Thursday, November 1, 2012

Does the Government Investigate More Italians?

     A podcast on "This American Life" (episode 473) suggested to me the possibility that the government might be especially interested in me because I have an Italian last name.  My father was from Naples, Italy.
     One of my friends said to me, in reference to this possibility:  "The FBI has a long history of going after the Mafia, and it would not surprise me if the institutional memory continues to be suspicious of anyone with an Italian last name."
     The podcast is about an Italian-American lawyer who found a legitimate way to make a lot of money on annuities.  He found a loophole in the annuity contracts written by big banks, and made a substantial amount of money for himself by selling them to people who were about to die.  It sounds gruesome, but in fact those people were glad to have a few thousand dollars, and when they purchased annuities the lawyer made out big.  Questions were raised about the legitimacy of his dealings, but so far no one can prove that he did anything wrong.  In a way, the big banks were caught in the backfire of one of their own scheming enterprises, and this lawyer is the one who found a way to capitalize on their business-as-usual pillaging of small-tiime investors and clients.
     More than 16 million Americans have Italian ancestry, making up 6% of the population.  In the early 1900's, about 4 million Italian immigrants came to the United States, most of them farmers from southern Italy, and another 1 million arrived at the end of World War II, in 1945.  For many years Italy had been ruled by a feudal system, and the peasants were robbed by feudal landlords of everything they earned, grew, or accumulated.  The Italian farm people revolted, and there was a great deal of bloodshed--1 million lives lost in the 1800's--but the feudal system persisted.  With the growth of industry, northern Italy flourished, but southern Italy remained poor, having arable land but few of the other highly prized natural resources, such as coal and iron ore, for running factories and building railroads.  Trees were cut down, the wonderful soil was eroded, and farming could no longer support the growing population in southern Italy, when, in the early 1900's, Mt. Vesuvius erupted, decimating an entire town, and an earthquake killed 100,000 people in Sicily in 1908.
     Many Italians, called "Birds of Passage," fled to the United States in the hope of earning money as laborers, to go back to Italy.  While a lot of Italians returned, many stayed in this country.
     During and after World War II many Italian-Americans were arrested by the FBI.  They were referred to as "enemy-aliens" and were forced to leave their homes if they resided in coastal areas.  The government's fear was that foreign-born Americans and their families might feel loyal to their native countries--Italy, Germany, Japan--and operate against American interests in the midst of world conflict.
     My father spoke Italian as his first language, and was fluent.  His parents spoke no English.  But he never allowed us, his six children, to learn Italian, and he was careful to follow a dictum to, "Speak American" from the 1940's, when being Italian was a life-threatening identity. Many Italians changed their names to disguise their backgrounds.  My father's name was Biagio Antonio Colasante--too "Italian."  He changed it to Anthony Daniel Colasante.
     Over a six-month period between 1941 and 1942 the FBI arrested 1,521 Italian-American "aliens," some of whom were placed in internment camps in Oklahoma, Montana, Tennessee and Texas.  Their crime?  Being Italian.
     Italian organized crime has infiltrated almost every country in the world.  Mafia members are linked by blood and protect one another for the purpose of protecting their power and money.  The Calabrian Mafia has several hundred members in New York and Florida.  Perhaps the FBI thinks I could be connected by blood to this branch of the Mafia. 
     The FBI, however, has partnered with the Italian-American Working Group which attempts to address organized crime schemes involving money laundering and racketeering, as well as terrorism, smuggling, extradition and cyber-crime.
     Just for the record, this is a message to the FBI.  I am not involved in organized crime.  I have no ties to any branch of the Mafia.  I am just a first-generation Italian-American proud to have ancestral ties to a country so full of life, and love, and food, and music and art, and to have been born in this great country.

Note:  Some of the information in this blog was paraphrased from "The Quagliata Family Geneaology Project," which is easy to locate online under comcast.net.    
 

4 comments:

  1. The Italian-American lawyer's name is Joseph Caramadre. According to the show on This American Life, the FBI launched a criminal investigation of him and it is still "ongoing." So far, they have proven nothing, but they are trying very hard. The resemblance to what the FBI is doing with Dr. Colasante is clear. To hear the podcast go to http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/473/loopholes

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  2. Never go against the family, Ona.

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  3. thanks for sharing..

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