For a while, I felt myself almost salivating in anticipation of sinking my teeth, figuratively speaking, into the tender young flesh of Gabriele Bertaccini.
Bertaccini, a 19-year-old Arizona State University freshman from Italy, organized a campus screening Wednesday evening of the film "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price.’’
How dare some snot-nosed European anarchist come over here and rip on our beloved little yellow smiley-face, I was thinking.
So, when the time came for my interview with Bertaccini, I felt kinda like a wolf in a room full of pork chops.
And then . . .
Well, then Bertaccini ruined everything by being reasonable, polite, honest and open.
Bertaccini is a business marketing major and has an interest in social justice. He didn’t know anything about Wal-Mart until he arrived in the U.S. Many of his new American friends shopped there, though, and he was amazed at their tales of the low prices.
As a marketing major, he wanted to know more, so he started doing research. That led him to the Wal-Mart film. Bertaccini decided to arrange a screening, followed by a discussion group. Wednesday afternoon, Bertaccini was expecting a gathering of about 90 people.
While Bertaccini’s views of Wal-Mart’s practices can’t be considered favorable, he did not come across as a wildeyed militant. He openly acknowledged that the film was "a political film’’ and is a pretty one-sided portrayal.
"I don’t want to go out and shut down the local Wal-Mart,’’ Bertaccini said. "That is not the solution. I just wanted there to be a discussion.’’
The film focuses on what he believes is exploitation of Wal-Mart employees, specifically when it comes to wages and health insurance. Of course, if you pinch a Wal-Mart detractor, usually it’s a labor official or Ted Kennedy who yells ouch.
Not surprisingly, Wal-Mart has produced its own movie as a rebuttal.
That’s two films about a department store, just in time for Christmas. Somehow, I don’t think either is going to sell much popcorn.
I doubt, too, that either will greatly influence public opinion.
And that’s OK with Bertaccini. "I just want to raise awareness,’’ he said.
Bertaccini has lived in Italy, Germany and France. The U.S. differs most from Europe in its social conscience, he said.
"You people are more aware socially,’’ Bertaccini said. "I love the U.S. I want to live here.’’
Bertaccini, to my dismay, turned out to be a nice kid.
But he’s a sorry excuse for an anarchist.