Deputy Senate Speaker Roberto Calderoli (and Senator from the The Northern League and once Minister of Reforms under the center-right government of Silvio Berlusconi in 2006) may not appeal to many Italians. He is viewed as xenophobic and racist. He insults groups with remarkable frequency and . . . oh yes . . . he says that he is possessed. That’s right, Calderoli believed that he has been hexed by the father of the the Minister of Integration and wants an emergency exorcism from the Church.
The controversy began when Cécile Kyenge was selected by Enrico Letta chose Cécile Kyenge (a Congolese-born doctor) as his minister of Integration. She is the country’s first black minister and Calderoli responded by comparing her to an orangutan. The first response is one that I have long opposed: he has been charged with using words of “racial hatred and discrimination.” For recent columns, click here and here and here and here. I have serious reservations about charging or suing individuals about statements made about public officials that are deemed as offensive.
It was the second response however that got Calderoli’s attention. His comments did not sit well with Kyenge’s father Clement Kikoko Kyenge who reportedly practised a rite asking the “ancestors’ spirits” to set the Italian senator free from bad thoughts and hate speech. Calderoli took it as a hex and believes that it worked. He says that he has had a serious of bad luck including accidents that he blames on the rite. He says that he has had six operations and culminated in his killing a large snake in his kitchen in Mozzo (which turned out to be endangered and now he is facing a criminal complaint from the European Animalist Party).
While he insists that he is “not superstitious at all,” it certainly does not sound that way. Indeed, as someone who grew up in an Italian family, I can say that superstitions can run pretty deep with some Italians but Calderoli seems to be dancing on the edge of sanity.
The story is so bizarre that I waited to see if other major European media picked it up. Calderoli has long been a lightening rod of controversy but his demand for an exorcism has led many Italians to call for a mental health review. Given the long shortage of exorcists, he might not be viewed as a priority by the Church. He is a bit short on the Linda Blair type of possession and more of a Silvio Berlusconi type of possession. However, this should make the next election rather interesting. I recommend a slogan along the lines of “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t: Vote Calderoli!” or “Vote For Change: Exorcise Calderoli!”