Happy Independence Day, USA! Over here in Switzerland, there will be no fireworks tonight, and I’d have to drive east about 30 minutes to a German-speaking town to find some semblance of a hot dog being served, but that won’t be necessary because I pretty much gave up sodium nitrite and offal for Lent a few years ago.
But imagine if we hadn’t severed the umbilical cord from Mother England: we’d be eating terrible mystery-meat pies and greasy chips on Still-a-Colony Day.
Anyway, there are no visible signs honoring American Independence Day over here in the Confederatio Helvetica, unless they’re at some USA club. Not just because the Swiss banks are totally pissed off at U.S. attempts to make the banks turn stool pigeon and expose the accounts of their American clients to the IRS, but because, of course, the Swiss couldn’t care less about the day celebrating American freedom from mystery-meat pies. (Hey USA, don’t forget to wave your Swiss flags on August 1st).
Nevertheless, my darling Swiss mother-in-law, Zoé, called this morning to wish me a happy Fourth, and to say thank you to our country for helping save Europe during WWII. I’ve told her how my dad fought in France and Germany. Her late husband, Raoul Robert, a physician in the Swiss citizen army, was stationed on the Swiss-German border during the war. Had the Nazis invaded, he would have been ground into Panzer pie in the first minutes. Fortunately for him (and me), the Nazi generals wanted to protect their secret Swiss bank accounts, so Raoul survived and Zoé has loved Americans ever since.
My dad, a career Army officer, was very patriotic. Colonel Horace Harby officially died on July 2nd, 2008, but anyone who knew him knew he wasn’t one to easily let go of a good idea, so I’m certain that his red-white-and-blue spirit hung around in some form until the 4th for one last salute to the flag. Dad always believed the United States was the best country on Earth, and yet, it was he who dragged his family, kicking and screaming, to Europe that first time for a summer tour. Including Switzerland. If it weren’t for him, I probably would never have come back years later, never have met my wife, and wouldn’t be here now living in this wonderful country which I am slowly adopting, and which is slowly adopting me.
One day I will probably become a Swiss citizen – but only if I can remain an American citizen too. I will always be American, if for no other reason than to honor my father.
So Dad, from my Swiss mother-in-law and wife, and from me, Happy Independence Day! And may we beseech you to send your blessings to your beloved country, which so needs them now.