If the new coach of your favorite team has a pro-Mussolini tattoo on his bicep and is known for giving the straight-arm, palm down fascist salute, you could be forgiven if your “spidey senses” tingle. Never mind that is how we used to salute the American flag. Paolo di Canio is the new coach of the struggling UK football club, Sunderland United, and an accused fascist and racist. He admits to admiration for El Duce, but also calls the WWII Italian leader dishonest. Di Canio defends himself against charges of racism by pointing out that some of his best friends are black.
Former Alabama governor George Wallace was, in his day, a poster child for the reptillian brain. But as an older, sicker man he completely abandoned his segregationist past. Remembering him I can not help but believe that yesterday’s or even today’s political positions are not the end of somebody’s story. It would not be useful to judge the whole of my politics because I like Ronald Reagan. I at least have the decency to feel guilty about it. I am inclined to trust what di Canio says of his own heart if for no other reason than that’s what the person I want to be would do. But also I am moved by the pictures of his intimacy with black players. Those pictures say to me that whatever his political opinions, and lord knows we all have some odd ones, he’s doesn’t dislike people solely based on superficial characteristics. That for me is enough cut a brother slack, especially if he wins.