Pisa, Italy — Even Galileo wouldn’t approve of the quality of dissent in his university town today. “Bush Is Mad,” says graffiti on one building. Nearby appears a drawing of the hammer and sickle. At the University of Pisa, professors stroll by the graffiti. The students are in charge. As you enter the campus courtyard, graffiti on one building announces that you are entering a no-fascist zone.
The anger of Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci at her fellow countrymen isn’t too difficult to understand. “In Europe your enemies are everywhere, Mr. Bush. What you quietly call ‘differences of opinion’ are in reality pure hate,” she wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “Because in Europe pacifism is synonymous with anti-Americanism, sir, and accompanied by the most sinister revival of anti-Semitism, the anti-Americanism triumphs as much as in the Islamic world. Haven’t your ambassadors informed you? Europe is no longer Europe. It is a province of Islam, as Spain and Portugal were at the time of the Moors. It hosts almost 16 million Muslim immigrants and teems with mullahs, imams, mosques, burqas, chadors. It lodges thousands of Islamic terrorists whom governments don’t know how to identify and control. People are afraid, and in waving the flag of pacifism — pacifism synonymous with anti-Americanism — they feel protected.”
Pisa was once invaded by the Muslims. Now they come by invitation. They sell watches and other wares near the cathedral built to commemorate Pisa’s victory over the Muslims at Sicily and Sardinia in the 11th century.
Pisa still lives off the cultural capital of Catholicism. It charges the tourists — one can’t exactly call them pilgrims anymore — for the privilege of entering the cathedral and at least one church I visited. But the relevance of Catholicism pretty much stops there — though atheist Italians did notice and applaud the Pope’s siding with atheist Europe over Christian America in the war.
Students at the University of Pisa no doubt look upon their ancestors’ warring with Islam as a great scandal, and may think the wrong side won. These days they root for Islam over Christianity and Judaism. “We are all Palestinians now,” is another graffiti slogan one can find in Italy.
What you can’t find is, “Saddam Hussein Is Mad,” or even “Osama bin Laden Is Mad.” The protesters only get out the graffiti pens for George Bush.
Some people in Italy with whom I have spoken dismiss the protesting as a mere “fashion statement,” an insignificant exercise in feel-good 1960s nostalgia. And the communism one sees here and there isn’t any more deeply felt, they say, than Christianity.
But Fallaci sees this as “suicide.” Antiwar Europe has become a “pit of Pontius Pilates.” While the liberals of Europe attack the American defenders of liberties, they welcome the most illiberal elements into their midst. The enlightened secular now share space with radical Muslims, Fallaci says, “in the courtyard of the Uffizi Galleries, at the foot of Giotto’s tower. In front of the Loggia dell’ Orcagna, around the Loggie del Porcellino. Opposite the National Library, at the entrances to the museums. On Ponte Vecchio where every so often they kill each other with knives or revolvers. Along the banks of the Arno where they asked for and received municipal funding. (That’s right, ladies and gentlemen: municipal funding.) In the churchyard of San Lorenzo where they get drunk on wine and beer and liquor, bunch of hypocrites, and where they utter obscenities at women. (Last summer in that churchyard they even tried it with me, an old lady…In the historic streets where they camp out on the pretext of selling merchandise. By ‘merchandise’ I mean purses and bags illegally copied from patented models, photo murals, pencils, African statuettes that ignorant tourists take for Bernini sculptures, stuff-to-sniff. (‘Je connais mes droits, I know my rights’ one of them hissed at me on Ponte Vecchio, one who I’d seen selling stuff-to-sniff.)…
“The same thing happens in other cities, I know. At Turin, for example. That Turin that created Italy and now doesn’t even seem like an Italian city. It seems like Algiers, Dacca, Nairobi, Damascus, Beirut. At Venice. That Venice where the pigeons of Piazza San Marco have been replaced by little rugs with ‘merchandise’ and even Othello would feel ill at ease. At Genoa. That Genoa where the marvelous palazzi that Rubens so admired have been seized by them and are now perishing like beautiful women who have been raped.”
Fallaci could also mention Pisa. The Saracens are back. They haven’t sacked the city, but given the ideology taught at the University of Pisa, it looks like they won’t have to. Modern Pisa won’t put up a fight.