When I was younger, I asked my mother if I could add a vowel to the end of my name. “Why,” she said, not particularly surprised that her quirky eldest child would make a bizarre statement like that. “Because,” I answered, “I want people to know that I’m Italian and with a name like Flowers they won’t.”
The former Lucy Fusco just looked at me and shook her head, which was Italian for “If God made us perfect, we’d have nothing to pray for.” I suppose it’s also why she named me after the patron saint of the mentally diseased. Really, look it up.
I tell you this because I want you to know how proud I am of my heritage. While only 50 percent of my DNA is from the bel paese, I feel completely Italian, despite the freckled white skin which refuses to tan, the inability to cook anything that doesn’t come with reheating instructions and an aversion to homemade wine. These are all part of the stereotype of the paisano, along with the certainty that somewhere along the genealogical trail I would have tripped over piano wire.
You see what I did there? I made what some would consider an ethnic slur, and what others (the kind of Italians I grew up with) would notice as self-deprecating humor. I was surrounded by relatives who probably knew Mafiosi, and might even have invited them to social events, but who looked at that part of the heritage as an infamia, a disgrace, albeit one that you could joke about.
All of this to place what I am about to say next in context: I love my origins. I may not be able to cook, but I know that God created every other cuisine just so that people would realize you can’t beat pasta Amatriciana and a Caprese salad. I will never be mistaken for a Mediterranean beauty, but I can explain to you why Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida had a rivalry. I have a mediocre voice, but I actually know what Violetta is saying while singing her tubercular lungs out in “La Traviata.”
That’s why I’m disgusted with Anthony Scaramucci [who is out Monday as communications director]. As I said on my Facebook page, a communications director who uses four-letter words like a street fighter is good if your boss is the capo of the Genovese family. It is not so good if you work for the president of the United States.
And let me be clear. This has absolutely nothing to do with politics. I would say the same thing if Tony the Mooch worked for Hillary Clinton (and he did: John Podesta.) I would say the same thing if he worked for Barack Obama, and in fact, number 44 also had a rank embarrassment in his cabinet. Rahm Emanuel was one of the most profane, obscene and arrogant people to ever inhabit the White House, and I don’t remember the media being particularly hard on him for his rough edges.
But two wrongs do not make a right, as Connie Corleone could tell you (if you need a refresher, check out the baptismal scene of “The Godfather.”)
Scaramucci has been an obnoxious party crasher from the beginning, using his stiletto-sharp elbows to barge into D.C.’s inner sanctum. Some people think that’s dandy, and liken him to Trump’s Mini-Me. They share a lot in common in their origin stories, their New York brashness, their absolute inability to feel shame.
They are not gentlemen.
And yet, I think it was a big mistake for the president to bring this viper into his political family, because he is very clearly interested in making a name for himself at the expense of the cohesiveness and reputation of the White House. Granted, this White House has a very big image problem, one that is not helped by the media’s obvious hostility toward Trump. I swear we’re one step away from CNN posting “Breaking News: Trump Breaks Wind on Front Lawn.”
But as I said before, two wrongs don’t make a right, and Scaramucci is very, very wrong.
He embodies the worst stereotypes of the loud, slick, con man who is as adept with guns as he is with cannoli, a pompous pompadour infected with “Saturday Night Fever,” a guy who thinks that you can intimidate with four-letter words. Here is what he said, on the record, to a reporter: “I want to f - ing kill all the leakers and I want to get the president’s agenda on track so we can succeed for the American people.”
Italians are not the only ones who use the f-word, not by a long shot. But that kind of Trumpfellas arrogance is disgusting.
Some might wonder why Scaramucci’s ethnicity is at all relevant. If he were black or Jewish you say, I wouldn’t dare write this column.
True, but then it wouldn’t be my column to write. This one is.
I descend from Michelangelo, Leonardo, Marconi, Vespucci, Verdi, Manzoni and the Medicis. My people are war heroes like John Basilone, sat on the Supreme Court, like Scalia, and revived dying industries, like Iacocca.
That future caricature on “SNL” doesn’t represent any of us.
Christine Flowers is a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News.