Commonplace Book #127

The wide gulf between the Old World and the New went beyond custom and moral values.  At the center was a basic difference in philosophy.  Ingrained in the Southern Italian’s peasant soul by centuries of poverty and oppression were strong elements of fatalism, which some of them referred to as Destinu.  This fatalism contradicted the philosophy that their children brought home from school, where repeatedly their teachers talked of freedom, free enterprise, and free well, constantly stressing the individual capacity’s to change and improve his or her situation.  For the second generation that grew up in the 1920s and 1930s, the message of freedom was further accentuated by images of flappers, Rudolph Valentino, the gospel of free love, and the sermons of Emma Goldman and Margaret Sanger–images that conflicted with the old ways of their parents.  Inevitably, these sons and daughters became aware of the basic differences between their parents and other Americans, which heightened  their dissatisfaction at being obliged to lead a double life, a state of mind that often generated serious identity problems as they approached adulthood.  An erosion of self-esteem was not uncommon for those who ventured into the American mainstream.

Jerre Mangione and Ben Morreale, La Storia:  Five Centures of the Italian American Experience, 218.