Friday, August 1, 2008
Happy Erschte Auguscht!
Today is Swiss National Holiday. Born out of peasants' grudges against the ruling royal houses in Europe, Switzerland came into being in 1291 (not a typo, it's an old country) as a loose pact of cantons that no longer wanted to give all their hard earned goods to the rich. These people who were yearning for independence and dreaming of autonomy (sounds familiar), they had to fight some dreadful battles against the various kings but by the time Napoleon came around they had earned a reputation for their smart and skillful warriors, so Napoleon promised Switzerland independence in return for Swiss soldiers (the Pope got his battalion that way, too).
The history goes that three representatives from the cantons of Schwyz, Uri und Unterwalden, met on August 1, in a secluded place called Ruetli (not far from where Wilhelm Tell supposedly shot the apple off his son's head) and swore to come to each other's aid, if the kings send their feared armies against the striking peasants...it was a small act of defiance, but it led to a country that has prided itself for centuries now in its neutrality and it's attention to equality and fairness - a complete novelty and a brave stance on a continent that would continue to give half-crazy kings and queens the right to rule by birth over vast tracts of land and millions of people for centuries to come.
I'm proud to be Swiss by birth and happy to show off my little half-American, half-Swiss family (we're wearing red and white for the Swiss colors, not something Swiss people are very likely to do...that's an American thing)