Please don't tell anybody but just now, while taking a much-needed break from conjugating French verbs (ennuie, ennuies ...), and pimping the stunning website of our stunning vacation home atop a stunning steaming Hawai'i volcano, I watched that Miley Cyrus video, "Party in the USA," for the third fourth fifth time in a row, and as so often happens with such sublime encounters, I began to think deep thoughts. Namely, of American "dominance" and how Switzerland could teach my country a thing or two about the US obsession with being King of the Hill.
In Cyrus's music video, an enormous American flag serves as backdrop, though red-blooded males won't notice this because the foreground features Miss Cyrus's bare thighs in torn short-shorts jeans, and ... what was I talking about?
Recently there was a typically argumentative article in The Daily Beast, an opinionated webzine that I love to hate because it often substitutes loud opinions for nuanced analysis while pretending to do just the opposite. The article was on "Why American Dominance Must End." I couldn't agree more, even though I don't plan to actually read the article.
As I was growing up in a nuclear family whose head was a career officer in the U.S. Army, it was gospel that the United States of America was the greatest nation in the world, and if you didn't agree, well you better watch out because there was a reason we used the word "nuclear" in apparently innocuous contexts.
But at some point I began to wonder why the insistence upon being "The Greatest." Yeah, maybe for Mohammed Ali and Cat Power. But why does the U.S. have to insist on crowing about being superior to, say, Lichtenstein? Can't we be a true community of nations, all brothers and sisters on our little blue planet? If you have a bunch of friends over to your house, does anyone start throwing their hips around insisting that they are better than everyone else? And if they do, doesn't that guarantee that they are immediately seen as the lamest loser in the room?
Take those dickheads the Gallagher brothers of the erstwhile English band, Oasis, who said they were better than the Beatles. I liked some of their catchy tunes, but, hey guys, just shut up and play, OK? As if pop music is some sort of artistic competition. I suspect that Liam and Noel are really just frustrated football hooligans with helmet-head haircuts and a knack for stealing Beatlesque melody hooks, but the point is, who ever said one rock band has to be "the best"? Or one country?
The United States is like the Gallaghers. "The greatest country on Earth" blah blah blah. The U.S. government even has a regulation that the American flag is supposed to fly higher than any other nation's flag when they stand together. How rude.
We Americans should really take a lesson from the Swiss, who, probably because their little country is such a diverse quilt, truly believe in the community of nations -- as long as it doesn't involve building a minaret. OK, so they've really screwed up there, but it's no accident that virtually all of the most important multi-national agencies giving succor to the world have their headquarters in Geneva. While the Swiss are clearly proud to fly their flag, they don't insist that the rest of the world bow down before it -- unless perhaps the particular flag is made of chocolate. And who can argue with that, besides maybe the Belgians?
It's probably worth noting that most Swiss couldn't even tell you who their current president is thanks to the system here, which would seem utterly bizarre to any American, where the presidency is bestowed each year upon one of the seven members of the Federal Council. Nevertheless, those male citizens who do know that Doris Leuthard is their current fearless leader would probably love to see this smart, chic babe baring her politics in a music video. Though it's hard to imagine a suitable tune for "Party in the Confederation Helvetique."