As educators, we believe that history is complex. And we also believe that Scott Ackman and Christopher Schwarz had an obvious ax to grind via their simplistic dismissal of Italian aviator Italo Balbo in the August issue ["Dubious Legacy,” Reporter].
Far from being a “Fascist thug,” Balbo argued against Mussolini’s eventual political alliance with Hitler. And he—as well as other high-ranking Fascist officials—also publicly resisted Italy’s rarely enforced 1938 anti-Semitic laws. It was these types of bold actions, as well as his amazing flight, that made Balbo so admired both in Italy and around the world.
To remove the Balbo monument[s] is akin to promoting public censorship. The statue represents a fascinating chapter of Chicago and world history. And it also invites citizens to take a balanced, nuanced look at a political movement that has been unfairly linked to Communism and Nazism, systems that were far more murderous and evil.
It’s a good thing Ackman and Schwarz aren’t English teachers—they might want to ban Huck Finn for promoting racism.
Bill Dal Cerro
Italic Institute of America
In your generally adequate piece on the Fascist bum Italo Balbo, “Dubious Legacy,” you failed to recount the most spectacular protest against Balbo and Mussolini’s Fascism at the Century of Progress Exposition. On July 15, 1933, a civilian plane disrupted the maneuvers of Balbo’s 24-plane squadron and dropped anti-Fascist literature to the fair crowd below. The protest was the idea of Egidio Clemente, a refugee from Italian Fascism, the editor of Chicago’s La Parola del Popolo, and a frequent victim of harassment by the Italian government and its Chicago consulate. He dropped the leaflets, and William Bross Lloyd Jr., a member of a great progressive family and the only Chicago-area Socialist to have a pilot’s license in 1933, piloted the plane. I heard Clemente recount this story when he received an award at the 1981 Norman Thomas–Eugene V. Debs dinner of the Democratic Socialists of America, and it should not be forgotten by Chicagoans.
J. Quinn Brisben
You erroneously assert that in Rome one “would not come across a single public monument to Balbo,” when, in fact, there are two. The first is located in the area where the planes of authorities arrive at Rome’s Ciampino Airport. The second is a bronze bust of Balbo in front of the Ministry of Aviation.
Balbo’s extreme popularity in Italy was of great concern to Mussolini and led to great tension between them. The way to “get rid of” this dangerous opponent was to name Balbo governor of Libya, where, only eighteen days after [Italy declared] war, Balbo was killed by Italian artillery (officially an accident but unofficially often believed to have been by design).
I am very much in favor of Chicago’s continuing to honor Balbo, engineer, aviator, and person with an impeccable reputation to anyone who knows the truth. If Mussolini had listened to Balbo, Italy would not have entered the Second World War at all and would have avoided the Italian civil war during 1943-45.
Ackman and Schwarz respond: A placard in a courtyard at Ciampino Airport, a military and charter-flight facility 30 minutes from the center of Rome, does recognize Balbo, as does a bust inside the Ministry of Aviation, in an area accessible only to military personnel. We stand behind our statement that a tourist in Rome would not see a public monument to Italo Balbo.
SPREAD THE WEALTH
I was surprised and impressed to read the article “Disparity Rising” in Chicago magazine [by Emily Kaiser, Arena/Money, July]. Thank you for airing concerns about economic inequality and the disproportionate effect on low-wage earners in Illinois and in the rest of the country in general. Because “the poor and middle-income haven’t shared in the prosperity” as have the richest 5 percent in this country, I am particularly interested in seeing [U.S. Rep.] Jim McDermott’s [proposed] Sensible Estate Tax Act become law. The federal estate tax is our nation’s only tax on inherited wealth, paid for by those most able to pay—the richest multimillionaires and billionaires in this country. The Sensible Estate Tax Act would exempt $2 million per spouse and institute a progressive rate structure [up to] 55 percent for estates valued over $10 million. As Bill Gates Sr. has written, “The estate tax is an appropriate mechanism for those with great wealth to pay back the society that created a fertile ground for prosperity.”
Midwest Field Organizer
Working Group on Extreme Inequality
I am writing to praise the Michael Lenehan article Hello, Beautiful! printed in the June issue. Anything you never thought to ask about pigs.
A few days [after reading the article] I was able to pass the name of [the pig farmer] Greg Gunthorp on to a friend of a friend who just had a pig roast, is making it an annual event, and as an architect at some green firm will be needing a “green” pig.
A DOG’S LIFE
In your August issue ["The Dog Dilemma,” by Andrew Schroedter, Arena/Page Two], you discuss an important issue the Obama family will face after the election: what kind of dog to get. While there are a plethora of breeders offering “purebred” and “designer” dogs, the Obamas would do best by the four-legged constituents of Chicago (and their owners) by adopting a shelter dog. Every year, thousands of dogs are euthanized simply because they have nowhere to go. By adopting a shelter dog (such as from PAWS Chicago), the Obamas can save a life and do something constituents the country over can admire.
In September’s Daley vs. Daley, a chart showing Chicago icons mistakenly depicted Two Prudential Plaza instead of the Prudential Building.