Dear sir or madam:
It's nice to see a left-wing newspaper reembracing its historical roots by championing a decent "common man" ["The Man Who Would Be Kingmaker," August 5]. Back in the 1930s workingmen and -women weren't treated with the condescension and contempt with which they are today. Broadway playwrights like Clifford Odets and Arthur Miller saw simple truths in the lives of simple people. Indeed, author Pietro Di Donato made a common Italian laborer a hero in his seminal novel, Christ in Concrete, while John Steinbeck sympathized with poor whites in The Grapes of Wrath.
The condescension still exists, however, particularly when it applies to Italian-Americans: e.g., Jesse Jackson Jr.'s gratuitous remark that one of Coconate's supporters is "like one of the Sopranos." This kind of prejudice also got a big laugh at Mayor Daley's Outdoor Film Festival a few weeks ago, when Woody Allen, in Annie Hall, brushed off two exuberant, yet well-meaning Italian-American fans with the remark, "I'm standing here next to the cast of The Godfather!"
Considering how the early labor movement in America got its boost from visionary, highly educated Italian leaders such as Arturo Giovanetti, Luigi Antonini, Carlo Tresca, Emma Bambace, et al, this "Italian working people equals dumb lowlives" mentality is truly enraging. Besides, as reporters are finally discovering--thanks to people like Frank Coconate--the term "organized crime" is something which has unfairly been placed on the backs of all Italian-Americans for decades, regardless of their class status. Even the reading public is becoming wise to the media's constant trumpeting of the terms "mob" and "mafia" to people with vowels at the end of their names. As an old woman at a public library recently told me, "Why is (Chicago Sun-Times reporter) Carol Marin going nuts over illegal gambling (Joey the Clown) when Al Qaeda's on the loose and the Daleys have been raping Chicago city government for the past 50 years?"
That's a very good question. And in order to get an answer, perhaps it's time for news reporters and law enforcement officials to begin analyzing their own deeply held class and ethnic biases via the Italian-American community.
Bill Dal Cerro
Italic Institute of America,