There’s something creepy about the two characters meeting this week in Rome, Muammar and Silvio. If for nothing else, each has long been around in politics to bore Almighty Himself. Out of their long tenures the only sure achievements were piles of non-complimentary epithets to shame the worst villains in history. Though their careers gained them plenty of expletives, mostly deservedly, with few on the side, thrown as complimentary for the heck of them! Adjectives such as: Egomaniacs, bizarre, eccentrics, buffoons, up to gaudy and toady, etc. These superlatives have been so overused and misused to the extent little remains to their effect. Muammar and Silvio, two peas in a pod. But the comparison has some deep cracks. If for no other reason, then for the simple fact that common traits allow also for exceptions and uniquenesses. For instance, each by virtue of his DNA must carry the traits of the people he belongs to, one to the Romans, the other to the Bedouins! Hence the two characters and with them their two peoples, are in fact, if not in spirit too, as far apart as Europe from Africa. If Berlusconi’s ancestors were the Caesars and the Augustuses, Qaddafi’s ancestors were buried in the sands without names. Thus pedigree heritages were far from shedding lights on their biographical accounts. Berlusconi is a billionaire who dapples in politics, Qaddafi is a soldier turned politician. While Berlusconi was elected to office, Qaddafi’s took office by plotting a coup. Berlusconi is a known womanizer, Qaddafi has women protecting him. The list of common attributes between the two of then can go for quite some distance more, but suffice it to say, at the final count Qaddafi will come on top. With all the due respect to Silvio, Qaddafi, by far, is the oddest of the pair.
Take a close look to how fast the colonel changes his camouflage according to either audience or time of day. Look carefully to his entourage. What you see? A complete carnival parade. A rainbow of sorts. All colors and flavors. Capers and cloaks, tents and ambulances. Gosh! The Caesars would blush from the excesses of later day petro-dollar dictators. The question, What these Libyans are trying to prove! They belong to desert, the world is static, Adam perhaps still alive and Eve’s busy figuring which one is no tree?
Who would rig himself in complete colonel’s uniform, with ribbons and regalia, baton under the arm, hat on top of an afro, and a picture of a hero to jive with the ribbons for a stroll through the Eternal City? The caricature would not be completed without the wispy goatee and the skimpy mustache to go with the bejewelled hands. An image of a footballer or a rockstar not of a head of state! Perhaps one does Qaddafi injustice by expecting him to measure up to his peers. Maybe his paragon is that Libyan character, of mythical fame: " Bu-Sa3dya!"
Only a character like Qaddafi would gather the largesse with the loose screws and be in the same time representing a state and speaking on behalf of a people on the international stage. If it happens that this time around, the Qaddafi is in Rome, a locale and a people more fit for the likeness of screwballs than in many of those colorful and flamboyant African tribes so dear to the most beloved ‘king of kings’. Qaddafi loves festivals and Rome is in continuous one.
What makes this visit a tragicomic affair is the hypocrisy of the hosts. The funny thing about the whole deal Qaddafi’s believing in gesture and acting. His interlocutors misted eyes were, as he thought, caused from real tears out of penitence, and not out of laughing their guts out. The hosts’ soft smiles have melted the colonel’s heart to give them what they wanted: total absolution from their worst historical sins. For, he thinks the Italians have sincerely repented, reformed, and ready to right their predecessors ’ mistakes. As if the boot-shaped peninsula’s three shores were not enough, they raided a fourth in the day light I n the hope of reconstituting the holiest of all the Roman Empires. But as it turned it was a mission of plunder and scorched-earth campaign. For more than a third of a century Libyans had refuge from death or concentration camps. Now comes a neo-Fascist and tin-pot dictator to forget about all those nightmares with a sign of a pen and meager few billions with plenty of smiles, and shakes of hands to go with them.
The past would pass until its accounts are settled. A new page will not be opened until the guilty admits his plunders and writes them down in history books so that its rising generations will know what crimes their ancestors had committed in their name and in the name of civilization and progress. As to Qaddafi, he’s a dunce! Instead of being received in a square in Rome where ‘The Lion of the Desert’ statue sets high on its pedestal, Qaddafi is hanging on his chest a picture of the Italian-hanged Libyan resistance fighter, Omar el-Mukhtar, to remind his gracious hosts of injustices incurred? Italians need not be reminded, where is Omar el-Mukhtar memorial. For they’re considered, and still consider themselves, a loving sensitive and conscientious people. While their many squares are crowded with all kinds of monuments to the fallen heroes and less so. In the width and breath of the whole peninsula not even a small sign or a memorial to a man they’d executed unjustly while fighting for his freedom. Where is that yearning for freedom and its heroes Italians keep mouthing? When Omar el-Mukhtar is not beside all the other greats, who have died while fighting for freedom’s cause, to wit Gandhi, Patrice Lumumba, Ho chi Men, Chi Guevara, Allende,... All those beautiful piazzas will not complete when missing the most important ornaments that remind Italians of the high price freedom requires. But most importantly what Italians themselves had done when they let reason and sanity fled them?
A country which has not yet come to grips with its past cannot apologize for the horrors of that past. Italians need to look deep into themselves to discover their own Dr. Jackals. Until they do that, no treaty, of ‘friendship’ or otherwise eliminate that dark side they do such much to hide. They may have lured Qaddafi to their traps. They may have baited him so much he cannot forgo Qaddafi the formalities. But Italians know perhaps better than many others, Qaddafi is no representative of Libya. He’s just a dictator, and like all dictators, he’ll take his time before disappearing, with what he did, into the blackhole of them all, the dustbin of history.