My Dear Herr Baechle,
After a day of thinking
about your comments, I've concluded that you are unaware
of how we Americans view Switzerland. Pay attention:
you'll be surprised.
First, remember that
Switzerland is one of the few nations of Europe which
Americans haven't died to save. Yes, it's true that
if we hadn't stopped Hitler he'd have conquered you sooner
or later; nonetheless we didn't have to fight to liberate
you. And why is that?
Because of the Swiss
tradition of armed independence. Hitler knew that
the Swiss were well armed, and more importantly, he knew
that they were determined to fight. The cost was
just too great at the time. Perhaps you have seen
the old postcard from before the First World War? It
showed the Kaiser addressing a Swiss militiaman, asking
him what the 250,000 Swiss soldiers would do when attacked
by half a million Germans. "Shoot twice", replied
the Swiss laconically.
An armed and determined people who will molest no one
unless attacked -- that's a concept dear to our hearts.
Whatever you may think of our present foreign policy, I
invite your attention to the very icon of American popular
culture which you mock: John Wayne. Mr. Wayne
would have fit right in with the Swiss, because he always
portrayed characters who preferred peace but would fight
rather than be enslaved. Time and again his
antagonist would provoke him, but he would never draw his
gun until he had no other choice. America, Herr
Baechle, has been repeatedly attacked. We now
believe we have no other choice. You may disagree
with our assessment of the situation, but you cannot
honorably disagree with our response to the situation as
we see it.
We are also naturally
sympathetic with your federal system, especially the
relative independence of your cantons. This was the
American ideal, although history has weakened the
independence of our states. There was a time when
the nearest thing to America was Switzerland, and both
countries recognized it. Since then our governments
have mutated, but both still pay homage to the principle
of a federation of independent states.
stereotyped images of Switzerland, just as you Swiss have
of us. Some are benign, like the images of beautiful
mountain villages, precision instruments, and the legend
of William Tell, while others, like the image of the
amoral Swiss bankers holding Nazi gold, are more cynical.
But overall we value Switzerland as a free nation which
wants nothing more than to go about its business, but
which will not be trifled with or intimidated.
my friend, is a description of the classic American
I've been hearing for
some years now that you Swiss are moving away from the
tradition of a citizen militia and compulsory military
service. You also seem to have begun to surrender
your treasured political isolation from the rest of
Europe, and perhaps before the decade is over you will
have joined the one-world herd. That's your option,
but remember that when a scattering of individuals is
fused into a herd, the tone will be set by the biggest and
strongest individual. That would be America, Herr
Baechle. Be careful what you wish for. We
Americans hope that you will always remain armed, and
always independent, and that there will always be a
Switzerland. Please don't disappoint us; we are
lonesome enough as it is.
Mr. Bowen: You are
quite right, the Swiss may not be "pacifists".
Anyway they keep their rifles at home for practical
reasons, because they are part-time soldiers who assist
service for about two weeks every year only and it would
be too complicated to waste that time to get properly
"dressed" first. Anyway: you seem to
overestimate the army's part in world war 2, as the
historians found out that Hitler wasn't afraid of the
army. He wished however to keep the Swiss banks (!)
with German money not to be destroyed. Moreover he
wanted to have a safe way from Germany to Italy.
As far as our time is
concerned, we deeply hate America's role as a world
Of course Saddam is a
monster, but unfortunately there are many monsters all
over the world. Today I even read in a paper:
Saddam is a danger for world's peace, fitted with terrible
weapons, neglecting the U.N. and not elected by his
people. What's the difference to Bush?
The war has been prepared
by an enormous propaganda machine and a press not daring
to write other opinions. You can't tell me Iraq is a
danger for the U.S. or the world, but the war which is
going to start is indeed. I think the Americans are
not critical enough to form an opinion of their own.
Bluntly expressed: they have got comparatively few
(but brilliant) intellectuals, but the majority seems
quite naive (not to say silly). Even Bush didn't
know at the time of his election essential facts about
life outside America.
By the way: Could
you think of country in Europe bringing its people to ban
the word French Fries? Could you imagine a president
here praying at church looking like the Holy Ghost himself
without being laughed at by his people to be hipocritical
[sic]? Though being a Christian: nobody would
dare ending up his speeches by "god bless you" Naive
people admire such kind of things. (as I could see myself
when I was in Salt Lake City to see the Mormons Temple)
Yours, Peter B.
It's a common mistake to
confuse sophistication with wisdom. As C. S. Lewis
said, it is lies which require subtlety and nuance and
euphemism and sophisticated expression. The truth
comes much more humbly attired. It is the prostitute
who must be well-dressed, perfumed, and painted; the
virtuous woman can afford to look like who she really is.
I think a number of your
points were neatly addressed in the John Derbyshire
article I sent. (Mutual
By the way, you seem to
view America and the world with the same absolute,
simplistic eyes you so criticize. I realize that if
I attempted to express myself in your language, I too
would sound simplistic; nonetheless, your criticisms sound
petty and childish. I'm sure you can come up with
better reasons why Bush is wrong than just saying that
he's religious. Or is the Pope also wrong in his
position on the war, because he's religious?
I enjoy hearing from you,
Peter--let's keep talking!