From an early age, Mussolini was tossed into the deep end of the political pool. His father supplied the water from Socialist journals and the local newspaper; Mussolini had little choice but to dogpaddle his way along. By the age of 19, Mussolini began to come into his own understanding of politics and philosophy. He was a self-proclaimed “Bohemian…(who) made his own rules and did not even keep them.” He had no respect for Socialists, whom he considered “weak and flabby as spaghetti.” His contempt for the Socialist waters he was raised in was equally matched by his violent sexual drive, which treated women as objects to be ruthlessly conquered.
Mussolini’s primary driver in life was to leave his mark in the world. This endeavor began with submitting articles to local news publications, voicing his anti-Socialist positions and other opposing positions he held against the multitude of people he disliked. His appetite for knowledge drove him to read a variety of writings, including Marx, Nietzsche, Blanqui (a violent French revolutionary), Kropotkin (the Russian anarchist), and Lebon, author of The Psychology of the Crowd. Mussolini would take the ideas of each of these thinkers and activists and piece them together in his own unique, often incoherent, way. His political opinions combined with his strong opposition to religion led to a number of arrest and imprisonments by the age of twenty. The waters he chose to swim in were violent and destructive to all who were in the way.
As a soldier in the Italian army, He proved himself a good, disciplined, hard-working soldier. His time on the front lines, deep in the trenches, hardened him. Having sustained injuries in war entitled him to an even more staunch position against socialist, pacifists, and neutralists. With his return from war, he began envisioning a “new Italy,” which would be led by a dictator “ruthless and energetic enough to make a clean sweep.” Indeed, he even proposed he was just the man for such a task. In 1919, with a rag-tag group of men from different political persuasions and positions, Mussolini formed a fighting group called Fascio di Combattimento. The anti-Socialist, anti-capitalist Fascio stood on a tough political platform which included “80 percent tax on war profits, confiscation of property belonging to the Church, the abolition of the Stock Exchange, and the handing over of industrial management to the workers.” Their first attempt at running for political office in 1919 was a failure, leaving many to believe Mussolini “a political corpse…and Fascism and still born movement.”
Not to be deterred, Mussolini learned from this failure and moved into new waters filled with rhetoric promoting Fascism as Italy’s savior. The economically down-trodden Italian population, ready for solutions to the country’s dire problems, began willingly wading into the waters of Fascism, who’s violent, anti-Communist stance brought stability to volatile circumstances more effectively than the reigning political powers. By 1921, “Mussolini had become a national figure, the leader at thirty-seven of a political party which was growing every month in size and influence.” The Fascist “pool party” was in full swing, and in time, all would be required to join.
As I consider these early years of Mussolini’s life, I’m reminded that rarely we are aware of the waters in which we swim. Awareness happens when another swimmer comes along, uses language to describe the water temperature, color, and flow, and invites us into a different body of water. It takes courage to make such a change. It takes wisdom and discernment to know if that change is for the betterment of all or just the betterment of me. As a leader, I have a responsibility to not just be aware of the water in which I swim, but to also be willing to step away from that water if it is toxic or damaging to others. I have a responsibility to research and carefully select my swimming space. As a follower of Jesus, I am to select water that has space for all people, from all places, and for all times. I’m to select waters that are life giving and restorative. I’m to invite others into that flowing stream, and travel with them as the currents of freedom and goodness carry us along to the vast expanse of Grace.
 Christopher Hibbett. Mussolini: The Rise and Fall of Il Duce. (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 1962, 2008) 7.
 Ibid., 7.
 Ibid., 7.
 Ibid., 9-10.
 Ibid., 24-25.
 Ibid., 26.
 Ibid., 27.
 Ibid., 28-29.
 Ibid., 31.