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Radical radishes

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It is not easy explaining to a British person that the pacifist Gandhi is an icon for the Italian Radical Party. Since the September 11th attacks, in the UK the word “radical” has become synonymous with Islamic radicalism, personified by the terrorists Al Zarqawi and Bin Laden. No longer does it bring back warm memories of the 19th century reforming middle class Radical party, nor is it associated with Italian Radicals who, in their struggle for civil rights and rule of law over the last 50 years, are the embodiment of a party of non-violence. Likewise in France, Radicals tend to get a bad rap, labelled as those who stand to the right of the Left and to the left of the Right, without actually being in the political Centre. Thus in Paris, Radicals are dubbed ‘radishes’: red on the outside (like the Communists), white on the inside (like the Centre-Right), and best dipped in melted butter. There is only one sense in which the word “radical” meets with the agreement of Rome, London and Paris: according to doctors, free radicals are bad for us and are among the principal causes of cancer. But then, everyone knows that people like Ghandi and Bin Laden don’t die at the hands of invisible free radicals either.

Translated from Radicale: terrorista o ghandiano?