I’ve taken a few days to gather my thoughts together.
I take the vote very seriously, I take Switzerland’s future very seriously. I do not mean to offend anyone with my opinions below. I hope I haven’t done so. Okay, I’m fine with offending Sarah Palin, to be fair. I’ll ask forgiveness at Mass on Sunday. In Luzern. Who voted “yes.”
By the way, many of my Swiss friends did vote and they voted emphatically “no.” Monday morning, I received a rose in my mailbox that said, “Kanton Zürich- definitiv NEIN.”
The vote in question was another SVP (basically Switzerland’s version of the Tea Party) initiative to limit the presence in Switzerland of working foreigners. Just to be clear, the SVP is more than pleased to have traveling foreigners (with documented dates of departure) spending tourist money. Swiss people vote on initiatives throughout the year and this was not the first, nor will it be the last, such initiative in the past few years.
Everyone blames Blocher (he’s a smart version of Sarah Palin) and calls this blatant racism. They question why in the hell the more liberally-minded people didn’t vote in Cantons like Bern, Schaffhausen and St. Gallen. Some Swiss think the constant initiatives and anti-foreign/Muslim ads are creating a sort of disgusted apathy amongst liberal voters. It is something I hear over and over again from Swiss people, “There is no way this will happen, I don’t need to get involved.”
Yes. Yes, it will. Yes, it did.
Is it racism? Is it clear-cut xenophobia? Look at the attached poster put forward by the SVP. It was defiled by “no!” and Nazi symbols. Why? It is telling Switzerland to stop the “mass immigration,” the “healthy tree of immigrants” is seen eating our beloved Swiss flag and map, and it is doing so in the colors of red, black, and white.
Last night’s dinner with one of my favorite Germans was difficult. “Racist Nazi propaganda…even the colors,” he said with his big, beautiful head in his hands. I just wanted to give him and all Germans and Austrians working and living here an apology. Wie peinlich und grausam mit diesen Farben zu manipulieren. Mehr als “Schade.”
Swissies and expats say “Sorry LA” because they know how deeply it affects me. These posters and this initiative killed me. There is no one who loves this country more than I do. Every day, I have fought like hell to support it. I am a foreigner and I would never “eat away” at Switzerland. I would do anything for this country and I sacrificed a great deal to do so. The same can be said for the expats I know living and working here.
If I thought Sunday’s vote would make for a stronger Switzerland, I would keep my mouth shut. Switzerland, Blocher, even ME…we all want to protect the culturally-integrity of this land. I am 100% in favor of protecting Switzerland, the Swiss, the industries, etc, which is why Sunday’s vote is difficult for me to stomach because it does not protect Switzerland. As an American, I can say three things without hesitation. Pissing off the EU = not good. Being seen as a racist country = not good. Myopic political agendas blatantly ignoring the economic and social implications of their mandates = toxic.
Al Gore wrote a brilliant book, The Assault on Reason, examining the use of the brain’s emotional response to advance certain political agendas via images.
If you are a devout Catholic farmer in a small village in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland and you saw this poster…
…how would you have voted?
I love Switzerland. I like Blocher (I agree with him more often than not). I continue to love, through gritted teeth, all my beloved Swissies that keep telling me “this” isn’t going to happen. Why? Because we all want the same thing: a strong, healthy life for Switzerland and the people living here.
Swissies be clear. “This” is going to happen. There just might be a day when this beautiful, resourceful nation becomes a living version of “The Prince.” The expats you want, ones that will really acclimate and help grow your economy, will be replaced by expats coming with one sole purpose: making millions and getting the hell out of Switzerland. The majority of expats I’ve talked to for the past few days feel personally insulted by this vote. It’s hard, even for me and I can make almost ANYONE love Switzerland after 5 minutes, to speak up in favor of what happened.
Both the US and Switzerland really have enough wealth and resources to manage immigration issues with a bit more humility and acknowledgement of what the foreigners do to make the economy thrive.