Sitting on the co-ed deck of Utoqai, an early 20th century swimming house that Zurich residents often use to relax between dips into the gorgeous freshwater Zurich Lake, I drank a Coke. It was a revelation to be drinking a Coke without the usual acids and chemicals that corrode the teeth.
There were more revelations. I talked to three wise gentlemen, all in their late 50’s at least, about the state of affairs in Zurich. We covered other stuff too, such as the dissolution of Czechoslavakia and its mostly sorted residue, along with the scarcity of gorgeous summer days like this one. But here is what I learned about common perceptions of Americans:
- A lot of them think we are unscrupulously hypocritical in business, which is one reason Switzerland forbids Americans from opening bank accounts there (effective 2009). They marvel at how we can, after the Loehmann Brothers catastrophe, levy strict policies on others banking with us and follow almost none of them ourselves.
- We are hilarious when it comes to how we campaign for office over a full year before the elections. The only thing more absurd to them is Donald Trump.
- They are outraged at how we allow police officers to get away with murder literally. They cannot believe that our legal system has in it loopholes that excuse the perpetrators featured in youtube videos of what are essentially snuff shorts. They are baffled by the counter movement "All lives matter" as a response to #blacklivesmatter
I thought about this last point on the plane ride back, how people lounging on a sun deck on the other side of the planet with probably cursory understanding of deep history of race relations in this country are able to calibrate the idiocy.
After my first Bailey’s and coffee, I opened the copy of USA Today the flight attendant brought and found one of the most beautifully stated, compellingly logical reasons that “All lives matter” is a ridiculous response to hashtag outrage over Trayvon Martin/Michael Brown/Tamir Rice/etc:
Imagine for a moment that you broke your left wrist. In excruciating pain, you rush to the emergency room for treatment only to run into a doctor who insists on examining not just your mangled left wrist, but your uninjured right wrist, rib cage, femur, fibula, sacrum, humerus, phalanges, the whole bag of bones that is you. You say, ‘Doc, it’s just my left wrist that hurts.’ And [the doctor] says ‘Hey, all bones matter.’ If you understand why that remark would be factual, yet also fatuous, silly, patronizing and off-point, then you should understand why ‘All lives matter’ is the same. It’s not about elevating some lives any more than it would be about elevating some bones. Rather, it’s about treating where it hurts.
Thank you Leonard Pitts for writing the above in a letter to the editors of the Miami Herald.
For the record, I agree with Leonard wholeheartedly, and I can't say that I don't understand or agree to a certain extent with the Swiss perceptions above. They are not way off base. In fact, I considered the possibility of moving over there (understanding that they have their own national issues), until I remembered that I wouldn't be able to open a bank account...