A Hoot! For Kinney … For Seeing the Other Side of the Xenophobe.

Every once in a while, I think, it’s important to recognize the positive stories. Especially when they aren’t written in “drink the-Kool-Aid” prose, offering instant sainthood to the protagonists of good will they portray. It is the sugary counterpart to the piling on of public enemies, the-hate-the-sinner (without understanding the sin) treatment so often offered.

The one-sided approach, positive or negative, leaves much to be desired.

Enter Monica Yant Kinney’s story detailing the generosity of Joey Vento, owner of Geno’s and its controversial ordering requests.

Kinney is forthright in mentioning that she had taken shots at Vento in 2007 over a “xenophobic campaign stunt with GOP presidential wannabe Rudy Giuliani.” She recognizes the controversy surrounding Vento and the sign that hangs at Geno’s, “This is America. When ordering, please speak English, writing that you might “call Vento a bigot (or hero) for speaking his mind about the English language.”

That’s the context, Kinney is saying, but the content might surprise you. She offers a number of sources, all attesting to Vento’s generosity, including Reverend Gary Pacitti of Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who notes that Vento donates money despite knowing he has “illegal immigrants and a Spanish Mass.” His sister-in-law, Diana Vergagni, claims he donates about $250,000 a year.

Vento doesn’t loudly announce his charitable side, Kinney notes. He does what he can, he says. She brings the piece back to the introduction of Vento and his controversial side, writing, “To Vento, compassion and commentary go together.” It may not make sense, the man of the infamous “Please speak English” sign donating money to a Spanish Mass with illegal immigrants, but Kinney’s piece reminds us we should still recognize each act. Kinney gets a HOOT for offering fair treatment and providing multiple perspectives on Joey Vento.

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