Surviving Switzerland

an expat's experiences navigating the land of mountains, cheese and chocolate

Meanwhile, the war against women continues…

Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

The right wing in the States has taken some hard blows lately: the war against equality for homosexuals has been forced to retreat on several fronts (don’t worry, the right wing is biding its time for a major strike), and the war against terrorism is progressing in starts and stops, but mostly in stops these days (it’s difficult to maintain enthusiasm while pulling troops and moving operations underground). On the other hand, the war against any sort of gun control is coming along swimmingly in spite of the rash of school shootings and the astounding number of victims due to gun violence. In 2011, nearly 11 people died from gun shots every day.

So, who can the right wing take time to attack these days? Women, obviously. They make great victims, especially women with precarious finances and who can be labelled as vaguely ‘unchristian’ for their health care decisions.

Interesting how the same people who go buck wild with hatred at the barest mention of establishing gun restriction laws because it steps on the toes of the 2nd amendment will trample the 1st amendment—guaranteeing freedom of religion with it’s underlying principle of separation of church and state—in order to push their religious beliefs onto others.

And now businesses can be people, too. Yes, a corporation has not only feelings that can be hurt, but deeply held religious beliefs and moral standards. A corporation, whose only concern should be the bottom line, now has the power to decide if a woman is acting against the corporation’s religious beliefs. Because freedom of religion only goes one direction—the way of the most powerful.

Freedom to be free from imposed religious beliefs doesn’t stand a chance in this war.

Freedom for a woman to be able to choose and afford the best birth control for her life, her health and her family is being stripped away with this Supreme Court decision. All because a business, which should not be worried about private health concerns, deeply believes that the business itself is morally right and the woman is morally wrong in how she prevents pregnancy. Choosing whether or not to try for a pregnancy is one of the most critical aspects of a woman’s health during her reproductive years. This decision has an enormous impact on a woman’s mental, physical and emotional state of being.  There are also financial considerations tangled up in preventing unwanted pregnancies. A lot of women (way too many) have low hourly wages and no paid maternity leave…like the women working at Hobby Lobby.

I want to say thank you, Switzerland. We have private health insurance that might not cover all forms of birth control, but does cover maternity in hospitals and paid maternity leave. Switzerland does not allow businesses, pharmacies or insurance companies choose whether a woman can have access to certain kinds of health care, but leaves health decisions to the woman, her family and her doctor. No one dismisses science and the mechanics of conception to make egregious claims that prevention of conception is actually an abortion. Switzerland might not be perfect, but at least there is no war against women here.


Back to our alien roots

Only a few days ago, H. R. Giger (creator of the famed and quite terrifying alien monster in Ridley Scott’s Alien movies and Swiss surrealist artist) passed away. He was buried with discreet dignity surrounded by close friends and family members in the cemetery of Gruyères, the town that also houses his art museum, as well as the quite terrifying Giger Bar. According to eye witnesses, a flash of lightening streaked across the sky at the precise moment that his coffin was being lowered in the ground. He probably would have appreciated that mark of respect.

This whole event sparked a conversation around the dinner table among my family. We talked about our personal origins and eventual deaths and where we would like to be buried. H. R. Giger, who is from the Grisons, specifically requested for his final resting place to be in Gruyères. Apparently, he had a particular fondness for the lovely town ever since he implanted his museum there; I can only recommend that the faint of heart abstain from visiting it—the museum, not the town. As for my family, several of us have our origins from Gruyères. My husband, for one, can trace his ancestry to the region and he passed this heritage, of course, onto our children.

I say ‘of course’ but since our daughter is actually adopted, and is genetically speaking anything but Swiss, I find it surprising that her origins are officially considered as being from Gruyères. Swiss people have a peculiar sense of ancestry. When a Swiss woman marries a Swiss man from another area, her origins are changed to his. Not just her name is changed, but the place of her ancestry is changed. Wow.

My husband announced that he would like to be buried just like H. R. Giger—surrounded by family and very close friends, in dignity and simplicity in the Gruyères cemetery, plus the lightening bolt if at all possible. We promised to do our best.

I told everyone that they should bury me wherever is most convenient for them. Here, there, the States, it doesn’t matter.  I figure that once I’m gone I won’t really care one way or the other. Our daughter interrupted to say that she would bury me under the table so I would be in the living room with her forever.

Which would kind of make our place like the Giger Bar: macabre, lots of skeletal décor and coffee.

H. R. Giger, may you rest in peace.


Gruyères Castle in early spring


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