John E. Chiaradia was a longtime reader and sometime contributor to New Politics.
How does one come to political activism? Are we influenced by the times, by our personal experiences, by some innate quality within us, or are each of these just the necessary ingredients of activism? John (Giovanni) Emilio Chiaradia left Italy as a child, a political refugee from mid-20th-century Italian fascism. His family escaped the turmoil engulfing their country for the welcoming haven of the United States, landing in New York City and eventually settling in central California. There they were once again confronted by nationalist politics and uprooted from their home. They were compelled to leave California following the bombing of Pearl Harbor as John’s mother, Antoinette, was not yet a naturalized citizen. In the wake of the war, the US government deemed all non-naturalized people from Axis countries, and even citizens in the case of Japanese Americans, to be potential threats to national security. They were commanded to vacate a 100-mile exclusion zone from the west coast. The family was forced to leave what few possessions they had and return to the Bronx.