23 July 2007

Silly Swiss

Just read an article about some problems in Switzerland at Rütli Meadow, which is where Switzerland began, kind of like our Philadelphia or Boston. From the article:

Known as the Rütli Meadow, it was there, according to legend, that in 1291 representatives of the three original Swiss cantons, Schwyz, Uri and Unterwalden, took an oath to protect one another from the great threat of the era, the Austrians. So each year on Aug. 1, the purported date of the Rütli oath, the Swiss celebrate their independence and courageous beginnings.

"It's a bit of Bastille Day and the Fourth of July rolled into one," said Urs Studer, Lucerne's mayor, seated in his spacious office in a gingerbread kind of town hall just a short stroll from the lake shore.

Seems the annual celebration in this beautiful part of Switzerland is being disturbed by some skin head and Neo-nazis.

Then, two years ago, the tradition seemed to shatter. The committee invited the incumbent president, Samuel Schmid, who decided to speak about the delicate topic of immigration. But the event was crashed by dozens of skinheads and neo-Nazis, who whistled and hooted and saluted Schmid with extended arms, Nazi-style, making it impossible for him to be heard. Television cameras magnified the event for the Swiss at home.

Samual Schmid is a member of the Swiss People's Party (SVP). In Switzerland's round-robin way of "electing" a president, I guess it was SVP's turn at the helm. From Wikipedia:

The SVP is the right-most of the four co-governing political parties in Switzerland. It is best known for opposing Swiss membership in international organisations such as the EU and UN, and for its campaigning for tougher immigration, asylum and penal laws. The party is socially and fiscally conservative, but secular in outlook. It is in favour of traditional family values, deregulation and reduced government spending (except for the areas of domestic security, the military and agricultural support). The SVP supports the Swiss traditions of private gun ownership, armed neutrality and the national militia army and opposes most forms of international security cooperation.

The party is often considered divided into a centrist-agrarian wing and an activist-nationalist wing. The latter, based in Zurich, is clearly predominant on the national level and, under the leadership of the popular and controversial businessman Christoph Blocher, functioned as a de facto opposition party from circa 1980 to 2003. The former, to which Samuel Schmid belongs, is more of a traditional mainstream party rooted in the Cantons of Bern and Graubünden, where it holds many seats in communal executives. It stresses the party's responsibilities as a member of the governing coalition and is more oriented towards seeking a consensus with the other parties. It is also more open to Swiss membership in international organisations.

My family is from Graubünden, although they left there generations ago. Currently, however, my brother lives outside of Geneva, which is one of the most liberal areas in Switzerland. It is interesting to note that this neutral country was slow to give women the right to vote. That happened in 1971, however women were only given the vote in various cantons gradually and the in the last remaining canton (Appenzell Innerrhoden) only in 1992, and then by a judicial decision against the will of the resisting canton.

As Orson Welles said in the movie "The Third Man," in centuries of brotherly love, democracy and peace, the Swiss produced only the cuckoo clock.

Curious country.

1 comment:

Ray from MN said...

20 years ago, I spent four or five days in Brunnen on Lake Luzern (vierwaldstaettersee) near Rutli and Schwyz.

Weather was awful. 1987 was the rainiest year that Europe had ever seen. But we had a good time.