“Now, morally, I am free ….”

14 January, 2010

Almost every day, the Giornale di Sicilia has at least one article, and often a headline, about the mafia.  I try to read and understand as much as I can, but this is an endlessly complex society, and I am an outsider.  Progress is slow.    

 This week, one article in particular has caught my attention –  partly because it concerns a shop that I know, partly because it is a story of courage.

In 2008, Giovanni Ceraulo, the 47 year old owner of a chain of clothing shops  in Palermo, Prima Visione, decided that enough was enough.  He had paid the pizzo, protection money, to the mafia for 13 years.  He would pay it no longer.  He said at the time that he didn’t want to see his children grow up with a father who had allowed the old system to continue.  

So, courageously, he denounced all those men who, over the years, had knocked on his door to collect the pizzo.  As a result, many of them ended up in prison; Caraulo ended up living under full time police escort. 

After the hearing, he said: “It’s not easy … but now I feel truly free”.

Then, all went quiet – until one night this week when the windows of two of his shops in the centre of town, one in via Bandiera, one in Corso Camillo Finocchiaro Aprile,  were damaged.   As Ceraulo himself says, “This is a very clear message”. 

The article in the Giornale di Sicilia concludes by saying that these events send a very clear message, not only to Ceraulo, but to anyone who follows his example:  “Cosa nostra is ready to use strong means”. 

The next day, in an apparently unrelated article, the Sicilia carried the headline: “The mafia re-emerges.  Entrepreneur killed at Corleone”.

This morning a friend visited and I showed her these articles.  Her initial reaction was: “People like Ceraulo are heroes”.  Then she went on: “But it is difficult.  This is a warning.  It is easy to talk … but it is difficult.  Difficult!  What would you do if you were told ‘Do this or I will kill your children’?  Tell me, what would you do?’ ”  And again:  “It is difficult … it isn’t easy … also because –  you are free to let them kill you, but you are not free to decide the life of anyone else, whether it is your child, your friend, or just someone you meet in the street.  What would you do?”

‘What would I do?’  I thought about her question – and knew that probably I would do nothing.  

Then I thought of the words of Giovanni Falcone, the anti-mafia judge who was killed in May 1992:

   He who is silent and bows his head dies every time he does so. He who speaks aloud and walks with his head held high dies only once.

and of the truly heart-rending plea made, in Palermo’s cathedral, by the wife of one of the escorts who had been killed with Falcone:

I address the men of the Mafia.  I know you are present here.  I know you are not Christians, but even for you forgiveness exists.  I forgive you, but you must go down on your knees and have the courage to change…. But they never change!  They never change! 


5 Responses to ““Now, morally, I am free ….””

  1. CateM Says:

    Fascinating article. The Falcone quote sent shivers down my spine.

    • kateludlow Says:

      Falcone was a truly remarkable man. Both he and his colleague, Paolo Borsellino, who was killed two months later, are venerated here along with the many other extraordinary people who have taken a stand against the mafia. Thank you for your comment.

  2. Sally F Says:

    I loved this entry – what brave people

  3. Caryl Says:

    Giovanni Falcone’s quote is marvellous – really something quite inspirational

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