Saturday, May 31, 2008

Apparently the Swiss do have biases

Naturalized U.S. citizens often know more about the nation's culture, history and laws than native-born citizens. This is because prospective citizens must pass a battery of tests, whereas your average natural-born, America-first-and-last xenophobe redneck gets the same thing by virtue of having been born in New Mexico instead of the old one. So why not require them to know, say, the nine Supreme Court justices as well?

"Well, there's Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Sam Scalito, Susan Dey O'Connor, Ted Kennedy, John Paul Jones, that old fella who died in Katrina, Roe and Wade. That's nine, rat?"

If U.S. citizenship had to be earned by all Americans instead of just immigrants, this country might be a very different place. On the other hand, it could be the same place it is now, and we'd have a lot more non-citizens hanging around, sapping our resources, learning in our schools, stealing our jobs at Wal-Mart and whatnot. Hell, some of them might even decide citizenship is too elitist to obtain and decide the South won after all. Fiddle-de-de, Scarlett!

But I may have changed my mind on this issue. Switzerland, of all places, has such a provision. Not only do they have some of the tightest naturalization requirements on the planet, but even many who were born there and have lived their entire lives in the country can't get citizenship. I'll bet they just love airports!

The Swiss are set to vote (or at least citizens are, I guess?) on ending a five-year moratorium on secret ballots to determine citizenship. Becoming a Swiss citizen is a local affair, and final say often lies with public approval or by secret ballot. Shockingly, secret ballots often result in those with Turkish or African heritage to be rejected, even if they pass all the tests. And have lived in the same town their whole lives.

Switzerland is a direct democracy, and Swiss officials who support reinstating secret ballots say that the right to vote is more important than, say, rights:

For member of parliament Peter Foehn, discrimination is not a problem, as long as people have the right to vote.

"If our people, our voters, have the feeling we've had enough from former Yugoslavia, or wherever, the rest will just have to accept it. The people's decision is final."

Chilling. It really says something that a nation so enamored with prejudice nevertheless has so many native minorities wishing to officially join the fray.

And for Elias, the whole experience has made him question what Switzerland really means by direct democracy.

"How can they do it?" he asks. "They just look at our pictures, and our nationality, and for them that's enough to decide our future? It's not fair. We're living in a democracy, something like that shouldn't be possible."

Now there's a nation that needs democracy. Or something.


Nick said...

"whereas your average natural-born, America-first-and-last xenophobe redneck"

I may have agreed with your post, but I stopped reading after that idiotic label.

Ian McGibboney said...

Clearly, I have offended. Not sure who that says more about.

Nick said...

It's a dumb label.

Liberals like to label all conservative Republicans as gas-guzzling, SUV drivers. I don't drive an SUV, and my truck gets best gas mileage out of all half-ton pickups.

I've never labeled liberal Democrats as NAMBLA and child rapist supporters...should I start?

Ian McGibboney said...

I'm not saying that about everyone, Nick. You seem awfully defensive about something that wasn't directed at you or anyone else in particular.

My point is that anyone born in the U.S., even the dumbest and most bigoted among us, are automatically citizens, whereas outsiders have to undergo a rigorous process that arms them with a lot more knowledge. It's a double standard.

My point has nothing to do with yours, or anyone else's, gas mileage.