In Sicily, there is a city named Corleone that is notorious for creating and enabling mobsters. In an effort to fight these systems and expose the gangsters for the kind of people they are, the mayor of the city recently turned the birthplace and childhood home of a particularly nasty man into a museum that featured his grisly exploits. The museum invites everyone of Sicily to confront the reality of the mafia, to de-romanticize it and view its sordid details in the bright light of the Sicilian day (see the October 2010 issue of Smithsonian Magazine).
I believe that in our city of Youngstown, the Italian community as a whole is the most culturally aware ethnic group. From the most highly educated of them I learned the importance and power of The Museum. Because the Italians created the finer aspects of Western Culture, they have a long tradition of creating museums, from the cultural collections amassed by the ancient Romans to the vast collections housed in the Vatican. This has put them in a position of truly understanding how a Museum can empower and disempower ethnic groups, religion, business, political movements and even alter the very fabric of History itself. Perhaps the most powerful lesson: when one controls History, one controls the Future.
Several years ago, when Youngstown was still caught in the clutches of the Mafia but was struggling for freedom, a man named Sam Moffi (not sure if this is the correct name or spelling: please correct me if I am wrong) proposed the creation of a Mafia Museum in downtown Youngstown. He was fought viciously and eventually gave up. Who were the groups that fought him and what were their motivations? Some proclaimed they were trying to preserve Youngstown's stellar reputation even though we'd been thoroughly dragged through the mud by the national media for 20 years.
When a work of Art is acquired and displayed by a museum, it is considered a "dead work" by art historians; essentially an historical object. As such, it becomes an historical reference point for understanding the nature of a society at a particular time. In contrast, a 'living work" is thought to be of the art Underground; vague, mysterious, radical, emerging from tumultuous circumstance, threatening the establishment and status quo.
By creating a museum about the Mafia we will be putting them into a cultural and historical context. This will clearly demonstrate to the world that organized crime of Youngstown was an aberration of a distinct time and distinct set of circumstances within the 20th century. Once their historical antics are housed within an antiseptic, climate controlled mausoleum, we will control the future of organized crime. To wave the banner of Freedom in the form of a Mafia mausoleum (I mean Museum) , we will send a distinct signal to criminals that we indeed will exploit and control their future and history, down to each one personally.
Within this sterile, academic oriented facility, the exploits and motivations of the mafia can be dissected, analyzed and held up for public scrutiny. Demonstrating the techniques of propaganda, intimidation, parasitism and exploitation used by the Mafia, the public will be aware of organized crime should it appear in their lives or neighborhoods. The allure and superstitions held by the public towards the Mafia will then be destroyed.
This museum will also be a source of major income and will be a way for our city and people to be compensated for 50 years of War Crimes, Terrorism and Human Trafficking brought against us. Run properly, it can be franchised and corporatized. The National Media will no longer control or exploit us. It will be infinitely more difficult for epic shows like the Sopranos or Boardwalk Empire to access our history and make money from our suffering. If they want to use our history, THEY MUST PAY FOR IT and we will control how they use it.
Youngstown, it is time for the Mythology of the Mafia to be brought under control and for us to be liberated from the impotent ghosts of our past!