Wednesday, August 20, 2014

From the Tattered Remnants:
How An Italian Dies: Fabrizio Quattrocchi (1968-2004)

"Did the one die well?" - John M. Ford, The Final Reflection

Yesterday, American Freelance photojournalist James Foley--having been held captive for more than two years--was beheaded on camera as a 'warning to America' by ISIS-worshipping shirker pagans.

I do not post this as a criticism of Mr. Foley (may he rest in peace). Indeed, he should be hailed for his courage in risking, and in the end suffering, death for the innocent. To quote a snippet of a news broadcast about the death of Foley that I overheard: "A statement from Mr. Foley's family hailed him as 'one of those who bravely went into the teeth of the Syrian civil war to document the horrors committed against civilians.'". Just so.

I do however wish to salute one who, in similar circumstances, managed to piss on the terrorists' parade in a Last Great Act of Defiance. His name is Fabrizio Quattrocchi As they say in Israel: May his, and James Foley's memories each be a blessing. (And a trumpet's call to the rest of us.)


It is often said that 'it is not how we die that is important, but how we live.' This is no doubt true. Nevertheless, there are times when an individual stares Death in the face and their reaction to the Angel reveals who they really were all along.

As Marcus Aurelius put it, "Death smiles at us all." Let us remember one who, facing Death, managed to smile back. 

We know very little about Fabrizio Quattrocchi. He was a "security contractor," who was, admittedly, a well paid civilian guard of certain NATO facilities in Iraq. In 2004, he was kidnapped, along with three other Italians, and was held by agents of Al Qaida.

They decided to make an example of him.

While he was being filmed he was forced to dig his own grave, and knelt in front of it --

–- and before his enemies could kill him, he did one thing that rendered him immortal: he ripped his mask partially off and cried:

"Vi faccio vedere come muore un Italiano!"

I'll show you how an Italian dies!

He fell in a hail of bullets.

Fabrizio Quattrocchi's last minute resistance had one immediate effect: he ruined his captors' intention of filming his execution for propaganda purposes, striking from their hands the very reward they were going to give themselves for killing him.

But it also resonates in a larger sense. It is strange that, only two generations after the Second World War, where bravado and defiance of this sort were quite commonplace, that a small act of resistance would be thought so remarkable.

But so it is.

He taught us all that it is still possible for an Italian--or any man, or woman–-to yet die manfully (yes) in the face of evil, in a world where it seems to be evolving into an invertebrate state, and we are now ruled by the tremulous, by what C.S. Lewis called "men without chests."

It is sad to think that only two generations ago manful defiance in the face of death was a universal trait--exhibited on all sides in the Second World War.  Yes, even the Italian, who, along with the French, are often derided for their lack of passion for combat. This is unfair: their infantry very often fought with suicidal bravery when in contact with the enemy--but they were 'lions led by donkeys.'

Bravery like his was once -- in our grandparents' days -- common as fire.

These days? Notsomuch.

Gone to sleep they lie in flowered graves
For the visitors and Guidebook saved
But come the trumpet shattered dawn
Will the spirit they shared be reborn?*

Quattrocci, in death, gave the world an unsurpassed gift: a reminder. There is yet a place in the world for cojones. 

He didn't die like an Italian, solely. He died like a man.

May we all remember to do the same if called.

In 2006, Fabrizio Quattrocchi was awarded Italy's highest civilian honor, the Gold Medal of Civilian Valor.

*Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Memoirs of an Officer and a Gentleman, 1978

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