Dear nice Swiss tourists…

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Sammy and I enjoyed talking to you at Segesta the other day. Remarkable that you remembered having seen us before at Selinunte, specifically, you remembered Sammy from her somewhat distinctive hat.

We were once again struck by the language skills of so many we encounter in Europe. We have trouble crafting a sentence in English sometimes and you’re able to communicate in our language and apparently several others. And we were delighted to hear that you had visited the United States in the past and had wandered from Niagara Falls out to Arizona. I had to tell you that I had only briefly visited one tiny part of Switzerland. The places you mentioned sounded quite beautiful and I hope we get there sometime.

And when you told us that it would be much harder to choose to visit the US nowadays because our government treats people entering our country like criminals, well, I realized immediately what you were saying and, out of embarrassment for the choices our leaders have made and out of embarrassment for the choices the American people have made in choosing leaders, I apologized profusely.

No amount of terrorist threat, real or imagined, justifies a government that treats its visitors—and its citizens—as suspects first and human beings second. I kept wanting to somehow explain that once you get past the Orwellian paranoia of government, the American people are a fairly decent lot, but of course if you can’t get into the country without being searched, scanned, queried, and probed it’s hard to experience that hospitality.

So, again, sorry. And maybe we’ll be able to dig ourselves out from the pile of scanners and security cameras and secret laws and offer a warm welcome to the rest of the world that matches our beliefs and best traditions.