Monday, May 30, 2016

1649 A Handshake in Switzerland

Ah, Switzerland, home of neutrality, Nazi loot and four national languages squeezed into a space the size of a shoe box.  

Switzerland with expensive watches, secret bank accounts and the kind of sleaze that goes with them, chocolate for those who look down their noses at a Hershey Bar, bell ringers, ski slopes and cheese with holes.

And this, which they probably learned from the same people who invented numbered bank accounts and neutrality:  there is no state religion, but there are “official” churches.  Of course, not a lot of people pay much attention to any of them.  But it’s Europe, after all.

They’re also pretty good about tolerating what many in this country would call marginal faiths. Like Jews and “other,” which we’re still trying to figure out.

Muslims are another story.  They’ve been immigrating to Europe in large numbers recently and who can blame them?

Who wouldn’t want to escape dictatorships and monarchies like Iran or Saudi Arabia… and especially these days, Syria?  No one wants to live in a permanent war zone.

And here comes a problem. Along with their mothers, their fathers, their sisters and their brothers, some are bringing along the very misery they fled.

In the small Canton (that’s like a state) of Basel-Landschaft, two Syrian boys declined the age- old Swiss custom of shaking hands with their teachers, who in this case were women.  

You can probably think of a few of your own teachers you wouldn’t want to touch.  But that’s not the point. The point is these lads said such a brazen act would violate their religious principles.

The Canton said you gotta.  The boys’ parents said “no way, Zoey.”  The Canton said the fine for that will be five grand.  A sheikly sum for a newcomer without a stash of gold in a Zurich vault.

State over personal, tradition over individual is the standard there. So you can just imagine the Swiss fuss that followed.  

The overwhelming majority were outraged by the boys and ready to embrace Swiss policies and traditions.  Big shots of all political persuasions united on that one.  Left, right, neutral.  There has to be neutral. It’s Switzerland, after all.

In ever-diplomatic Switzerland, the authorities based their decision to enforce compulsory handshakes on the idea that not ALL Muslims were on board with the boys and that the no-touching-the-opposite sex wasn’t a central tenet of Islam.

That wouldn’t go well over here in America, land of give me your poor, your hungry, your sweaty hand.

The left would be outraged because we were being racist and uninclusive. The right would be outraged because we were knuckling under to foreigners who don’t look like “us,” and practice a self- oppressing faith.

Congress would get in on the act.  So would the teachers union, the ACLU, the KKK, Occupy Everyone, Very Serious Professors of every stripe, the Pentagon, and every social worker and cleric identifying as anything from Atheist to Zoroastrian.

Good thing we don’t put our traditions into anything more concrete than speeches.

Lest I leave you wondering on which side I stand: When in Rome, etc.

--Memorial Day.  It’s not just another three day weekend.  If you don’t know why -- and you should, look it up.

Today’s Quote: “... Royal Caribbean's highest priority is to ensure the safety of all its guests and crew members and any final maintenance is being carried out in accordance with strict safety guidelines…” A company spokesman explaining open floor drains, non functioning toilets and closed or unfinished attractions on the shakedown cruise (appropriate name, no?) of its new “Harmony of the Seas,” which looks like a floating public housing project lying on its side.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2016

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