The Moorish Wanderer

Course 6 : Communitarism

Posted in American Minority Voices by Zouhair ABH on February 17, 2009

James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano

Watching the Soprano episode confirmed an opinion I have on communities : communitarism leads always to political clashes, because there will always be a community that would claim for a better status than they had.

Here is a resumé of the Soprano episode : on Columbus Day, Native Americans activits want to protest against the genocide their people suffered from, in front of Christopher Columbus’ statue, the famous Italian navigator that proved the earth was spheric (and thus, discovered a new world he thought was the Indies.)

This demonstration fuelled the Italian Americans‘ rage, since Columbus Day is sort of Italian-American pride (Columbus being an Italian). That led to an absurd situation that quickly evolved into a violent confrontation between both communities, a row where a pathetic scene around Columbus statue would require the police intervention to disperse both sides.

This is what happens when communities try to ‘re-write‘ history by portraying themselves as the victims. There is this scene in the talk-show, where multicultural America is gathered : the African-American speaker, an Italian-American and a Native American guests, arguing who is to be considered as THE victim (and could subsequently ask for compensation from the other ‘bad’ communities). The funny thing is, both communities have deeper ties than they think. The show eventually ended with a long speech made of Tony soprano, a criticism of communitarism, as well as a praising of individualism : He became what he is not because of his Italian heritage, but because of his personal and individual capacities.

When there is a country with many communities, and when they base their relations on a conflictual view of history : Settlers vs Indians, White vs Blacks, North vs South, Italian/Mafia vs Federal enforcers… not that American history is built on inter-communities violence (although it is not the only country that experienced this), but minor authors tend to voice their own community’s anger and prejudice, through a process of  ‘dominant culture’ caricaturization, so eventually, all the communities see themselves as the rightful victims… freaky !

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