Insight from Europe

By an American Traveler

So my family and I recently traveled to Germany and Switzerland during the last five weeks. It gave me a really different perspective, as I expected, but not in the direction I expected.

We landed in Frankfurt and drove to the Swiss border. My illusion of European mass transit was shattered: it looks like most goods move by truck and the auto worship is manifest on the autobahn. Filling a small minivan up for 130 euro was quite a surprise as well. Same problems in the US, not enough highway for all the travelers.

Arriving at a small German town, we were immediately introduced to the police when we allowed our children to walk back to our apartment. I was rather abruptly introduced to an even more “child protective” culture and begin to notice subtle differences. The local children are taught to comply early in life by their culture. They act better than my kids, they line up nicely and stay close to their parents and stay quiet.

I watched a group of school children instructed to ride a mechanical bull at a horse show. They all rode too far forward and were each treated to a smart blow to the face at the end of the ride. Some had bloody noses and all had lumps. They got on the bull in a line and exited to the medical staff. No one corrected or questioned. Eventually they quit but it took a while. If individual parents allowed this, it would be treated differently which in my opinion is ironic.

My kids on more than one occasion surprised the locals by jumping off high diving boards, swimming in currents, and just plain relative toughness and courage. Their independent behavior was alright in Switzerland but not in Germany.

There is a stark difference between Germany and Switzerland. Just a few miles in distance from our apartment but many miles apart in police state mentality, I could breathe in Switzerland and felt accepted.

In Germany fully half of the locals treated us with slightly more than disdain. We said please, thank you, and whatever little our German would allow but our language skills indicated we were American. Many Germans will tell you in not so many words that they are just better. I didn’t understand the War the way I do now. It’s a good thing Germany didn’t win. They have a really scary propensity as a culture for organized evil because everyone should be like them. The Police state is cultural, wherever you go you had better be acting German. The crowd has become the enforcement. Their idea of protest is a politely behaved teenager with pink hair.

A friend of mine who attended Virginia Military Academy told me almost 20 years ago while we were backpacking in Europe that history teaches a unified Germany is always dangerous. I thought that was a bit much at the time, but my recent experience brought me around quickly. The Germans organize collectively very well and in many ways “out punch their weight” in a sense. However, it seems that as in both world wars, collective agreement about their prowess is a real weakness. I believe Germany would go to war for petroleum if scarcity arises. The rest of Europe is to blame or something else, but rest assured it will not be their fault if they start another war.

I was not all that surprised to learn that the best of Europe is and has been trying to immigrate to Switzerland. The countries surrounding Switzerland are very jealous. After all, the people who were supposed to pay for all the socialism are trying to leave. I hope the Swiss can hold out, their neighbors are coming for them. The Swiss are independent and really not like their neighbors in many ways.

We visited a Museum in Switzerland where I learned the Swiss complied with German request to turn people over who were going to certain death. There is no defensible border between most of Germany and Switzerland. I wonder how far Switzerland will go to appease this time around?

While I’m at it I’m going to say the Germans in the South were treated much better than they deserved at the end of the War. Their cruelty and mass murder is justified with a “that was the Nazis not us” mentality.

If American bombing was wrong and culturally crude; what did they think was going on while they cheered German victories before 1944? “Just following orders” is an excuse that in Germany applies to Germans only. The northern Germans were colonized and treated the way they intended to treat their war winnings, the South was quickly forgiven. Most war criminals were never brought to justice, many former SS and their ilk escaped to Egypt, Syria, and South America to employ their special skills.

I like a lot of individual Germans. Some were hospitable to us even though we were foreigners. Germany is a beautiful country and has a lot to offer, but I am ready to leave. I liked Switzerland much better, its small size is both a strength and weakness.

The German mind set is one of state and cultural worship. Their god is state. The villages are picturesque, but stay a while and some of the disorganization back home is a good trade for some freedom.

America and Switzerland have some things in common, one is trying to take the good things from other cultures and leave cultural baggage at the door. We should not allow a police state in America, it is soul killing.

America has its problems, but many of my fears for America are realized in Europe already with the exception of Switzerland. All bets are on the state and while we are all tied to our governments, at least I can choose more self reliance in America.

No one is stopping me from building resilience, some are encouraging it. It is my business and in many places nothing is your personal business.

My wife and I can act “un American” long enough for people to tell us what they really think of Americans. Almost all the stereotypes are negative; no savers, culturally lacking, unintelligent, and fat but mostly; not as good as Europeans. I am not looking to change their minds, I am looking for the door. So I got comfortable with being not as good for five weeks, and I think that’s my personal limit.

I think my biggest personal objection to the European mindset was no acknowledgement of God, and no cause to be generous. Dogs are treated with greater kindness than humans. The idea pervades that taxes absolve individuals of all charitable responsibility. My faith, feeble as it is at times, is too much of a part of my life to give up for “order”. So there’s a reason people left Europe, I’m glad I wasn’t born there. I give advantage to Europe for state services, but advantage to Americans for flexibility and individual responsibility. I don’t want to rely on the state anyway.

I don’t doubt we are in for a hard time in America, maybe we will be lucky to go through that with Americans. Crises will force our values to the fore front; I’m hopeful we are more than the European consensus.