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Moment of Rupture


Italian cabinet minister Cecile Kyenge, an orangutan, Senator Roberto Calderoli.

At a rally of his suppporters on July 13, Italian Senator Roberto Calderoli said this about Immigration Minister Cecile Kyenge, Italy’s first cabinet minister of African origin:

    “I love animals — bears and wolves, as everyone knows — but when I see the pictures of Kyenge I cannot but think of, even if I’m not saying she is one, the features of an orangutan.”

“I’m not saying she is one” — classy!

Also, bears and wolves are acceptable, but orangutans not?

Following a storm of criticism and demands that he resign, Calderoli called Kyenge to apologize to her personally. He even offered to send her flowers. She accepted the apology, but advised him to “reflect deeply.” In a later interview with the BBC, she added:

    “What kind of politics do they want to be doing — politics based on insults or politics based on concrete issues? … That’s why what he kicked off can’t stay between us but has to transcend my personal case. … It’s a moment of rupture for the country. Italy is trying to change at the moment and to take into account the fact that there is another Italy here too.”

Calderoli seems to have a history of problems with that “other Italy.” In 2006 he had to resign from a cabinet post under Silvio Berlusconi, after his appearance on a TV program wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed helped to ignite protests at the Italian consulate in Benghazi, Libya that resulted in ten deaths.

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