He was just leaving a political rally in Milan when his assailant got through security and hit him in the face. Then he was seen looking dazed and bloodied with what appeared to be a number of cuts. The attacker—a 42-year-old man who has received treatment for mental health issues for the last ten years—was holding a small statue of the Duomo, the city’s world-famous cathedral, in his hand.
One would think that the above incident was bad enough for our democracy, but it actually got worse. In fact, Antonio Di Pietro, the former judge turned politician—the man “who ensured that many corrupt politicians and businessmen were brought to justice in the 1990s,” as he himself described himself—let out things he should not have said, such as this: “I never want violence, but with his behavior and his couldn’t-care-less attitude Berlusconi instigates violence.”
Now, if it’s true that Berlusconi is a divisive figure who attracts intense loyalty from some and utter disdain from others, it’s also true that there’s nothing that can justify violence. And that’s exactly what Di Pietro did. And to think that the man who uttered those words is the leader of a party whose name is Italy of Values! By the way, a propos of “values,” Di Pietro had his own troubles one year ago, but this is not what matters most at the moment.
Perhaps, that’s also why the vast majority of Italians trust Silvio Berlusconi (I mean, if this is the opposition…). “What I can tell you is that there has been such a buildup of hatred toward the premier, and this is not good,” Berlusconi spokesman Paolo Buonaiuti told CNN. “This campaign of hatred has been building quite rapidly recently, and I am not surprised that what happened tonight took place,” he added. And Umberto Bossi, leader of the Northern League (an ally of Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party) is absolutely right when he says that “This was an act of terrorism. We have had a heavy climate for some time now and this is the first worrying sign. After what has happened today we need to raise our guard.”
However it’s almost certain that the bleeding face of Berlusconi and the words uttered by Di Pietro will be a real eye-opener for those who still have doubts about where democracy ends and non-democracy begins.