Friday, May 12, 2006

Allegro and Ottavio

The California Senate has just agreed that it’s OK to mention gays and lesbians in the state’s history textbooks, having reached this conclusion about blacks and Hispanics and women some time ago. Opponents are enraged, arguing that this will amount to nothing less than “full support of homosexuality.”

It has yet to pass the Assembly, and even if it gets that far, it still has to have the approval of our good buddy Arnold, and who knows how this politico will rule, once he has stuck his muscled finger to the winds and decided what is right for California.

But as for this “support of homosexuality” they’re so concerned about, don’t you love it that these mostly evangelical folk are now committed to picking out facts of history which support their religious views and censoring out those which do not, rather than leaving the whole business up to writers who might look for some other points of salience in choosing the narrative the next generation of California kids are bound to tell.

The debate over what goes into textbooks, if you get to see it up close, rivals the best of Mission Impossible adventures. We’re all postmodernists now, so there is no use any more in hoping we might find neutral positions. We take stands and we beat the hell out of the other side and the winner gets to tell the tale of what happened.

But here’s a bit of history. Not California history. Possibly not even gay history. But just in case you’re looking for a filler somewhere on a page that still has some room...

Once upon a time there was this Jewish fellow named Allegro. Father’s name, Jacob, so I guess today he’d be called Allegro Jacobson. He had a Christian friend named Ottavio Bargellini.

Allegro and Ottavio were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and were arrested for destroying a number of sacred Christian images along the roadside near Bologna. They were found innocent of this crime, but during the interrogations, the boys revealed something about their relationship that led to their arrest on a second crime, sodomy. To guild the lily, Ottavio was charged with the crime of being “Judaized” from being entirely too friendly with his Jewish friend.

The punishment for this crime was death. Allegro quickly converted at the last minute and was baptized at 8 in the morning of his execution on May 22nd, 1553. That was not sufficient to warrant a reprieve, though, and the two were marched into the Piazza Maggiore and decapitated. The baptism was recognized, however. Allegro was renamed Paolo Orsini and his head was stuck back on his body and he was carried with pomp and circumstance into the church of San Domenico for burial. Just in time, since notices were already appearing all over the city telling Jews they had to leave the city limits.

Ottavio’s body was unceremoniously dumped in a hole.

Come to think of it, maybe this is not appropriate for textbooks, lest some 14-year-old Catholic kid draw the conclusion from it Jews are sexy.

Berkeley
May 12, 2006

1 comment:

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