[UPDATED AS NOTED BELOW]
I don’t know even know where to begin to write this post and I don’t know where it’ll end up, but I feel like I should so here it goes. I hope you’ll stick with me.
The murder of 21-year-old British exchange student Meredith Kercher in Perugia has thoroughly shaken Italy and England, judging from the coverage it has gotten in British press. And rightfully so. Accidents abroad happen all the time, but murder? And yes, murder is always horrible, but in this case, the suspects make it even more troublesome–especially as none appear to have had any history of violence.
Kercher was stabbed in the neck after, police say, she resisted a sexual attack that in some way involved her American roommate, 20-year-old Amanda Knox, a student at the University of Washington also studying abroad, Knox’s Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, a 24-year-old son of a urologist from Bari, and Patrick Lumumba, a 37-year-old married Congolese immigrant who runs the bar where Knox worked.
The details are murky at this point, but it’s been widely reported that Knox “confessed” to having some role in the killing; from statements leaked by Italian police, Knox said that while Kercher and Lumumba were in Kercher’s room, she stayed in the kitchen and covered her ears when she heard what were surely Kercher’s last screams. Sollecito’s statements have been all over the place, but he insists that he was at home the night of the murder.
[EDITED: Thanks to information from Steve Huff of The True Crime Weblog, Lumumba apparently now says he has an alibi and wasn’t even at the scene of the crime, making this an even stranger story.]
What it sounds like to me is that these three are telling conflicting stories and no one really knows what to believe. It looks like we’ll just have to wait this one out, possibly for forensic evidence to tell what really happened.
And while we mourn the loss of Kercher, who was studying at Perugia’s famous Università per Stranieri (just as our own Tina of Pecorino e Miele did), there is another fascinating aspect to this case from a cultural standpoint–the focus on the online presence of Knox.
Like many her age, Knox kept a MySpace (username “Foxy Knoxy”) and Facebook page, and there’s also a YouTube video of a drunk Knox slurring her words, and, well, being a young adult. Particularly interesting, though, is that on her MySpace blog, Knox apparently wrote a story about rape.
[EDITED: Courtesy of Steve Huff’s blog, you can find “mirrors” of Knox’s MySpace page here and of her blog here; both of the original pages have been made private.]
So here’s another question in all of this–how much should this online information matter? I’m not talking about from a legal perspective, but in the court of public opinion, is this fair? Is anything you put online fair game? Should it be?
For me, I think if you put the information out there, you can’t stop people from looking unless you make it private. You also can’t control their opinions. Would I want to live my life censoring myself just on the off chance that one day something could be used against me? Well geez, just about anything can be taken out of context anyway, so even censoring myself wouldn’t be foolproof.
Drunk videos? Well that’s something else entirely. I say if you’d be embarrassed for your mom, dad, employer, insert other authority figure here to see it, don’t post it. But teenagers (and adults!) don’t often think that far ahead, do they? But they should.
A short story about rape? I’m a writer, so should I avoid touchy subjects just in case I’m ever in the wrong place at the wrong time (not insinuating this is what happened to Knox)? Well that I can’t accept.
It’s an interesting question, and I’d love to know what you think.
Now, shifting gears, but still taking off from the Kercher murder–on the Italian side of things, one can’t miss the irony that right now on the heels of a murder allegedly committed by a Romanian immigrant from the Roma (“gypsy”) community, Italian lawmakers would like to be able to expel any dangerous EU citizen, although the targets are clearly immigrants from new EU members like Romania.
Read what other terrible things have happened, including a Roma camp being torn down and a mob attack, here.
Just yesterday, Italian and Romanian leaders met to ask for help from the EU in dealing with large population movements, but only time will tell just how xenophobic Italy can and will get. For many of us in the expat community particularly, we’ve noted how poorly immigrants are portrayed in the Italian media — often the only crimes you’ll see on a newscast are those committed by foreigners.
And by “foreigners,” I mean mostly Albanians, Romanians, and Africans.
Maybe it’s something about coming from countries such as the United States, England, Australia, etc., that have, after many struggles, (mostly) embraced immigrants, but for a lot of us, all we’re seeing is prejudice and hate. To be sure, all of the above-mentioned countries have immigration issues too, but what’s happening now in Italy is so deeply disturbing, and I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this.
There are ways of regulating immigration without resorting to sweeping generalizations about countries and their citizens, and I can only hope that the Italian government will explore them.
Virtually every ethnicity/race that has entered a foreign country has encountered prejudice and worse — we Americans don’t need to go too far into our history to stare the Jim Crow South in the face — but for Italians, for my adopted country, to participate in similar behavior just breaks my heart.
And I can’t help but think of the 11 Italians who were lynched in New Orleans in 1891 in one of America’s largest mass lynchings–after they had been acquitted of the murder of the New Orleans’ police commissioner.
And I just wonder where the prejudice and hate will stop.
Today I’m thankful for:
The safety and well-being of myself and my loved ones.
There’s nothing I’m more thankful for, in fact.