A death in the Family
Death, like taxes, as the old saying goes, is inevitable. For most of us, there is a period of reflection, if we have the chance to have one, of looking back to see what we have achieved before moving on. We may hope that we have left a legacy of some sort, no matter how small, to prove that our life has had value.
If we have done a decent job in life we can take comfort in the knowledge that those we leave behind will feel a sense of pride in being part of what we have accomplished. If we have regrets, perhaps those regrets die with us, invisible to those around us. Those private regrets will weigh heavily on our hearts until our souls carry them to help fill the void of the universe.
Today marks the end of a chapter in the lives of the people of Corleone, of Sicily, of Italy and even farther afield. Today may be a day of sadness for some, elation for others, and simply a day of acknowledgement for many more. Today Salvatore Riina, Capo dei Capi, died in the prison in Parma, Italy, that had been his home for almost 25 years. He died of natural causes - a rare thing for someone in his line of business.
After the death of his father in 1943 the young Salvatore Riina became the senior male in his family, at just 13 years old. Life during the war in Europe was tough enough but no doubt made worse by greedy landowners in the rural areas centred on Corleone. The burden of caring for his family against this background presumably led to his decision to join the mafia.
Under Riina's leadership, the Corleone mafia grew in strength through aggressive and bloody means, until the Italian government decided that enough was enough. Riina responded by assassinating, very publicly, the principal magistrates heading the war against the mafia: Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. There is a memorial to them near Palermo airport at the point at which Falcone, his wife, driver and police officers were killed by a bomb under the road. Borsellino died a few months later, the victim of another bomb.
Six months later, Riina was captured at his home in Palermo and served multiple sentences, guaranteeing he would never be freed, in a jail on the mainland of Italy. Close to 25 years of reflection for Riina. How many years of reflection for his family? Victim's families are likely to be unforgiving of any member of the family - guilt by association - while, in respect of Toto Riina, even death is unlikely to give rise to forgiveness.
The anti-mafia organisation in Sicily continues to operate. The death today of the head of the Family (ie the Mafia) is one thing for Sicilians to contemplate. Whether this event signals the death of the mafia itself, is another.
As a regular visitor to Sicily, I can honestly say that I have seen little evidence of "the Mafia" at work. There are things that happen in Sicily that one can regard as "controlled", but the same can be said of similar activities in many countries. The legacy of Toto Riina lives on, but perhaps it now only merely taints the atmosphere rather than contaminating it. Only businessmen will know the truth, but the unspoken vow of silence, omertà, remains a part of life.
So today, to repeat myself, marks the end of a chapter, for grieving and reflection by Riina's family, and possibly the end of a long period of period of suffering by his victims.