As I've mentioned here before, I was born and raised in an Italian immigrant community. As such, I feel an overwhelming sadness that Anthony Scaramucci has come to represent that honorable group on a national stage in any way, shape or form.
Growing up, I often heard my mother say that the streets were not going to get her son. I had no idea what she meant. The streets I knew were safe and full of people who were neighbors and friends. Even when the "Godfather" movies came out and my mother refused to go because of their portrayal of Italian Americans, I didn't quite understand. The people in those movies were as foreign to me as Martians.
As I grew older I found out that, in fact, our neighborhood had a lot of wise guys and thugs. She was determined to keep my brother from joining them. She succeeded. He became a high school English teacher.
Young men from the neighborhood usually came with nicknames. It was a given that they had some kind of appellation attached to their given moniker. We had Fish and Roach and Abendale, to name a few. So when I heard that the man who briefly occupied the position of White House communications chief was named Anthony Scaramucci, I cringed at what I knew would inevitably be his street name… The Mooch.
Most of the young men I knew in the neighborhood who had these street names were decent people who grew up to be productive, law-abiding citizens. But others grew up to be thugs. Sadly, when the man currently sullying the White House looked around for someone to head his communications team, he went to the thug group for a pick.
Thugs might dress up in expensive suits, own big homes and go to church on Sundays but they are still thugs. Without any need to become made members of any criminal organization, they are the definition of wise guys. I found them repulsive in my youth. I find them repulsive now.
In this regard, I know Scaramucci. Not personally, but I know his type. I spent my early years avoiding him and his braggadocio, his swagger, his foul mouth and his unending ego. I may not have known who I wanted to marry when I was young, but I sure as hell knew who I didn't want to marry – I never wanted to marry Mooch.
There are many Italian Americans who have brought honor to our ancestry. I can still recall how proud my family was when Lido Anthony "Lee" Iacocca was named president of the Chrysler Corp. and turned its fortunes around. My parents were only one generation away from the days when signs in shop windows said, "Italians not welcome" or "Italians need not apply" for a job opening being advertised. To go, in one generation, from that to the head of one of the most important companies in America was a triumph. Many thought his success was directly due to the number of candles lit in Italian American parishes all over America to ensure he didn't fail.
Sadly, when an Italian finally made it to a prominent position in this White House, instead of being a gentleman in the mode of Lee Iaccoca, we got The Mooch, a man molded in the form of every wise guy that Martin Scorsese ever depicted. We got a foulmouthed braggart who gave interviews that had to be censored for anyone under 16. We got the worse stereotype of an Italian American possible. And for those of us who know that this is not the real face of Italian Americans, it's just heartbreaking.
He represents a small segment of an East Coast branch of thuggery that unfortunately all too often comes with an Italian last name.
I'd hoped my generation could leave those stereotypes behind us as we integrated further and further into American society. Then The Mooch comes along and reminds us that Scorsese didn't make up those characters in his movies from thin air.
Thank god his tenure in the White House was brief, albeit painful. Thank god he's quickly gone before he can further taint his heritage. I know the media is saying that the new chief of staff was responsible for his ouster. But I've got to believe Italians all over America were lighting candles in church while praying for his quick removal.
I guess prayer does work.
Elise Sereni Patkotak is the author of two memoirs about her life in Alaska, both available at AlaskaBooksandCalendars.com and at local bookstores.
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