Go play with guns, kids.

14 02 2011

The Swiss never cease to underwhelm me. Yesterday’s national referendum on weapons control which I wrote about a month ago (here), went down in flames. More than 55 percent of the population voted to keep semi-automatic military weapons in homes, garages, sheds, stables, cottages and greenhouses across the country.

And they said loud and clear: Children, you can continue to have fun playing with firearms you find in the closet. Men, you can continue to threaten your families with your weapons. And suicide-endangered individuals, Hey – go for it!

The trench was clearly drawn between the country’s small urban, cosmopolitan population and the vast majority of (backward, insular, godforsaken mountain) folk that live the Alps and behind the moon. There is also a marked division along language lines – the French-speakers said mostly “yes”, the German-speakers said mostly “no”. The so-called Röstigraben, the ditch dividing the two language regions, just got that much deeper.

The French and the Zurichers got it right this time.

Some German-speaking cantons declined the measure with majorities of more than 72 percent. 72 percent! If this had happened in any other country on the planet, the OECD election observers would declare the vote unfair and corrupt and say ballot boxes had been stuffed. But because it’s Switzerland, nobody bats an eyelid.

Why does this make me so angry? Because the referendum’s opponents knew nothing better than to use propaganda and intimidation to get their point across to a willfully brainwashed public. There was no single logical, rational reason to decline the referendum, as there is no single rational reason to keep these lethal weapons (responsible for more than 300 deaths every year) at home and not locked up in an armory. But the opponents’ message rang loud and clear: “Take away our weapons and you take away our traditions.”

Well you know, I’m not sure that would be such a bad thing. Some ancient traditions, established in the dark ages, really need to be done away with. One such tradition is the annual Zurich holiday called “Knabenschiessen.” Literally translated that would mean: “Young Boys Shooting (Day)”.  (No, young boys are NOT lined up to be shot – as much as we might wish that to be the case sometimes.) It’s a day when a canton-wide shooting tournament is held for young people. A few years ago, the organizers graciously started to invite the girls too.

And simply questioning the status quo or any God-given rights regarding guns those oh-so-traditionalist Swiss claim for themselves instantly draws their (f)ire and an emotional overreaction. On Knabenschiessen day two years ago, I was filleted by a Facebook friend when I posted an anti-childrens’-shooting status note. Shortly thereafter she defriended me.

Yesterday’s vote is another prime example of where direct democracy just doesn’t work, and where a country’s population must be protected from its own supidity.

After more than six years in Switzerland, I think it is time for greener pastures. And the winters here are too damn cold, anyway.

Singapore is starting to look pretty good right about now.

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Wacky American Stuff, Part II

22 10 2010

Oh man I really wanted to stay out of this one because I have no right to tell anyone what they should do on election day, least of all the voters of that great little state of Delaware. But I just can’t keep my mouth shut here.

The “I’m not a witch” commercial was amusing, and a few of the spoofs it spawned were absolutely classic. It was good to see that Americans have not lost their sense of humor despite the misery of the financial crisis. I would still be laughing my head off if Christine O’Donnell were not serious about trying to steal a Senate seat.

 

Twins, separated at birth

 

Sitting 3,000 miles away for the past 20 years, I have had a very unique – nay, privileged – perspective on U.S. politics. With the buffer of distance and only the high-level noise reaching us over here, we get what seems like a more objective idea of what is really going on back home.

As an observer across that great big ocean, you realize very quickly how wacky some of the stuff coming out of the American political system really is. Mainly because all of your European friends pester you with questions and ridicule you about it at every opportunity. You become the lightening rod for what they think is wrong with America. You get a cramp in your neck from looking up as they get on their high horses, leaving you firmly planted in the mud. Often you are strong-armed into a political corner you never in your wildest dreams expected (or wanted) to defend.

Though mildly irritiating, it’s certainly good practice and keeps you sharp.

After the international wave of 9/11 sympathy ebbed, the rest of the Bush II years were particularly rough for Americans living abroad. In 2008 a whole bunch of us voted for change, and then spent election night joining that collective sigh of relief that was audible around the world. This would be the dawn of a new era in domestic politics, too, where sanity overcomes madness, and the rifts in society would be bridged by constructive and concilliatory cooperation. Right?

Wrong. This year (my Pennsylvania absentee ballot already safely in the mail), after all I’ve seen so far, it seems like there is so much more lunacy going on out there than ever before, and the battlefront seems to have ended up in tiny Delaware.

After padding her resume, cozying up to Sarah Palin and telling the world she’s not a witch, NOW Christine O’Donnell goes and questions what’s in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Hello? Anybody home in that pretty little head? Election Day is still a week and a half away – plenty of opportunity to drop a few more verbal bombs that will shake the nation. Or just Delaware.

Hopefully the fallout will be enough to convince our dear Delawarean neighbors not to elect an intellectually challenged right-wing nutcase to the Senate. The Senate! Christine may not be a witch, but there are a lot of things she is. Like, entirely, undeniably, unbelievably unqualified for Washington DC.

I mean, where do they get these people?