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Obama, Nancy, and the Health Care Reform Bill. The View from the Italian-American Community on Facebook.

Ottorino Cappelli (March 23, 2010)
In the night of March 21, as soon as the House passed the Health Care Reform Bill, we launched a discussion among our readers on Facebook. "Whatever your opinion on the matter," we emphasized, "it shouldn't escape notice that this historic event takes place in large part thanks to the joint effort of the first African-American President and the first Italian-American Woman Speaker of the House." About hundred people participated in the first 24 hours. This is what they had to say


We organized our discussion as follows: first, we posted the news: "10:45pm The House has just passed the Health Reform Bill." During the night, 27 people sent an approval message (by clicking the "I like it" button,) and 17 people posted a comment. A few hours later, we invited a number of "public intellectuals"



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including univeristy professors, journalists, and artists



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to express their views in a little more articulated fashion. Six responded in the first 24 hours, and we posted their opinions on our wall. The discussion took off immediately among the almost 6,000 "fans" of our Facebook page: They wrote, sometimes taking issue with each other and "yelling" in capital letters
; some just expressed agreement or disagreement with someone else's position, while others explained their views at more length. We present the whole exchange here as it appeared on Facebook today, March 23, at 10am.


As for the actual content of the exchange, you will notice that while all our contributors who responded in the first hours happened to be in favor of the reform bill, critical comments seem to prevail among the readership. Also notice, however, that up to now 33 readers have posted a comment, and among them you find indeed several critical voices; on the other hand, as many as 49 people have "approved" the pro-reform posts we published by just clicking the "I like it" button. One should conclude that had the latter also taken their time to write a few lines, pro-reform comments would be in the majority.


Be it as it may, the discussion is still open to all those who want to participate. Just come and visit us at www.facebook.com/iitaly.


Anthony J, Tamburri, Dean, John D. Calandra Italian American Institute (Queens College, CUNY)

"Symbolically, this speaks to the value and necessity of inter-ethnic collegiality, collaboration, and cohesion. Be it something as colossal as universal heath care, as we witnessed this evening, or something more local as the movement to prevent the demolition of Our Lady of Loreto Church in Brooklyn, where the neighborhood African Americans have now joined the Italian Americans, when we gather our energies and forces, things can indeed get done. Patrick Gallo was correct to call for this cohesion back in 1974! In the end, however, let us remember that there is still much more for us to get done."



Aileen Riotto Sirey, Chair and Founder, National Organization of Italian American Women

"For all the passion and vituperation surrounding it, “healthcare” is largely an issue about family nurturing. It is therefore remarkably appropriate that the Speaker who broke the long stalemate by ushering the Healthcare Bill through the House was not only the first woman to hold that position...but an Italian American woman.


While the efficacy of the bill has yet to be proven, it is a start. Nancy Pelosi did what came naturally to her by embracing the American family, with special compassion for disenfranchised children, young adults and poor Americans.


Speaker Pelosi has been a lightning rod in part because of her position but in large measure because she is a woman and an Italian American."



Judith Harris, Journalist, Correspondent from Rome

"Because I live in Italy, where a national health service is taken for granted (and sometimes too much for granted!), I have learned to know personally and appreciate its benefits, especially for small children and the elderly. Throughout this campaign in the US I have particularly resented the opposition's disdainful insistence that a national health service is "socialism." One can only be proud that the leadership of Nancy Pelosi contributed so vitally to passage of the bill.


At the same time, this comment by the NARAL organization also struck me: "It is an outrage that anti-choice politicians such as Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) used women’s reproductive health as a bargaining chip."


Mary Jane Cryan



Jerome Krase, Emeritus Professor, Brooklyn College (CUNY)

When I asked my wife Suzanne for comment on Nancy Pelosi's "victory," she said "Go girl!." Having been surrounded virtually all my adult life by Italian American women I was certain that only someone like Nancy Pelosi could get the job done in our dysfunctional legislative family dominated by males with government paid expensive health care.


For example, in my wife's all Italian American family, as well as my own half-Sicilian one, the women were the "generals" whose untiring efforts and constant strategizing led the family through thick and thin. My wife and daughters have been pushing for health care reform for ages (preferring a single payer system but will take almost anything at this point).


As I wrote some time ago in my i-italy article "Nancy for President and Other Proposals":


"Nancy Pelosi; Italian American, bright, beautiful, articulately liberal Democrat who has the courage to go head to head with both enemies and friends to do the best for her country...If I weren't already married to a similarly endowed woman, I'd be chasing her all over the place. Since I can't propose marriage, I will simply propose Nancy Pelosi for President."

 



Andrew Guzaldo



Annie Rachele Lanzillotto, Artist, New York City

Pelosi has a name like a pugilist, and she hammered home the law. You see the size of that hammer?! Now we will have more options for survival when faced with illness rather than ducking under the poverty line with our pre-pre-pre-existings.


Maybe just maybe us dual citizens can survive in this country. We shall see.


As a double cancer survivor, my whole economic life focuses around accessing top health care. As an Italian American woman I have been tough enough to survive despite the constant circumlocution of health insurance. I'm not afraid to be poor. That courage is part of my make-up. Afraid to be uninsured? Certo!


Madeline DeMuccio



Edvige Giunta, Professor of English, New Jersey City University

Health care reform: like so many, I did not believe this was going to happen. I am elated to see politicians at work on behalf of the people.


This is the kind of momentous event I hoped to witness when I decided to become a US citizen. To be able to listen to our politicians and actually believe them: what a thrill! Obama is keeping his promises.


Joseph Imparato








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