Rome is a beautiful city (in some respects, at least!), but I think all the more so at Christmastime, when so many businesses decorate and many neighborhoods puts up light displays.
For the past few years the city has put a canopy of Christmas lights down one of the main streets here in Rome. The street is Via del Corso – a mile long – running from the monumental Piazza Venezia (“Venice Square”) to the equally monumental Piazza del Popolo (“The People’s Square”).
Two years ago (which might have been the first time they did this display, I’m not sure), the lights were in the format of the Italian tricolore – the country’s tri-colored flag, in honor of the 150th anniversary of Italian unification:
Last year, they were simply white LEDs with some sparkling cool blues interspersed in them. It was simple but nice:
Well then. This year. This year, the lights are rainbow:
What could this signify, you ask? Maybe it is for the peace flag? Maybe it is to “celebrate our diversity”! No, neither of those things.
It is a political statement in favor of the gay movement, being made in a very controversial way, and taking advantage of two recent local tragedies.*
You see, a few weeks back a teenager committed suicide here in Rome, and in the note indicated that the motive was the ‘homophobia’ he had experienced. A similar suicide happened a few months ago also. These are indeed great tragedies, and I certainly do not wish in any way to make light of them. But the fact also stands that suicide is a not-unheard-of phenomenon and it happens for a lot of reasons. It is not only gay people who commit suicide.
It is unfortunate that Rome’s recently-elected mayor, very pro-gay (and also claiming to be Catholic), together with some members of his administration, have chosen to politicize the Christmas season in this way and take advantage of two terrible tragedies to do so. Christmas lights and decorations ordinarily have the effect of softening the harshness of day-to-day reality, of reminding us of better times (even of fond childhood memories), of transporting us away from the difficulties of life to a world that is a bit more idealized. This year’s display does quite the opposite: for all of its festive color, it is a constant reminder, every time it is passed-by, of the latest political controversy in the city; it is a “downer”; it is a pity.
Let’s say a prayer for those poor teenagers – and not just them, but everyone else, for whatever motive – who ended their lives: may they rest in God’s peace. Suicide is, as I said, a terrible tragedy, and the fact that they arrived at that point in their lives is a possible indication of failure on the part of others, perhaps even on the part of the community. There are certainly many issues that need to be addressed. But this Christmas display is not the way to do it.