Safe in Sicily

July 21, 2012

I feel safer–far safer–in Sicily than in the USA.

I will never ever go into another movie theater in my country.

In my country, I can be randomly mowed down by a lunatic with an assault weapon–any time, any place. Movie theater. Political rally. Mall. Bar. University campus. High school.

So the NRA and gun lobbies want the freedom to bear arms, including assault rifles? What about my freedoms, such as the one to feel safe in public places?

Americans see themselves as “progressive leaders” of the free world.

And how does the free world see Americans? This morning I heard Sicilians refer to us as barbarians.

The NRA and the gun lobbies are holding us hostage.

Let’s stand up. Hold candlelight vigils. Raise our voices.

We can be inspired by Sicilians, who are raising their voices against their own mafiosi.


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58 comments to Safe in Sicily

  • Jann—As they say, the devil is in the details. All these subjects are too complicated to discuss in a blog comment area! Anyway, Free to disagree, and more power to us!

    • Jann

      Sandra, the next time you’re down in Sicily, I’ll pour us a glass of Nero d’Avola and we’ll continue the discussion. Cheers!

  • Jann, I appreciate your thoughts, but I have to disagree. The US Constitution’s second amendment is primarily in defense of keeping weapons to defend citizens from a rampaging and tyrranical government, which, especially now, is crucial. After over thirty years here in Italy, here are some observations of freedoms enjoyed by all: Free to go to jail for trying to defend a business or family from armed attackers, if by some chance you use a weapon. Free to die from the effects of decades of stockpiling of chemical wastes by the N’drangheta/Camorra/SacraCoronaUnita/Mafia. Free to die on roads that are poorly-maintained. Free to die from inconsistent healthcare, horror stories abound…milk in your newborn’s IV drip? (today) Free to die from adulterated food products (ethylene glycol-flavored wine anyone?) Free to die any weekend in a home invasion carried out by heavily armed Romanians. Free to be raped bacause pepper spray and tasers are illegal, along with concealed weapons, and victimhood has always been a respectable condition for women here. And mostly, especially, free to die at the hand of the “pater familias” who feels justified in taking out his entire family, a grand Italian tradition. And free to stand impotent after a natural disaster, awaiting government help after years and years of passively expecting the State to come through, which it never does.
    My opinion of Italy has changed drastically from the first foggy years inebriated by the beauty of the place. I still enjoy it deeply but I miss my roots, and now I recognize that the United States, Italy, downtown Rhodesia, all have their ups and downs.
    Anyway, thanks for the blog, as always, interesting!

    • Jann

      Hi Sandra–thanks for your comment! I’m certainly NOT saying that Italy and Sicily have no problems!! Just one look at the economy here and you realize that they’re in dire straits. I am just talking about FEELING SAFE in public places, night and day. Sicily does it better than most places in the US. Of course, I believe the US does things better than Italy in lots of areas (gay rights, women’s rights, multiculturalism, etc etc). I’m not new to Sicily–I’ve been here off and on for 10 years, so I do not consider myself to be in the “first foggy years.” About some of the other things you mention: stockpiling chemical wastes? The US has got serious issues with this too in places like CO and NM (Los Alamos, the town next to mine, is awash in nuclear waste). Inconsistent healthcare? Plenty of that in the US too–just look at what happened in a top NYC hospital last week. Impotence after a national disaster? You have to look no further than America’s response to Katrina. Yes, every place has their ups and downs–absolutely. No place is anywhere near perfect. But countries and people can learn a lot from each other, especially about what they do right.

      In terms of “a rampaging and tyrannical government,” I’m not sure what exactly you’re referring to, so I won’t comment on that. Except to say this: Tunisians had a tyrannical government, and look how they overthrew it: pretty much without guns–they gathered in the streets. Same with Egypt.

  • Donna

    In response to Rita, I am an Australian who remembers the shootings at Tasmania which horrified our country. A buy back weapons scheme was introduced. Although we have not experienced such a trageedy since we would be naive to assume that gun control has really been controlled. We also have our tainted past with controlling individuals through the treatment of the first Australians, as does every other country developing a western, white culture. What we need to recogise is the individual and as we are planning to travel to Sicily with kids in tow, this is what I think of. Well done to Sicilians for finding their voice. The beautiful countryside, people, customs and history far outweigh an age old problem such as the mafia. Well done Jann, it hurts to see your own birthplace dealing with these tragedies and it is ok to express them in any way that may help. Lets look at the person first before gender, religion, nationality-you don’t know what you’re missing….

    • Jann

      Hi Donna, thank you so much for your comment! It’s so good to hear what other countries have done about guns–we can always learn from them. I hope you and your family have a wonderful trip to Sicily!

  • dennis berry

    Great topic.

    a hunter shot at a flock of geese that flew within his reach
    two were stopped in their rapid flight and fell to the sandy beach
    the male bird lay by the water’s edge and just befor he died
    he faintly called to his wounded mate and she dragged herself to his side
    she bent her head and she crooned to him in way distressed and wild
    caressing her one and only mate as a mother would a child
    then covering his body with broken wing and gasping with failing breath
    a feeble honk then death
    though crudely told this story is true for i’m the guy in the case
    i stood knee deep in the drizzle and cold and the hot tears burned my face
    i buried the birds in the sand where they lay wraped in my hunting coat
    i tossed my gun and belt the the bay when i crossed in my open boat
    now some would say i’m a right poor sport and scoff a the thing i did
    but something broke in my heart that day, and shoot again god forbid.


    • Em

      Jann, just a thank you for allowing each of us to express our beliefs on your site during this tragedy. I think many of us need to get things of our chests instead of keeping it inside and you provided this outlet. Every one was kind, mature and thoughtful in writing their individual thoughts and beliefs. I think we all thank you, Jann.

    • Jann

      Em, what a sweet note. Thank you for joining the discussion.

    • Jann

      Dennis, what an amazing & moving poem. Thanks for posting.

  • Charlie

    Hi Jann, I was a little taken aback by your comments here. The US is a huge country an as large as Europe. Things happen all around the world and while the US is a great, noble country, it is hard to prevent crazy people from doing these type of things. This week Norway is remembering the murdering of 77 from the nut job there. Syria is killing its own people. China has a one child policy and femalecide is rampant there. No country is perfect Jann and the rest of you reading this note. I am Sicilian American but I think Sicilians are the last people to call Americans barbarians. They have allowed the mafia to control their island for decades with violence, death, drugs etc. I think we all need to realize we are all in this together and that borders are artificial.

    • Jann

      Ciao Charlie, I appreciate your comment as always, and I also understand your surprise. You may have noted that I clarified my comment a little bit in a response to another reader’s comment–that the remark by Sicilians was NOT against Americans in general, but was in response to the mass murder at Aurora (yet again). In other ways, of course, Sicilians view the US and Americans very favorably. I realize that similar gun incidents happen in Europe–Norway is one example, but they are much rarer than in the US because Europe has more stringent gun control laws (and perhaps better social safety nets, mental health care, etc). Granted, the US is a great country, but in my opinion we could do a much better job on many fronts to prevent these kinds of attacks.

  • Julia

    Hi Jann,

    I am SO right there with you. When I was forced to leave Sicily in 2004 (via transfer with the military) I was TERRIFIED to go back to the States. No wonder! Furthermore, I think we’re more likely to become victims of political terrorism in addition to victims of these weird crazies if we’re on American soil. Now that I’m a mother the thought of returning (again) Stateside is even more concerning. I cannot wait until I get my little dream home in Acireale someday. Thank you for your blog; I am a devoted reader. It helps take some of the homesickness for Sicily away. Please eat a cannolo for me.

    • Jann

      Ciao Julia, WELCOME to the blog! Thank you for taking the time to comment on the touchy topic here, and also for the “devoted reader” part. 🙂

      Ah, Acireale, how gorgeous. And I will eat a cannolo–or two or three–for you con molto piacere.

  • Gian Banchero

    Cara Jann; Thank you for your brave statement about feeling safe in Sicily, and thank you for allowing everyone to have a Voice in the Forum AND thank you LARRY MAY for the information about the Grand Rabbi of Rome, I didn’t know the gentleman’s name (Dr. Israel Zolli), now I might find more of the story over the Internet. Sadly, here in the States many well schooled people (including Italian-Americans) refuse to believe the assistance the Italians–both everyday and in power–gave the Jews, especially if brought up that the clergy and nuns were part of the equation. Again, thank you Jann for allowing all the voices to be heard in the Forum. Abbracci! –Gian

    • Jann

      Gian, my pleasure. Thank you for participating in the forum! I always value your comments. Abbracci back to you!

  • Em

    Margo, It is NOT a strange notion that our liberty has to include weapons that can incur so much destruction. How do you think we got our freedom in the early stages of our country? It wasn’t by talking nice-nice with our enemies and having tea with them (Britain)…it was because the British wanted total control of us and used their weapons to kill many of our brave citizens who wanted freedom to build their businesses, their farms, take care of their families and build a nation of freedom…these early citizens fought with scythes, some guns, farm equipment, anything they had to keep themselves and their families safe, etc. They weren’t rich..they just wanted a country free from the rules and excessive laws and taxes of an overbearing mother country. Margo, there are evil people in the world and in all countries and every one needs to protect themselves and the need for weapons is always there.

    • Sam

      When evil people are given the freedom to cause maximum destruction, they will exercise that freedom. Allowing the purchase of automatic weapons designed only for the killing of human beings facilitates mass public executions like the one in Aurora. Mass executions will never make this country great, and it diminishes us in the eyes of the civilized world.

  • Margo Chavez

    Brava, Jann, for taking on such a hard and controversial issue. There’s a lot of emotion involved on both sides of the issue, so I admire your willingness to speak out. It is a strange notion that our liberty has to include possession of weapons that can incur so much destruction.

    • Jann

      Ay yi yi, Margo. I’m with you: incomprehensible. But I really am trying to get my head around other viewpoints. xxxxxx

  • Nina Perruccio

    Again, You have heard this famous line before,”Guns don’t kill people, People kill people”. First off,The state of Colorado, has the worst Mental health system in the country. I will bet you it will soon come out that his mother and father were trying to get him Mental Health help. Nobody helped..He slipped through the cracks in the system. This is the first line of deterence for Mentally deranged people.
    It is part of the United States Constitution to Bear Arms. As soon as you take away the right to bear arms, you are setting yourself up for a Socialist Society, or worse a Dictatorship.Even if you take away all the guns in the United States. Bad, deranged, sick, obsessed people will always be able to get guns.You can get any illegal drug you want on the street. Guns would be no different.
    What happened to the college student Meredith Kutcher in Perugia, was not something her parents thought would happen in Safe Italy.
    Violence happens all over, No country is immune. I have a House in New Jersey, and a house in Briatico Calabria. I will continue to live my life in both countries, and refuse to show fear.

  • Em

    Aurora, CO, has a strict gun control law!!! Maybe if someone in the audience carried a gun and used it to maim this demented person, there would have been more saved lives. How can you stop someone like this? He even had his apartment rigged with bombs that would have killed more people. We don’t know how he was able to obtain all these tools to make bombs. We will find out more as more information is released and we will have to figure out how to handle purchases such as these on the internet.

    We have a wonderful country with many loving and caring citizens of all cultures (330 million compared to Sicily’s a little over 5 million….and, by the way, I love grandparents came from Ragusa and Siracusa)and that is what makes our country great. On my street we have and had everyone from many cultures and lifestyles and we have helped anyone who needed our help and Mr.Schinina, it is not nice of you to point out Governor Palin or Representative Bachman inciting violence. People in BOTH parties have incited violence in their speeches!

    We will get through this national trauma with our faiths and prayers and wisdom for everyone. Jann, do not fear going to the movies or any other place. Fear is the killer. Enjoy your life. You live on a beautiful island and you have a wonderful life. Don’t let fear kill it!

    • Jann

      Em, but wouldn’t that have spread more terror? Shots coming from two directions? A person with a gun could not have taken down a guy with a machine gun in body armor (nor would he have been able to see the target in dark theater). And people in the theater might have tackled the good guy, thinking he was another bad guy, etc etc…. In my opinion, guns never seem to be the right answer.

    • Em

      Jann, how are guns being eliminated going to help this problem? Guns, whether they are legal or illegal, someone who is demented and wanting to kill will find a way. What if that was a bomb he had? How are you going to stop this? What if he had knives? Look at Chicago, the murder capital of the country. It has a tight gun control law and look at what is happening there…the south side of Chicago is a murder kingdom, gang violence galore! Has gun control helped? Nada!!!! This is a sick minded individual…maybe it is caused by violence on the screen, violence in the lyrics of the music our kids listen to, violence in the home. We are losing our moral compass in the US and we have to get back to basics: good homes, faith in God, good schools that concentrate on academics not the new political message, strong citizens, good neighborhoods, love for our children (here and in the womb), etc. Being able to bear arms is our constitutional right, the second amendment, and I wouldn’t want any politician playing around with this!

    • Jann

      Em, now there is something we agree on: violent video games, Hollywood violence, military violence, hate mongers screaming on the radio–it’s all got to have some effect on vulnerable minds.

  • Sam

    Yes, I think its best to keep this discussion focused on 2012. Every country is stained by its “Sins of the Past”, but we’re not talking here about how countries used to be. We’re talking about how they are now.

  • addendum to “Christine”

    I forgot to add—-in Italy I live in a large city in umbria, well known to have serious drug problems and the mafia……I still feel safe.

  • Larry May

    Gian Bianchero: I’m very familiar with Italy’s actions with the Jews in WWII. I particularly remember the Grand Rabbi of Rome Dr Israel Zolli converted to Catholicism after the war and took the name Eugenio in honour of Pius XII’s having saved so many Jews.

    • Jann

      Thanks for sharing that Larry–I did not know this. Sounds like a very interesting story, and I’d like to research it more.

    • Em

      Jann, in reply to Gian Banchero’s reply on July 22, I just wanted to say that in his book, Under the Southern Sun, Paul Paolicelli relates when he was visiting Calabria to find his ancestral home of his grandfather he came across an area that was hidden by overgrown trees, shrubs. After researching, he found out that this was at one time a concentration camp, which the Italians in the area were embarrassed about. However, he related some sweet stories about the caring by the Italians to these Jewish prisoners…one was the time when a German general who under Hitler was coming to visit the camp so the Italians raised a flag that meant there was a disease rampant in the prison when there wasn’t any disease…the general did not visit that camp. Then there was the time that the Italians rounded up all the children in the camp and took them in the trucks to get some gelato in town. The village people would go into the concentration camp to be treated by the Jewish doctors and dentists also because they were considered superior to the local practitioners. These Italians were were brave and caring.

  • This is such a sad post Jann, but one that makes me so proud to be your friend and proud of Sicily that you should feel this way. Thank you for writing this! Jxxxx

  • catherine billups

    I agree with Anita and Jann. I feel completely safe in Sicily, less so in Milano.

    • Jann

      Sicilians often lament the lack of civic-mindedness on their island, and while that may be true, there is a gentleness and civility here that is palpable, & lacking so many other places.

  • Ciao Janna-
    I too feel safer here in Italy, and it’s not because Italy doesn’t have it’s very serious problems. As an Italian friend of mine once said……”If Italians were allowed to possess guns, they’d be shooting each other.”


  • Em – Of course the guy who pulled the trigger is responsible but why should anyone be allowed to buy not one but two automatic weapons and 2 handguns in 60 days, plus thousands of pieces of ammunition over the internet? If you leave your keys in the ignition of a car, it makes it easier to steal… likewise when mentally unstable people have the option to legally arm themselves with deadly wepaon it makes it easier for them to act. There is simply no sane reason for having deadly wepaons at our fingertips, and the NRA’s powerful influence needs to be broken.

  • Larry May

    Think Sicily or Europe is safe compared to America?

    Did you forget the thousands of Mafia killings? Or the 3,000 dead in 30 years sectarian war in Northern Ireland. But they were individual, not mass murders, you say.

    Americans never set up extermination camps for killing millions of Jews or deported hundreds of thousands as did the Italians.

    But has Europe forgotten just this one? 19-year old student killed 16 in Erfurt Germany, a country with the strictest gun laws in Europe.

    • Gian Banchero

      Mr. Larry May, please read Elizabeth Bettina’s book It Happened in Italy and Walter Wolff’s Bad Times, Good People in order to read first hand accounts on how the everyday Italian, the Italian church and government officials made it possible to say that where the rest of Europe lost more than 80% of it’s Jews Italy was able to save over 80% hers. Over the years I’ve met Jews both in the States and Italy who spoke in glowing terms of how they were treated by the Italians during the War. Unfortunately many supposedly intelligent people refuse to believe the facts, or should I say don’t want to.

    • Jann

      Larry, thank you for this comment. I realize about all the Mafia killings, but I’m talking about present-day Sicily, 2012. Many Americans have this mistaken notion that it’s mayhem over here, but in reality, it’s far safer than the US. And I should have clarified that the Sicilian comments about Americans as barbarians was strictly in the context of our spate of mass murders, in the context of the US allowing its citizens to go around armed to the teeth. In general, Sicilians LOVE the US, and many comment to me that they are still so grateful that we helped save them from fascism. And yes, mass murders happen in Europe, too—Germany, Norway–but gun control laws (and social safety nets and mental health care) help make these rare events.

  • Gian Banchero

    I, as with you, have always felt safe in Sicily, while staying in Palermo I’ve always enjoyed after midnight walks through the streets, never sensing danger nor fear. This has been the same story throughout the all of Italy. Sadly the towns north and south of mine here in the States (Berkeley, California) are war zones where recently people have had to face rapid-fire guns. Again sadly in much of the States one has the constant feeling that they’re living in a society with a short fuse, it’s difficult to relax out in public, one is always on a degree of alert. I remember a while back walking a beach outside of Palermo at three in the morning and thinking that I’d never do as such in the States, seemingly in Sicily people still Own the Night. My thoughts and prayers go out to the theater victims.

    • Jann

      Yes, Gian. Sicilians still Own the Night. Absolutely. I walk alone here (granted I’m in a small village) at all hours of the night. In my hometown of Santa Fe NM (pop 80,000–a sweet small town), I would never walk alone after dark. Sad.

  • Em

    Did you also say that after 9/11 you would never fly in a plane again? Get a life, everyone. Banning guns is not the solution because guns will always be available for anyone who wants one. There are ways of getting them whether they are legal or not. This demented person who created this horrible act is a sick human being. Even his mother knew that in her statement to the press and I’m sure more people knew he wasn’t right. I’m sure the rest of his family, acquaintances knew he was strange in some way. Don’t blame the guns. Put the blame where it belongs…on the person who pulled the trigger!

    • Jann

      Em, thanks for your comment. Guns we can discuss till we’re blue in the face, but why machine guns when they wreak so much destruction in a single instant? Can’t we all at least agree that those should be banned? Why should sick people have such easy access to weapons of mass destruction?

  • My friend is in Washington right now lobbying against guns.

    I shall send her this.

    Love Love Love. Xx

  • Rita Price

    On the 28th April 1996 a lone gunman went on a killing spree at the historic Port Arthur prison colony, a popular tourist site in south-eastern Tasmania, Australia in which 35 people were killed and 23 wounded. The following Wikipedia article describes the event and shows how the Australian Government swiftly took action to change the laws restricting the legal possession of various types of firearms.

    • Jann

      Rita, thank you SO much for this link! How wonderful that the Australian gov’t took such swift action!!! We must look to you for guidance and inspiration.


    I voted for Barrack Obama
    but even if I hadn’t I’d probably
    say I did … like the kid in class that
    never raised his hand but when he
    saw the right answer he wished he
    had a second chance
    on jan 20th President Obama gave all Americans
    a second chance to raise their hand
    to raise their hand not as
    black red white or yellow
    to raise their hand not as Jew Muslum or Christian
    to raise their hand not as Democrat Republican or Independent
    but to raise your hand as an American
    take your second chance raise your hand

    © January 2009
    raise your hand with a donation to OBAMA FOR AMERICA

  • John Yeni

    Freedom, independence, liberty refer to an absence of undue restrictions and an opportunity to exercise one’s rights and powers. Freedom emphasizes the opportunity given for the exercise of one’s rights, powers, desires, or the like: freedom of speech or conscience; freedom of movement. Independence implies not only lack of restrictions but also the ability to stand alone, unsustained by anything else

  • Jan Walcott


    I have forwarded the link to this page to my senators (both parties) and representative. You echo my thoughts completely. The NRA has had its foot on all of our throats for too long. Add to that the adherence to the Grover Norquist pledge, and we are being held hostage!!!

  • John Schinina

    Ciao Jann, Brava well said, unfortunately the United States is a country with many races and religions and everyone thinks they’re the best and with that comes hate, we also have our wonderful Politicians and the NRA creating paranoia and hate with a touch of violence, a good example was Sarah Palin putting Congress woman Griffith on the end of a rifle site with a Short Hair quote and Congress woman Bachnman calling our President a Socialist Communist Muslim Sympathizer. All this racist and hate talk helps fuel and release the lunatics.
    The best was when the NRA members went to a town meeting, sporting AK47’s on their shoulders, saying it was their right.
    Its sad to see this great country regress.

    • Jann

      Yes, John, you’re right. Having easy access to weapons is only one part of the problem. Culture of violence, hate talk, lack of proper mental health care for people, lack of social safety nets–all contribute.

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