Mary Ann Sorrentino's 2 Cents Worth

Opinions, Observations and Musings

Mary Ann Sorrentino

Mary Ann Sorrentino
RI or FL depending on season, USA
June 19
Mary Ann is a columnist for the Keene (NH) Sentinel, the Providence Phoenix and other newspapers and has appeared on She was an Associated Press Award-winning radio talk host for 13 years and the Executive Director of Planned Parenthood of RI 1977-1987. Her most recent book, ABORTION - The A Word (Gadd Books) is available on line and in major bookstores.


JANUARY 9, 2012 6:59AM

Rick Santorum Is NOT Like Us!

Rate: 13 Flag




A few days ago I finally heard the question I had feared ever since Rick Santorum became the GOP “flavor of the week.” His flavor was going to be “marinara” after my Uncle Arthur in Portsmouth, NH asked “Isn’t he Italian?”

I answered, “No, he isn’t. His grandfather was Italian.”

Santorum is an American.

I have dual Italian and American citizenship, have lived in Italy, speak Italian fluently and am an alumna of the Universita’ di Firenze. Trust me: Rick Santorum is not “Italian.”

Though the senator’s outdated views on women’s equality, gay rights and vast governmental control of our most personal freedoms might have given Mussolini a run for his money, no one in Italy would ever mistake this guy for one of their own. His provincial machismo barely hidden beneath a façade of evangelical male dominance would be an embarrassment.

Santorum has 7 times more children than the average Italian in Italy, and is about 5 times more Catholic than Romans living in the shadow of St. Peter’s while boldly ignoring its teachings.  Italy has a liberal abortion law despite several attempts to recall it while Santorum decries not only abortion but the contraceptives that would make abortions unnecessary. Italy has negative population growth with birth control a way of life, despite an image of Our Lady staring down at the marriage bed from her perch on the wall.

But a lot of our uncles, fathers and brothers won’t notice any of these stark differences. They’re drunk on the heady brew of the coal mining immigrant grandfather from Italy story (likely actually “Santoro” but re-named “Santorum” on Ellis Island.) To Italo-Americans across the country hungry for their first “Italian” president, only ethnicity matters. They will follow Rudy Giuliani, Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito anywhere. Despite his leftist politics, even Mario Cuomo can lead these men off a cliff by the very sound of the vowel at the end of his name. They love FDR because Delano sounds like a landscaper from the North End of Boston.

But, NO, Uncle Artie, Rick Santorum is not “Italian” in the sense that we Italians celebrate who we are. He wants to give corporations a zero tax rate while you pay more to Uncle Sam and lose Medicare.  Santorum wants the Pope in every bedroom. He thinks cousin Tillie who had an illegal abortion in 1943 was an irresponsible slut: he doesn’t care that she was raped.

And Rick Santorum doesn’t much care for your grandson Tony-- the one with the scholarship to Harvard who announced last Thanksgiving that he and his roommate Frank are going to get married.

Rick Santorum is what grandma used to call in her southern dialect, “n’american’ ” which was what she called everyone who wasn’t Italian.

So please, Uncle Artie, don’t vote for Rick Santorum out of some distorted sense of ethnic pride. As grandpa used to say, “He’s really not like us.” 


(photo Pietro Ricciardi - Wikicommons)

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Not Italian?

Not surprising. I wonder if anyone even knows what planet he's from!
Right on Mary Ann! I love your frankness. Wouldn't it be great if the party of phat just gave up and put all that money to use fixing the real problems. Just saying...
Thanks skypixieo and tg....the "party of phat"...I love it!
Maybe GOP really stands for "Good Ol' PHAT!"
Too bad the American Catholic Church isn't as progressive as the Roman.
Great post, with some facts about Italy that I didn't know.
Gee, I thought that GOP meant GO PEE !
"His provincial machismo barely hidden beneath a façade of evangelical male dominance would be an embarrassment."

I love this line Mary Ann. Too bad he isn't enlightened enough to be embarassed.
It is hard not to take Santorum's views personally, since so much of what he advocates in policy would affect the loved ones you mention. You infuse the emotion of it all, however, with some sound logic and a true human element.

I, too, draw a distinction between being Italian and being of Italian descent. The latter description would apply to me, though I do have relatives in Italy and I keep in close touch with them.

So sad that sometimes superficial factors help determine our votes. Time for us all to dig deeper. Great post.
Mary Ann, I can almost hear your grandmother pronouncing the words “n’american” using the “g” sound for the “c” …like my grandmother use to do.

Anyway, when I read your headline, the first thought that came into my head was, I prefer “I am not like Rick Santorum!”—in fact, I am proud of that fact.

I really hadn’t given much thought to the “Italian heritage” issue at all. Most of my Italian ancestry friends are conservatives (for whatever bizarre reason), but I sure hope they would not back Santorum for that reason.

Although I think Santorum (or Ron Paul) would give Obama his best chance at being re-elected, I still would not like to see either of them get the Republican nod. I am convinced the Obama base is so eroded he will not be re-elected no matter who the Republican nominee is…and the thought of Paul or Santorum in the Oval Office causes me to gag.
thanks, desert rat, so good to see you back here!- Paul and Frank, thanks for being the exceptions to this Italo male stereotype, and phyllis and jl thanks for the read and comments, glad you enjoyed the new info on Italy!
Interesting post. It is interesting to see how Italian society has handled its religious-political nexus literally "in the shadow of St. Peter's" as you say. How different from our current theologico-politico mess.
Sorry, but the man's father came from Italy when he was 7 and his mother is 1/2 Italian-American as well. I don't like putting people into these "groups", but your deal seems to be that if the man doesn't have your politics, he ain't entitled to, should he care to take it, the "Italian-American" title. That's just very narrow-minded from your side. And who are you to throw him out of that "group" because he doesn't fit the stats you cart around? Even Italian-Americans have the right to break your little mold on occasion. Don't like his ideas, debate them. But if Al Pacino can be Italian-American, I think Rick can too.

Grow up.
Thanks Blue in TX (I'd be blue too if Rick Perry were my governor) and welcome to my page! Yes, Italians in Italy are very different in their view of the church. We Italo-Americans very often grew up among the late 19-century views of our immigrant grandparents- on religion and a lot of other things.
Who knew? Never occurred to me that Santorum was Italian-descent. He needs to lighten up and drink a lot more red wine.
really well-put perspective, MaryAnn. Kind of like the old "favorite son" approach which typically referred to a candidates home state. This primary season, which so far has only had the Iowa "pre-season" scrimmage (oops, I mean causcuses) has already been too over inflated and the meaning all but destroyed (much like the college football bowlgames). Once an absolute politi-phile, I now find myself increasingly weary and avoiding the never-ending litany of garbage spewed forth by both candidates and media. Too bad. For 30+ years politics was my favorite sport. But, much as how ESPN has destroyed my interest in sports (seems to me that 22 hours a day of "suits" discussing the minutae of sports is decidedly not sports) MSNBC and Fox are/have done the same thing to my interest in the political process. Maybe that's all part of the grander scheme?
I wonder why irresponsible sluts and whoremongers should be encouraged to have children. Or why they miss the part that by valuing children, and life, we use them as a threat to punish people we find selfish. Santorum is on his way down. Perhaps you can show your uncle the other *meaning* of Santorum.
Barbara, the point is that he IS Italian-American which is different from being "Italian" which he likes to claim to be...I thought the piece made that clear but perhaps I missed the mark in making that distinction. As far as debating him is concerned, I'd really LOVE to have the chance to do that. Set it up, Barbara, and I'll be there!
Thanks for the read and comment.
Walter, I always love your comments. Thanks

Oryoki, glad to have your input...did HE say "irresponsible sluts" or is that you paraphrasing?? If he said it, he probably said "irresponsible black sluts" like the comment he made recently about food stamps. Later, when called on it, he said he didn't say "black people: he said "blah..." What's a "blah person?"
You are so right, there is nothing remotely Italian about this guy. Also, he is even an embarrassment to the Catholic Church. He is nothing but an ignorant right wing Evangelical, and that all she wrote. Excellent piece, Mary.
Thanks, Thoth, this guy is certainly an embarrassment to
all those Catholics who have worked so hard to bring the church out of the Dark Ages, where Santorum lives.
BTW, Santorum does speak Italian.
I understand Mary Ann, but the thrust of you comments here is that Santorum doesn't have the "views" that you feel most Italians in the USA (whether Italian-Americans or those of dual citizenship) share and that THAT makes him not "Italian". You don't point out, for example, that other people of his background are not "Italian". (Please note I am using that word in the colloquial sense that we use in the USA. Example, JFK was Irish, although, as we know, he was American or Irish-American if you will.)

MY POINT is that YOUR POINT is based on his, Santorum, not being Italian (colloquial sense) because of his views and that that is very narrow of you. The Italian voters (colloquial sense) may form a type of block at times (if you are correct), but they are not immune to the exception. And when they are of the exception, they are not tossed out of the "Italian" (colloquial) block because they have ticked you off.
Sorry, can't arrange a debate. I had suggested you debate his IDEAS anyway, not HIM.
Mary Ann, you said in a comment to my comment that Santorum "Claims" to be Italian. Sorry, but I suspect the vast majority of Americans understand that claim to be in the colloquial sense of the word and don't think he really IS ITALIAN. So, back to your blog, he is as "Italian" as any other Italian in America (Italian American) whom you would support if they were on the left and whom, I do suspect, you'd not make this complaint either.... IF they were on the left.

Take care.
What is funny to an outsider is that I didn't realize that an Italian had never been president. Italian names and cultural influences are so much a part of America that it escaped my notice.
I agree with SkyPixieO: asking Rick Santorum to give an Italian's veiw on anything would have been like asking Michael Jackson to give a black person's perspective. R
Barbara, in Italian, the speaker/writer always takes the blame if someone disagrees or gets accusatory (that would be you) and then says, "Forse non mi sono spiegato bene." "Maybe I didn't explain myself well.")

I am simply making the point that since SANTORUM (not I) raises the ethnic issue over and over again ( I don't hear other candidates hawking their roots, do you?) I am responding by saying that he has nothing in common with true ITALIAN (not Italo-American- which he never calls himself) views, lifestyle etc.

You may disagree and you may think my writing sucks...whatever. But please stop making specious charges you have no evidence for. I haven't wasted my time defending others on the left who claim to be Italian or even given them a pass. If there WERE such leftists declaring their ITALIANITA', they would be IN TUNE WITH the current (21st century) political views, legislative realities, lifestyle choices etc. of the majority in Italy (which the examples I gave prove....reproductive freedom, feminist bent, zero population growth, HUGE state investment in and citizen involvement with the Green movement etc...all things Santorum would abhor.)

Please spare me your amateur psychoanalysis of what I might do in another circumstance involving another politician. You don't know me or what I think or do. You read one blog that you disagree with and you feel the need to post several comments ramming your views into the ground.

When I read posts I disagree with, feel are poorly written, make no sense, etc....I just move along silently without comment, or leave a kind of "have a nice day" comment...maybe that's what your patronizing "take care" meant..who knows?
Dear Mary Ann,

My saying “dear” is not, by the way, an effort to patronize. And when I close a comment with “take care” I don’t mean it to patronize either.

If you don’t want people to comment on controversial issues that you may write about, you are probably due for some disappointment. Many of us do comment on controversial blogs and/or issues. I am one of them. You may shake your head and move on when you disagree – although not, I’d note with Mr. Santorum it appears – but I don’t always, although I do sometimes.

My point, which I’ve already made several times now is that, I hear what you are saying when you say most people in Italy are on the left – or hold your views, or are feminists, or into “green jobs” or whatever – fine. But common sense tells me that there are a few people in Italy (citizens, like you) who do NOT hold leftist views (do I need to give a citation??). Surely you’d agree that they, while annoying, are Italian citizens and “ethnically” Italian usually as well. All I’m saying is that I suspect (no Freud involved) that you’d not be falling over pointing out how, say, Mario Cuomo is not really Italian if he were running for office now and if he fell into line sufficiently with your leftist views (and those too, according to you of most Italians).

I have pointed out over and over that Santorum calls himself Italian the way many Italian-Americans do, in the colloquial sense. He is Italian in that sense. He is just not one you happen to agree with and not one most Italians may like or agree with. But if a host of great Italian-Americans could say, “I’m Italian” even if they didn’t think the way you wanted, I think Mr. Santorum can too.
All the best.
Correction. This should read:
My point, which I’ve already made several times now, is that I hear what you are saying when you say most people in Italy are on the left – or hold your views, or are feminists, or into “green jobs” or whatever – fine.
Sanatorum is perhaps the dumbest man ever to run for president, however, this "he isn't Italian" bit is weird.

Who cares what country is family is from? While you do make some valid observations about the foolishness of voting for a politician just because their family came from the same country as yours, ultimately you're clearly overly preoccupied with ethnicity.

In any event, Samtorum hasn't run as 'an Italian-American' candidate. I suspect most people assume he's a WASP with Southern Baptist roots.

You are correct about Americans having a false impression of Italy as a 'very religious' country. Italy, like most of Western Europe, has largely moved beyond religion (certainly beyond the paleo-religious, science denying, Biblical literalist variety so popular with Santorum's base).

Funny thing about 'ethnocentric' voting; Staten Island New York is (quite literally) an island of Republican conservatism in an otherwise very liberal democrat city. It's inhabitants are both overwhelmingly Republican and of Italian ancestry. However, the paleoconservatives f Staten Island voted overwhelmingly for arch liberal Mario Cuomo in several elections. I wonder why?