Other than, “I’m John Edwards,” nothing says, "I will never be president of the United States” like “Hey, I just became a citizen of Switzerland.”
All I know about Switzerland is that it is hard to invade, they are partial to small marshmallows, and sometimes when you least expect it, singing families led by Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer come strolling over the Alps.
It is neutral. It is a country of good watchmakers. It has a flag that sometimes attracts confused people wanting to donate blood.
And for a strange few weeks, Michele Bachmann was a citizen.
Anyone with half a head for politics or the slightest affinity for American flag lapel pins could tell you that this was not the kind of idea that can be strictly described as “good PR.” At least, not if you like to wander around insisting that America Is The Best and Only Hope of the World.
Become Swiss? Switzerland is one of those terrifying European Union countries that looms as a horrible future whenever any reform is attempted. They even speak French there. Socialistes! Mitt Romney got in trouble about Switzerland — and all he did was let some of his money visit.
Here’s a diagram, for future reference.
If her short-lived stint as a Swiss citizen proved anything, though, it’s that if Switzerland generally tends to be neutral, it doesn’t inspire neutrality in others.
So now, like various armies over the centuries, she’s withdrawing from Switzerland with the conviction that this was probably a bad idea.
But it may be too late.
“It’s a career-ender!” everyone proclaimed. “She’ll never be president now! Her career is full of holes! And tastes good melted on ham!” Well, not quite like that, but you get the general idea. “It’s political bigamy!” “It’s an insult to both countries!”
We are like the husband who insists that his wife is more beautiful than any other woman in the world. “So you’ve been looking at other women for comparison purposes, have you?” America shoots back. The most convincing comparisons are made by those who have never looked.
Aspiring to be a citizen of the world is one thing. Actually doing it — that’s something else. It’s not that we are suspicious of people who are cosmopolitan. People who still order them in restaurants, yes. For the love of Pete, “Sex and the City” was a decade ago!
But it is not exactly that we are xenophobic so much as that we are absolutely certain America is better than anywhere else on earth. As Mel Brooks put it, “We traveled in a big truck through the nation of France on our way to Belgium, and every time we passed through a little town, we'd see these signs - ‘Boulangerie’, ‘Patisserie’, and ‘Rue’ this, and ‘Rue’ that, and rue the day you came here, young man. When we got to our hundred and eightieth French village, I screamed at the top of my lungs, ‘The joke is over! English, PLEASE!’ I couldn’t believe that a whole country couldn’t speak English. One third of a nation, all right, but not a whole country.” As a general rule, the less we travel, the stronger this conviction of America’s absolute superiority to all other places on earth becomes.
We still have the idea that, no matter where in the world we are, if we just speak English to you loudly enough you will understand. We don’t object to foreign countries. But any American who would choose to become a foreigner seems a little fishy in our book. Even Michele Bachmann.