with him, stirred by the honesty and impressed by the trenchant nature of my clearly global observations. I imagined Wolfowitz choking on a dry donut.

Dear Mistake,

How surprising to hear from you after all these years. And how lovely to hear about your successes. I couldn't be more pleased for you. To think that you're directly involved in something as successful as the transition to peace in Iraq. That must give you such a feeling of satisfaction, especially these days when things are finally begin to settle down and the country is obviously well on its way to a peaceful and democratic future...

With the 30 June deadline looming, I guess you guys will finally have the time to think about Next Steps. North Korea, perhaps? Syria? My God, the possibilities are endless. What an exciting time to be in the peace field!

I have been living in Europe for the better part of seven years now. I have learned so much. I remember how much you enjoyed speaking and sharing ideas with intelligent women, so I guess I'll just take this opportunity to share three thoughts from this side of the pond.

1. The perception of Americans continues to evolve.

A few years ago, we were seen as merely fat, loud, rich and stupid. Congratulations. You guys have really moved the needle on that one. Now we're seen as fat, loud, rich, stupid and EVIL. The Linda Blairs of realpolitik. Well done, guv!

2. Italians keep the Pace

Those flags you may see on your television screen are NOT advertisements for a chain of gay discos. I know that rainbow motif is confusing. However, you're a graduate of an Ivy League university, Mistake. Pace means Peace. (Latin is really in vogue right now, by the way. Look at Mel Gibson&Mac183;)

3. Italians aren't 100 per cento certain about how to describe Bush.

Some people say Idiot. Some say Scary Idiot. And yet another group says Molto Pericoloso Scary Idiot. (That means Very Dangerous Scary Idiot.) Clearly, further analysis of the data is required before we can draw any conclusions. However, I DO think we've established a leitmotif of sorts, no?

Hope this helps. Do let me know if you need any further thoughts on the topic.


P.S. If you think I've forgotten that you dumped me for that grocery chick, you're even stupider than I thought, you crummy Republican.

In truth, I haven't responded. I guess I'm still trying to come to terms with the idea that I once loved a man who swapped Anais Nin for Dick Cheney. It's too strange.

I will, eventually. Knowing me, I'll write a very nice and very polite response. I'll make it clear that we have very different views of the world, and I'll try and make a few observations about how America is perceived by the Italians and by Europeans, in general. For bonus points, I will try to avoid using technical terminology, such as „f-cking idiot and „f-cking disaster.

Of course, maybe the answer lies with Mel Gibson: maybe I should just say it in Latin. Unleash the Inner Gladiator and all that, telling Mistake what the Italians --- at least those whom I know --- would like to say to George Bush:

"Non possis distinguere tuum podicem a Puticulis, culus."

That means, You don't know your ass from a catacomb, asshole.


x A.


© Copyright Amy Selwyn 2004