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Amber Paulen

A Rant.

This is for you Signora Frutta Bella. For you and every other high and mighty Italian who insists on these principles of clean. I demand a rebuttal where clean is concerned. Let me lay out the situation: I stand accused of dirty plastic bags for I have taken along with me to Italy, some Oaklandish tendencies. To reuse plastic bags, reuse glass jars, reuse clothes, reuse plastic bottles, reuse, reuse, reuse. My fellow life-soldiering Playgrounders would have been proud. They would stand and give their high salute with knees locked and back straightened in perfect posture. They would congratulate me for my missionary efforts; bestowing unto the less knowledgeable and ecologically outdated Italians the truths of reusing and recycling. But my actions fail to speak louder than this testament of clean.

What is up with the Italians anyway? They litter as if the mother earth were their personal trash can. To walk down to the lake in fall is depressing indeed. The beach is studded with all sorts of horrors, all shapes and all hypodermic colors are the plastic bags and plastic bottles, beer bottles and chip bags, paper napkins, some shorts for flavor. It is disgusting and tragically sad. The lack of respect that they have for the land; be it the Colosseo or a nature trail, the side of a country road or some other ancient edifice. It’s all the same to them! Just toss it to the ground! The minute the pizza box is devoid of pizza it is trash and what is trash but dirt and what is earth but a big ball of dirty dirt. Dirt to dirt! I can’t even be concerned about the recycling. Just get it into the trash can you morons!

And then, we have the clean. A sparkling image in the ad of who you wish you could be. Bella Figura paces hungrily across this ground, casting out those who do not make the cut. Bella Figura is not only ‘to look’ but inexorably pursues as well all you should be. Not only how you dress for dinner but where you choose to go and what you eat. These are the long standing social rules Italians subject themselves to everyday. I always fall to wondering why there are not more rebellions, but maybe, that’s where the fascist history comes in. “Oh well,” I sigh, I have no qualms with doing what I like. It’s only with the accusation of dirty does my temperature begin to rise.

Dirt. Let’s take for the sake of argument, Signora Frutta Bella, the dirt of this great round earth. There are other dirts to be sure; the dirt that’s within us, the parasites and bacteria, the dormant diseases and illnesses – do you really think that you are what is called clean? If the definitions of each word is the absence of the other, can there really be a dirty or clean? But where was I? Our soil, the earth, the mother who produces each and every fruit and veggie you sell, with tender loving care. The earth teaches us in revelations. What is cast to the ground as dead feeds life. How do you suppose, Signora Frutta Bella, does your garden grow? Rotten and decomposing, putrid and disgusting is what is stirred into the soil before each life-giving seed is cast into the earth. Even more fecund, even more depraved and ultimately pungent for it is able to gag with a single inhalation, are the piles of cow shit spread on top. You can’t fool me Signora Frutta Bella, those veggies ain’t clean!

Shit, we’re full of it. No use denying what you already know. What is of nature, untouched by our menacing human hands, is of a balance seldom experienced in our socially constructed world. These labels which we insist on using strive only for separations, when it is in our human nature to tilt the scales evenly. Our bodies know. It is myth to absolve one or the other, to become dirty or clean by an absence. When let be, all is at a balance of divine perfection.

Bracciano, Italy
October 2007


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