I have always hated students, a class as concrete to my mind as workers were to Karl Marx’s, a race as particular in my imagination as the Jews were in Alfred Rosenberg’s. Visiting a city like Florence, for me, is a painful experience, somewhere between what joining a gay-rights march would be for Taki or what strolling through most inner cities in the United States would be for a Southern slaver. So it was with some interest that I followed the story unfolding in Perugia, the Italian hillside city compared to which Cambridge, Massachusetts, is Sicilian hinterland.
Last December Judge Giancarlo Massei read the jury verdict. Twenty-two-year-old Amanda, a middle-class American girl from Seattle who had come to Perugia to ennoble herself through unmediated contact with Yurrup and the arts, was found guilty of the rape and murder of her English roommate, Meredith, who had come there to improve her Italian for a degree in politics at the University of Leeds. Amanda got 26 years; her Italian boyfriend, Raffaele, got 25.
The two girls became roommates by chance, and, according to the Sunday Times, relations between them “soon soured.” Meredith “grew more and more exasperated” by Amanda, who “failed to flush the toilet, kept strumming the same chord on her guitar, and brought ‘strange men’” to the house they shared. Amanda’s “sexuality featured heavily in the prosecution case.” According to her diary, among the three sexual partners she’d had upon arrival in Italy was “a man she met and had sex with on the train on her way to Perugia.”
Meredith complained to her parents that “Amanda arrived only a week ago and she already has a boyfriend,” but the issue was less envy or jealousy than her roommate’s adopted role as her liberator, eager to remove, in the name of American cosmopolitanism, the chattels of bourgeois hypocrisy and philistine convention from the body and soul of a European provincial. To this end, Amanda scattered through the house such morally edifying objects as pornographic magazines, used prophylactics, and what the Catholic prosecutors described as battery-operated devices intended for sexual stimulation. Yet Meredith continued to resist Amanda’s attempts to civilize her, and it was her obstinacy, in the words of the Sunday Times, that sparked “in the American a deep hatred of her flatmate, which eventually led to her murder.”
Besides Amanda and her boyfriend, another youth took part in the infliction of the 43 wounds and lesions that caused Meredith’s death—an African-Italian, we should say, from Ivory Coast, an orphan brought to Perugia as a child. He was the only one of the three to know nothing of art or culture, and the only one to cooperate with the prosecution. Nonetheless, after a separate trial, Rudy got 30 years. On the night of the murder, all three were drunk and, as befits partisans of honesty and plain dealing, high on hash. According to the prosecution, as the friends sought to involve Meredith “in a heavy sex game,” the two men, Raffaele and Rudy, were “competing to please” its female mastermind. As Amanda held the victim by the throat, the men produced knives and proceeded to slash at Meredith’s clothes, beginning, as befits partisans of sexual liberation and Hollywood morality, with the straps of her brassiere. An old woman living nearby testified that Meredith’s screams sounded as if they had come from “a house of horrors.”
After the verdict, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) told the Seattle Times, “I have serious questions about the Italian justice system and whether anti-Americanism tainted this trial.” To which an anonymous Seattle blogger replied, “If she wanted an American trial, she should have murdered in America.”
But the moral, I think, lies elsewhere. The story of Amanda and Meredith sheds light on the expansionist, imperialist, and colonialist nature of vice—and shows how misrepresented and maligned by modern culture is virtue. In fact, I can think of no cultural projection of these ultimate decades that equates virtue with something other than militant hypocrisy, a moral totalitarianism that imperils individual liberty and proceeds from a conceited and, naturally enough, secretly frustrated moral majority.
Should I be told that the moral slant of the Italian justice system, which Senator Cantwell decries, compensates for the tendency of modern, but above all modern American, culture to bestiality—in which the student class has always played the part of vanguard—I would respectfully disagree. In my view, such parity could only be achieved by stringing up the young murderess to a lamppost, as was done a few years ago near the house where I live to a man who had raped a woman, as it turned out, on the day before her wedding.
But then, Perugia is a student town. Palermo isn’t.