By ANGELO PERSICHILLI
The Hill Times (May 8, 2017)
If you are not an immigrant, it is hard to understand it. I call it the Colombo’s syndrome.
For many of us, whatever level of success accomplished in Canada, is not completely enjoyed if not shared with the people and places of our roots.
Some boast about their achievement abroad when back in their native place. This syndrome is generally harmless, causing no damage to anyone. However, sometimes, when pushed to higher levels, it has disastrous consequences, as in the case of Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.
This is very unfortunate, especially because his success was clear to all, with no need for boasting.
Former RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli was wiser while visiting his hometown of Prezza in Abruzzo, Italy, in March 2001. He did not make up military accomplishments but, jokingly, as a local newspaper reported, he attributed his professional success to the wife of former prime minister Jean Chretien: “It was after I spoke with her that I was appointed commissioner. That day I was told that I passed the toughest test: the approval of the first lady.”
Contrary to Sajjan, Zaccardelli knew that he didn’t need to exaggerate his accomplishment to impress anybody. (I am not sure that there was any celebration in Prezza when he resigned.)
For many celebrities, the homecoming has nothing to do with their ego, but only a genuine desire to discover their roots. It was the case, for example, for Louise Veronica Ciccone, better known as Madonna, when she visited the small town of Pacentro in Abruzzo, not far from Zaccardelli’s Prezza, from where her parents left in 1919; or for Robert De Niro to visit Ferrazzano, in Molise, the place his ancestors left to emigrate to the United States. If your success has impressed the world, you don’t need to make up things to impress Pacentro or Ferrazzano.
Generally, however, an exaggeration of accomplishments takes place as the result of combined efforts of the celebrated Prodigal Son’s homecoming and the proud relatives at home. At times, a contractor becomes builder, a waiter becomes a famous restaurant owner, a wedding singer becomes a hit parade celebrity, and a city councillor becomes a leading national politician.
I remember when an Italian-Canadian was elected to Parliament for the first time, while his new colleagues were lobbying to be part of the new government, he went immediately back to his hometown, where he was celebrated as “one of the most successful Canadian politicians.” Of course, nobody told them that the role of the Italian MP in the Italian parliament (Deputato) is slightly different than in Canada, and the word “backbencher” was not translated. Nonetheless, this understandable, albeit childish, boasting brings damage to nobody.
Unfortunately, the case involving Sajjan morphed into something different and more serious. This cannot be compared to the Canadian contractor that becomes a builder when visiting his hometown. When truth prevails, nobody is hurt but the fake builder’s credibility.
When the damaged credibility belongs to the Defence minister, there are consequences. This is specifically true because he made the same boasting statement when he was in Canada.
Opposition and some media pundits rightly ask the minister not just to apologize, but to explain the reason for boasting. Do they really need an answer? The answer is stupid vanity.
Should he resign? Or, better question, should vanity be reason enough to justify a resignation?
Vanity alone is not a sufficient element to lead to resignation. Stupid vanity probably is.
Angelo Persichilli is a freelance journalist and a former citizenship judge for the Greater Toronto Area. He was also a director of communications to former prime minister Stephen Harper, former columnist for Toronto Sun, Toronto Star and former political editor of Corriere Canadese, Canada’s Italian-language newspaper in Toronto.