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How to Make Your New Surroundings Feel Like Home

13 Apr

osprey

(Photo courtesy Rich Tortorigi)

 

At various times in our lives, we are called to find a new place to call “home”. Whether downsizing from a large to a smaller house; embarking on a cross-country move required for work purposes, or fulfilling your dream to explore another part of the world, there is no question that moving can be scary. The way to counter that fear of the unknown is to take action.
There was a time when the city of Rome was surrounded by enemies, and the only way it could survive was by taking the offensive. The Roman army grew from an unpaid citizen’s militia to the world’s most powerful professional institution. Rome was victorious because the Roman soldiers were relentless, tenacious and courageous in making the first move. They used innovative techniques as they expanded their territories and incorporated what they learned from other cultures.
You too need to be relentless, tenacious, and courageous about taking this new challenge into your own hands. Feeling “lost “after moving into a new home is quite normal. Your surroundings are unfamiliar and you don’t know your new neighbors—yet. Take the offensive. Don’t wait for someone to show up at your door and ask to be your new best friend. Fill up your time planner with the people, places, and events that can be found where you are now. Throw yourself a housewarming party. Learn what community events will be held in your new town will be doing this summer and incorporate some of the local flavor (restaurants, stores, activities) into your weekly time planner.
Of course even when you have followed these suggestions to a tee, there will still be moments of loneliness that seep in when you least expect it. That is called LIFE, which, like an ancient Roman mosaic, is not perfect when examined too closely, but still a breathtaking masterpiece when taken as a whole. You are evolving into what you are meant to become: a confident, self-sufficient woman, who is capable of both letting go and embracing new turf. You are being called to let go of the pain associated with the loss of having had your loved ones all under one roof, and embrace a new cast of characters who will eventually fill your heart with joy and happiness, even if they don’t share the same last name.
On a day to day basis, pick 2-3 of the following exercises and see them through for six weeks. Before you know it you will notice a more permanent change and a place to truly call your home!
• Join a local place of worship in your new neighborhood and get involved with their activities.
• Invite a few of your new condo neighbors for a pot luck house-warming party at your home
• Bake a batch of biscotti, put on the machinetta and invite your sons over to help you enjoy your new home and munch on a homemade goodie.
• Get a dog and walk through the streets of your condo complex. Fellow dog walkers love to stop and share conversations about their pups and yours.
• Have a 20 minute telephone conversation each day to stay in touch with family members who live farther away.
• Buy a great bottle of wine and invite some friends from your old neighborhood to help you pair it with just the right cheese when you invite them over for movie night in your new place.

These are just a few suggestions; you will no doubt come up with many more but you must resist the urge to let self-pity lead to inertia. We all battle loneliness and often it is a result of moving residences so you are not alone. The solution to feeling lost in new surroundings lies in summoning up the courage to take consistent action to bringing into your life all of the elements that will soon become familiar. Like the Roman soldiers, you too, can be victorious in conquering new territory.

Banish Indifference if You Want More Sex Appeal

25 Mar

bench

 

Sardinian born Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) was a controversial figure because of his political views. He was one of the most important Marxist thinkers of the 20th century and spent much of his life analyzing social and political issues. Imprisoned by Mussolini’s Fascist regime, he filled more than 30 notebooks with his thoughts while incarcerated. One of the quotes he is noted for is his perspective on “indifferenza”, indifference. Whether we agree with his views or not Gramsci risked life and limb for his passionate vision for society, and openly admitted his hatred for indifference. Living, he believed, meant taking sides. Taking a stance. Having an opinion, and standing up for what one believes. Indifference, to Gramsci, meant passivity. Feeling alive was about making decisions and following them through; which was the guiding principle of his own life.

People in general are attracted to those who live their lives passionately. Many find it difficult to make a decision because they are afraid to “take sides”; afraid to commit. If you make a decision and the outcome turns out to be less than wonderful, you may be blamed for it. Those who are closest to people who are indecisive end up feeling burdened by having to make all of the decisions. The wishy-washy personality is quickly perceived as disinterested in the day to day on goings of their own life .No one wants to be around that kind of psychic inertia.

The way to turn this around is to be passionately involved with each day you are given. Turn your passive indecision into active preferences. Start by asserting yourself in making small choices and then move your way on up to more important ones. Tell your friends and family which restaurant, movie or guest menu you would prefer. Voice your preferences regarding which outfits you like best on your partner, what vegetables you want to plant in the garden this year, and exercise your right to make decisions about yourself without asking anyone else’s opinion—how you want your own hair cut, what color suit you feel like wearing, etc. This doesn’t mean you should act bossy or controlling. I can assure you that once you start playing a more active role in your life you will be perceived as incredibly more sexy and attractive .
Here’s to stepping out of “indifference” and into taking a stance!

——–For more on rebuilding  a life after loss, read “Lemons into Limoncello: From Loss to Personal Renaissance with the Zest of Italy”

 

 

Where True Beauty Lies

10 Mar

Rae at beach                                                                           Photo courtesy of Rich Tortorigi

Exaggerated worries over how we look can distract us from focusing on who we could be.  I often hear women comment that men seem to age better than they do. Panicking about getting older,  they rush out and make a rash decision about going under the scalpel. Perhaps what we really need is to stop running from age, and start developing a new perspective on our eternally youthful inner beauty. Italy’s top beauty expert Diego Dalla Palma casts doubt on the misconception that men age better than women. In his book, La Bellezza Interiore, Dalla Palma admits that aging causes many of his clients the heavy burden of bitterness and suffering; especially if they try to deny the inevitable.  Aging also, however, can bring with it wisdom, an unparalleled wealth of experience, and the ability to take joy in the moment—something we can’t always accomplish in our youth. The author encourages his readers to consider the balance one acquires with age, and the gifts aging brings despite what it seems to take away.

As one who wrote my doctoral dissertation on body image, I would encourage my readers to value aging more. Not everyone makes it to a ripe old age, so to have your good health at 57,  67 , 77 and beyond—is a gift that far outweighs the emergence of a few crow’s feet. Dalla Palma claims that two indispensible characteristics that help us to make the most of our golden years are charisma, and a great personality. When we develop those two aspects of ourselves, it matters little whether we are male, female, chronologically old, young, wrinkled or taut- skinned. When we drink the sweet nectar of life’s precious moments, the people around us are uplifted by our spirit, and warmed by our example. We inspire others when we are living our best life at any age.

Sometimes, bitterness in old age reflects a fear of death.  If that is the case with you, it might help to seek a professional to talk to, a religious figurehead at your place of worship, or even some reading materials (philosophical, religious, etc) that can provide you with insights, some enlightenment, and even some peace of mind. Marco Aurelio, the Roman philosopher said “he who fears death either fears the loss of sensation or a different kind of sensation”.  In Meditations, he reasons that if we lose the ability to feel sensations after death, then we won’t feel any harm anyway. If our sensations change, that means we are experience a different kind of life, different than the one we have now, but we would nevertheless be very much alive. Thus it makes little sense to fear the end of this life. It makes more sense to keep on living life to the fullest for as long as we can.

Here are five ways you can reap the joy of each day:

1.       Cook yourself at least one delicious fresh meal every day, even if you live alone. Meals don’t have to be fancy to be exquisite, nor do they have to have 4-6 courses. Nutrient rich foods prepared in Mediterranean-style will help you to feel alive and strong.

2.       Invite friends over once a week for game night. It could be bocce, briscola, or scopa, but it is important to have friends come over to share some laughs on a regular basis. You will feel at least ten years younger if you maintain a rich social life.

3.       Follow your interests. Whether it is painting, traveling, reading, or stamp collecting. Now is the time to really pursue the activities you feel passionate about. You will have more knowledge and also great stories to share, which will draw people into your life.

4.       Do something kind for someone else every day. Altruism keeps your heart young and flexible; whether it is a gratuitous smile, a gracious offer to open the door for someone, or treating the person behind you in line to a caffe’ latte.

5.       Finally, make sure you get enough sleep each night. We all vary as to the amount we need, but keep in mind that the body needs to be rested and restored on a regular basis. Only then can you function optimally, avoid cravings, and erase the word “crankiness” from your vocabulary.

Now walk away from that mirror and towards the adventures in life that reconnect you to what counts!

©Raeleen Mautner, PhD., LLC 2014, author  Lemons into Limoncello

Wisdom and the Heart’s Message for Valentine’s Day

1 Feb

italian-heart.jpg

There are times when even the surest rock beneath your foot becomes unsteady; when there is a mismatch between what you knew in your head and what you see with your eyes; when disappointment gives way to fear and the abyss of confusion.

In my book Lemons into Limoncello I suggest turning to “wisdom” of the sages:

·         Marco Aurelio, emperor of Rome from AD 161 to 180, observed the key people in his life and wrote down his thoughts on the wisdom they imparted from their word and example.

·         Marsilio Ficino , a humanist philosopher of the Italian Renaissance advised avoiding harmful foods and negative emotions such as anger, fear, pit, idleness, sorrow or solitude.

·         St Francis of Assisi, son of a wealthy cloth merchant, renounced his worldly ways, left his fancy clothes by the ways and lived a life of giving to others.

·         Laure Cereta, a Renaissance humanist and feminist believed in learning as an antidote to personal loss.

·         Giovanni Battista Vico, professor of rhetoric at the University of Naples, believed in the “ricorso” of society, a pattern of advancing and returning to a more primitive state, each time, however, just a bit more evolved than the last. Our lives follow the same path at times.

While insightful readings have the power to strengthen our resolve in unsteady personal waters, when the books are closed, it is time to respond to the message of our HEARTS, and be unafraid to follow the path where it leads us.

Much love and a very Happy Valentine’s Day to all of my readers and followers

Raeleen

Where to find PACE (peace) amidst the holiday frenzy

15 Dec

Ocean

For most of us, it is not easy to keep from internalizing some of the external chaos that happens around holiday time. We are bombarded with an overwhelm of stimuli–flashing lights, ramped-up commercials, canned elevator music, shopping, baking, parties…it is easy to lose sight of what is right and true and authentic.  Our thoughts are focused outward ,  preparing us to respond at a moments notice, as if our very survival depended on perpetual quick action.

The truth is, however, our emotional and physical survival is really more likely to depend on maintaining a soulful serenity that emanates from within and spreads calm to the people and events happening around us. It should NOT be the other way around.

But HOW TO GET THERE?

There is a passage in one of my favorite books by Susanna Tamaro (Va Dove Ti Porta il Cuore), and it goes like this:

“E quando poi davanti a te si apriranno tante strade e non saprai quale prendere….Respira con profondita’…senza farti distrarre da nulla, aspetta e aspetta ancora. Stai ferma, in silenzio, e ascolta il tuo cuore. Quando poi ti parla, alzati e va’ dove lui ti porta.”

“And when so many roads appear before you and you don’t know which to take…breathe deeply..not letting yourself be distracted by anything, wait and wait some more. Just be still in the silence, and listen to your heart. When finally it speaks to you, ARISE and go where it brings you.”

If  we let our hearts be the compass that guides us through each day, we will stay connected to the solid foundation we all have deep inside of us. Instead of jumping out of bed in the morning and throwing ourselves into the hubbub, take a few minutes and wait, and then wait some more. In that stillness, ask your heart what it needs today. Then, when it answers you, you can arise, and go then, where it takes you.

May all of my readers and fans have a peaceful, joyous, and extraordinary holiday season.

God Bless you and Buone feste!

Con tanto affetto,

Raeleen

The Holiday Gift of “PERDONO”

29 Nov

dante's paradiso

 

Someone recently asked me how to deal with grudges within Italian American families during holiday time. Should you or shouldn’t you invite people to your parties who haven’t spoken to each other for perhaps years?

The short answer is YES.

 Let me start by saying that old grudges are not specific to families of Italian heritage. Human beings –no matter what their ethnicity–have feelings , and sometimes those feelings get hurt through their erroneous perception of another’s intention. Most family members do not actively seek to be malicious to their own flesh and blood. That is not to say that it cannot happen, but more often, long-time grudges are born of someone’s unintentional blunders. People get upset over small incidents that to an outside observer  would seem silly, but those who are directly involved are unable to put common relational glitches into perspective and move on. I have a solution that is not 100 percent fool proof, but it may work to draw some self-marginalized relatives back into the fold: I call it a no-nonsense invitation to forgive.

You can start by making a guest list of each person you would like to have come to your family event, if the situation were ideal.  Separate your list into two columns: Those who you know will come to le feste without hesitation, and those who are likely to feign outrage and throw your invitation into the trash. Send written invitations to those in the first column, but make personal phonecalls to those in the second. Why? Because in showing kindness and warmth to those how hold resentment, you have the ability to put an end to the poisonous cold wars that deprive all of you from what the holiday season should really be about: LOVE.

Tell each person on that “grudge” list that you acknowledge their past hurts, but want to offer everyone the gift of an opportunity to heal and love each  other again. Tell them how much their presence would mean to everyone ; you especially. When you speak to them, do not allow them to gossip or complain about anyone else in the family. Simply show them love, respect, and a welcoming  demeanor. Ask that person to show the goodness in his/her heart, by accepting your invitation. Regardless of the response, always end your conversation by reiterating the time and place of the event, and telling what that person might bring to the party if desired. While not everyone will let themselves be touched by this loving gesture, some will not be able to resist a chance to do what they may have just been too proud to do on their own. They may be relieved and grateful to take their rightful place around your holiday table once again this season.  At the same time, you will have given everyone a holiday gift that no money in the world could buy–compassion, and a realistic acceptance of human mistakes and the opportunity for redemption—all themes that run commonly through Dante’s Divine Comedy. Remember how Dante entered Inferno, a place that donned a sign that read:  “lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate” (Canto III, “abandon all hope you who enter”), and yet instead of being doomed to remain there, he exited his Hell, transformed himself, and eventually found his pathway to Paradiso. As long as there is life, there is hope. You can be a ray of hope to all members of your family this holiday season, by creating a little paradiso within your family dynamic.

Buone feste, Cari Lettori!

 ————————-

The Beauty of Virtue

14 Oct

Pietro_Pomponazzi

Pietro Pomponazzi (1462-1525)

My blood runs cold when I hear of acts that demonstrate a blatant disrespect for life.  It sometimes comes in the form of small daily injustices, like the person who rushes to cut before a slower elderly person in the cashier’s line;  or bolder acts such as the delinquent who tries to furtively force open a locked car door with the intent to steal what is on the seat, or worse  yet, a  hit and run driver who just keeps on going after plowing over an animal or human, whose body just seconds before was filled with life and  vibrancy. What is going on?

Renaissance philosopher Pietro Pomponazzi  wrestled with the notion of the soul’s immortality. Evident in his writing was a fearless  tendency to change the course of his thoughts as his reasoning process spontaneously evolved. This cognitive flexibility, to me, was a sign of his great intellect. The big question, that he went back and forth on was the argument of the soul’s immortality. Pomponazzi , originally holding that the soul is mortal and inseparable from the body, later on reasoned that although we cannot conceive of an immortal soul in earthly terms, that does not mean it doesn’t exist.  What emerged from this debate over the nature of the soul  was the exploration of virtue, and whether humans are  inclined to do virtuous acts  only if external rewards and punishments are dangled before them , such as the expectation of Heaven or Hell that religion serves to remind us of; or is  true virtue prompted by a sense of internal satisfaction  when one does good and  a guilty conscious when doing wrong. Pomponazzi believed that virtue should be its own reward.

I would agree.

The research on moral development (doing right, avoiding wrong) certainly indicates that many people never get beyond the stage of needing external rewards and punishments for them to do the right thing and avoid temptation to do wrong.  While laws are indispensable for maintaining an orderly society, how can we as individuals, strengthen our internal sense of morality? By putting ourselves in the “shoes” of others the next time we are uncertain about what to do. This is called empathy.  True virtue, in my opinion, has empathy as its foundation.

Fortunately, I see examples of true virtue much more often than I witness the dark side of human nature. The fire fighter who saves a child’s life; the soldiers who put their own lives on the line for fellow countrymen they have never even met; the neighbor who brings a fresh baked cake over to the sick; the teenager who finds a fallen sparrow and gently carries it home to nurture back to flight. These are exquisite examples of everyday heroes and heroines who do  good deeds  selflessly, without any expectation of praise or fear of criticism. While we can do little to force a moral code in others, we can continually make strides in being the person WE know we should be and could be. By asking ourselves how we would feel if we were the other person, we  can align ourselves with Pomponazzi’s urging to let  virtue be its own reward. After all virtue, is what truly makes humankind beautiful.

October Italian Heritage Month–Pledge to Reconnect with Your Ancestry

6 Oct
with my Zia Immacolata in the 70's

with my Zia Immacolata in the 70′s

In the early 1900’s it is important to understand that the courageous Italians who risked life and limb in search of a better life in America, wanted to make sure that they and their offspring did everything they could to be “good” Americans. In many cases they discouraged their children from speaking Italian when out in public, and because they were often judged negatively for some of their traditions, they increasingly assimilated into American life. Rightly, they should be heralded for their bravery, courage, and hard work; all of which led to an opportunity for you and me to enjoy this great country. However, their zealousness often left subsequent generations feeling empty with respect to wanting to feel more connected to their Italian Heritage, and not knowing where to begin.  Let me suggest three ways for you to feel a greater sense of belonging to the Italian heritage that is rightfully yours. I like to use the acronym KDL: Know, Defend, and LIVE your heritage.

1.       Know what Italian heritage is really about. If you rely on media, as many people do for their information, you will get a very distorted and negative perception of Italian Americans. I would encourage you to study the Italian language, take a trip to Italy if possible, and follow Italian news headlines. Learn also about the Italian American ethnic identity. According to the latest Census statistics, about 1 in 10 people in the US identify themselves as having some Italian blood in them, making us the 5th largest ethnic group in this country.  Many have no idea of the vast contributions that those of Italian heritage have made in making this country starting from  the American Revolution and profoundly influencing almost every important area in society:  the arts, sports, business, education, medicine, science, entertainment and politics. You can visit the NIAF (National Italian American Foundation) and OSIA (Order of the Sons and Daughters of Italy in America) and find a wealth of information on this topic.

2.       Defend your heritage.  Unlike with other ethnic groups, it seems there is no political correctness with respect to Italian ethnicity. Every time I turn on the TV or go to the movies where Italians are portrayed, there is most often a blatant depiction of Italians as mobsters, buffoons, or over-emotional idiots. But these inappropriate perceptions extend beyond media.  In social circles and in many workplaces pervasive innuendos and jokes that slam Italians on a day to day basis go on as a matter of course. Sadly, this is tolerated by many Italian Americans, which is part of the reason it continues.  While I encourage everyone of Italian heritage to be respectful and polite, it is also important that we correct negative perception by referring to the facts, and that we defend our heritage by letting advertisers, producers, or even our co-workers know that their portrayals or jokes are offensive and uncalled for.

3.       Live your heritage.  Try to recall some of the positive traditions your grandparents and parents maintained as you were growing up, and re-incorporate those traditions into your own life on a daily basis. Some examples are the tendency to have pride in a job well-done, Sunday sauce simmering on the stove, the mindset of “arrangiarsi” (confidence that you will make it through your challenges), family get-togethers, and  the evening passeggiata (stroll through the neighborhood). You might reproduce a special cake that your grandmother baked on a regular basis, or frame the old photos of your Italian ancestors and hang them on your walls to remind yourself of your lineage.

As you begin reconnecting to your Italian roots through the KDL method, you will no doubt discover more and more ways to keep the traditions of your Italian heritage alive.

Toss the Turban and Don the Confidence!

4 Jul

Red turban 2

 

When I was a young woman studying in Italy I remember a merchant selling me—of all things—a red silk turban. “Ma Signorina, ti fa’ bellissima”, he gasped, hands clutched together as if a holy apparition had driven him to prayer. I had never worn a turban before—or any other hat for that matter, other than the woolen cap that kept the New England frost from biting my ears in the winter. But with a reaction such as his, I thought he might have been on to something important.
“How many lire did you say this costs?” Whatever it was, if it had really made me that beautiful , I was in, and here is my wallet.
“No need for a bag, just cut the tags, I will wear it out of the store.” With straightened spine, shoulders back, and a graceful proud sway, I strode out into the main via of the town I was living in and much to my surprise, I saw more heads turn than had ever happened to me before. My day began to suddenly get lucky. A local artist began frantically sketching me and then gave me the gift of his labor. A young Italian gentleman with eyes like the midday sky in June asked me if I’d like to meet him later on for a dance. A fruit vendor thought I looked as beautiful as the ripe apricots he was selling and insist I take a few, gratis, on him. It was as if I had put a genie’s lamp on my head. I began looking people in the eye and greeting them with a smile. I got the courage to go up to one of my professors and ask that he go over the parts of the lesson I hadn’t quite understood. Friends were vying for my company, offering me concert tickets or promising the gelato later on would be on them. What was going on?
Certainly when I found a mirror that night and looked at myself in the sky-high red turban, I couldn’t help but be mortified at how ludicrous I looked. Could everyone else have been putting me on, egging me along, making a joke out of me? Could they have possible seen me as more attractive with that monstrosity on my head? Or was I the one interacting with the world differently?
As it turns out, economists at the University of Verona actually studied the phenomenon of beauty and productivity. Research shows that students rate attractive professors as more effective, and more attractive students also seem to get better grades. Was it discrimination, or something else? We all know about the self-fulfilling prophecy—the fact that what people expect of others usually becomes a reality. A body of research also shows that more attractive individuals are seen as having a myriad of good qualities, and this “halo effect” drives how others treat them.
Researchers Cipriani and Zago, however, make a strong case for the effect of self-confidence on productivity. When a person feels more attractive, they behave more confidently, and people react to them differently. Because I believed that the red turban gave me elegance, beauty, stateliness—all of the qualities the merchant promised me it did, I carried that belief around with me all day, and the result was nothing short of amazing.
I often stress the importance of looking your best in my workshops and presentations. It is not about trying to impress others as much as it is about feeling good about the way you look to yourself. Why? Because doing so will make you confident, more productive, and each day now has the potential for a victory! Now go take off that turban (and I will, too) 

——————
Raeleen D’Agostino Mautner, Ph.D.

AWARDS:
•2013 ACIM (American Italian Committee on Migration) HUMANITARIAN AWARD. OCT 27TH NOON AT ANTHONY’S OCEAN VIEW. For Invitations: RAELEENMAUTNER@GMAIL.COM
•National OSIA (Order of the Sons and Daughters of Italy in America) Summer 2013 Book Club Selection for LEMONS INTO LIMONCELLO: FROM LOSS TO PERSONAL RENAISSANCE WITH THE ZEST OF ITALY (HCI BOOKS)

BOOKS:
•”Living la Dolce Vita:Bring the Passion, Laughter, and Serenity of Italy into Your Daily Life” (Sourcebooks)
•”Lemons into Limoncello: From Loss to Personal Renaissance with the Zest of Italy” (HCI Books)

BLOG:
http://raeleenmautner.com (linked to The New Haven Register Blog)

RADIO SHOW:
“The ITALIAN Art of Living Well” on WNHU 88.7FM or live stream http://www.wnhu.net, Mondays at 7AM

ADVICE COLUMNIST:
The Italian Tribune

SOCIAL MEDIA:
TWITTER: http://www.twitter.com/raeleenmautner #LemonsintoLimoncello
FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/LemonsIntoLimoncello
LINKED-IN: http://www.linkedin.com/in/raeleenmautner

MEETUP GROUP ORGANIZER for ITALIAN LANGUAGE AND CULTURE LOVERS:

http://www.meetup.com/Italian-Language-and-Culture-Lovers/

A Reader Asks Me About Stereotyping

29 Jun

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Gandolfini

Actor James Gandolfini

Dear Dr. Mautner,

Recently my social media was inundated with articles about the passing of Italian American actor James Gandolfini, most famous for his role as mob boss in the Sopranos. I can’t help but wonder why all the praise for someone who portrayed our people in such negative light? I feel badly about the death of a great actor and fellow human being, but am I wrong to feel disappointed in a public figure who used his talent to further the negative stereotype that does a disservice to us all?

Proud Italian American

 

Dear I-A,

Like you, my thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends and colleagues of the beloved actor James Gandolfini. There is no question he was a brilliant talent who touched many people’s lives. He will be sorely missed by his loved ones, who are no doubt now on their own journey of grief and recovery.

I also commend you on your rightful sensitivity about the issue of the pervasive negative stereotyping of Italian Americans in the media. You impress me with your ability to separate the role of Tony Soprano, from the tragic death of a fellow human being. I, too, believe that actors—especially Italian American actors—should insist on more roles that highlight the disproportionately wonderful aspects of our heritage. As Italian Americans with family members who face the consequences of others’ unfair judgment and discrimination, each of us has a personal obligation to summon up the courage and energy to respectfully contact producers, directors, actors, pizzeria owners, automobile executives, and anyone in positions of power who either actively or passively keeps the negative Italian American bias alive. We must do what we can to raise consciousness and make our distaste for this kind of damaging message known; regardless of the response, or lack of response that we receive. Just raising awareness will have an effect, even if it is long in coming.

In a report I wrote when I served as Research Director for AIDA (American Italian Defense Association), I pointed out that stereotyping is destructive and often leads to a number of consequences for those stigmatized. Unfortunately my national survey found strong evidence of a lack of unity among Italian Americans themselves when it comes to combating stereotyping and defamation; ergo in many of the mobster shows and films, you will find actors, producers and directors of Italian heritage.

The landmark research of cognitive psychologist Albert Bandura showed that television has a powerful effect in shaping cultural attitudes. Because people live mostly routine daily lives, they get the majority of their information about the world around them from mass media sources. 

 Attitudes that foster stereotyping are far from harmless, and can have a dramatic effect on one’s life; in areas such as earnings, housing, criminal involvement, health, and life satisfaction itself. Belonging to a devalued social group puts one at risk for emotional distress, because an individual is more likely to internalize negative stereotypes of themselves. Children, unfortunately, are the most vulnerable. They are the ones who watch more hours of daily television than anyone else. Approximately 50% of Americans, no matter what age group, however, get their information about Italian Americans from TV, so you are correct to be concerned about the negative media images that have an effect on your family and mine.

The best recourse to negative stereotyping is to defend what you know is right in a firm, yet courteous way. You can write a letter, make a phone call, join an Italian American organization that has an anti-bias committee, write a letter to the editor of your local paper, or even simply correct negative stereotypes when you hear them tossed around casually in your everyday life. Teach those around you about the positive aspects of our cultural heritage and the many contributions Italian Americans have made to make the United States of America as great as it is.

If you would like to hear more about this topic, please tune in to THE ITALIAN ART OF LIVING WELL  this Monday, July 1st @ 7AM when my guest will be Dr. Manny Alfano, president and founder of The Italian American ONE VOICE Coalition.  

————–

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