What We Talk About When We DON’T Talk About Amanda Knox

Merely mention that you lived in Seattle (USA) for 9 years, and you’ll likely get asked by the people of Perugia, Italy: Do you know Amanda Knox? As though, somehow, by living in the same city of 3.5+ million (where Amanda Knox now conducts her prison-free life), ones chances of knowing her are better than any Italian’s.

They’re not. And no, I don’t know her. Haven’t met her. Don’t plan to.

Nothing against the girl (and I won’t get into her guilt/innocence here), but the point is: if you’re an American traveling or living anywhere near Perugia, Italy: DON’T bring up Amanda Knox.

Amanda Knox leaving prison in Italy.
Amanda Knox (photo author and source unknown (suspected: www.youtube.com), no copyright indicated).

Should the topic arise, however (I have admittedly introduced it into my English courses just to stir up conversation), I advise all Americans to leave their opinions about this murder case fiasco at home. The majority of Italians I’ve met seem to believe she is guilty and got away with murder, while most Americans see her as a victim of cultural bias and a corrupt judicial system.

Go figure.

This just goes to show that such biases often fall along cultural lines. Which leads to the question, What doesn’t? The things we believe and spit out of our mouths as sacrosanct “opinion” are nearly always filtered through one cultural framework or another—be it belief system or daily news source.

Which leads to a second question: if there’s such a clear division between American vs. Italian viewpoints (two countries which have an amicable past and thriving cultural exchange), then imagine how wide the gap must be between an American and an Nigerian? Imagine a Pakistani immigrant trying to get a fair trial in the US (how is it even possible?). Think: Serial.

I digress.

Sign of 'Casa Circondariale di Perugia' (Perugia Correctional House), Italy
Perugia Correctional House, by Perugia-City.com, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

My main point is this: if you bring up Amanda Knox because you hope to get into a spirited debate about the issue, or because you think you might be able to persuade some Italians of just how wronged she was—fuh-get about it. You’ll only get yourself into an all-out blood bath of cultural extremes, where no side is willing to concede.

Avoid the subject all together, is my advice.

Coincidentally, I now live in Perugia (where Amanda Knox was arrested, jailed, tried, then released). I live here because it is a culturally and linguistically diverse city with plenty of work opportunities for me, and because Perugia is as close as we could get to southern Italy without actually living in the southern Italy.

Me on our first visit to Perugia (2014)
Me on our first visit to Perugia (2014)
The beautiful Piazza Maggiore (Perugia)
The beautiful Piazza Maggiore (Perugia)

But I do not live here because I was attempting to live in the two places on the globe (Seattle, WA-USA and Perugia, Italy) most associated with Amanda Knox. Or because I wanted to discuss her whereabouts every time I enter a conversation. Or because I want people to tell me, ‘You kind of look like her.’

As much as I feel immense compassion for the girl and really wish I could change people’s minds about her, it’s nonetheless freakily coincidental or ironic or unfortunate or serendipitous that there’s so much overlap with a woman I’ve never actually met. In fact, I sort of feel like we should meet, just so I can know the person behind the story and speak honestly on her behalf.

If you’re out there, Amanda…

As for what to talk about instead of talking about Amanda Knox…don’t ask me. Formula Uno (the Italian version of NASCAR)? Your vacation at the beach? Wine?

Otherwise, should Miss Knox’s guilt or innocence rear its ugly head, don’t engage in the battle. Between the onslaught of spirited hand waving and vociferous decrees of, ‘É colpevole!’(‘She’s guilty!’), beware. You’re better off debating gun rights restrictions with a card-carrying NRA member than attempting to spar with an Italian on the subject of Amanda Knox.

[Feature Image Credit: Downtown Seattle, by Tiffany Von Arnim, licensed under CC BY 2.0. Original photo was cropped to fit feature size.]

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