My dear fellow Americans, all Italian Americans, U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and President Obama:
I am appalled to have learned that President Obama will not attend Justice Scalia’s funeral. Mr. President, Italian Lives Matter. It is an egregious, negligent, disrespectful mistake–and quite revealing.
First, let me give you a history lesson about how Italian-Americans suffered painful discrimination in America. Lynchings of Italians were once very common. An 1891 New York Times editorial claimed that the Italian victims of a Louisiana lynching were “…sneaking and cowardly Sicilians, the descendants of bandits and assassins.” This was not an uncommon sentiment.
Italian-Americans fought for Civil Rights along with our black brothers and sisters. They were champions of civil rights. Enormous numbers of Italian-Americans fought for the United States in World War II. Add to Italian the word Catholic and you have an even deeper obstacle for someone like Justice Antonin Scalia to overcome and thrive.
This is about more than politics. It goes straight to the heart of respect and the fabric of our American identity. I would feel the same way if Leader Pelosi had died and a Republican President did not attend her funeral. By not honoring Justice Scalia, President Obama is sending a message.
Leader Pelosi, as an Italian-American and Catholic, you should urge the President to show respect to a great and shining example not only to Catholics and the Italian-American community, but also to all Americans and to the sons and daughters of immigrants.
I met Justice Scalia over the years at different events for the National Italian-American Foundation. He was a role model and inspiration. His life and towering achievements have a deep meaning to Americans. If you understood this, you would have to attend the funeral. Instead of speaking nice words, show what you believe in with your actions.
We all know, Leader Pelosi, that you and the President did not agree with Justice Scalia’s politics and his views on affirmative action and other things. However, Justice Scalia deserves to be shown respect. The country would like to see the President be above the partisan politics tearing our nation apart. Before the battle for appointing a new Justice gears up, do the right thing, Mr. President.