My new Swiss friends probably wondered how long it would be before I blogged about bomb shelters.
Yes, bomb shelters.
Switzerland hasn’t fought a war in 500 years and has no enemies (it’s true that the European Union isn’t happy with Switzerland at the moment, because of a recent referendum on limiting immigration, but so far as I know is not unhappy enough to go to war), so why would this country require require bomb shelters (stocked with ample provisions) for all of its citizens?
According to Swiss law, every dwelling built in the country since 1968 must have a bomb shelter able to withstand the blast of a 50 megaton explosion at the distance of 700 meters (nearly a half mile). By way of comparison, the Fat Man bomb detonated 600 meters above Nagasaki measured only 21 kilotons.
For those of you who are concerned about me, there is a shelter in the basement of our apartment building with some very serious-looking doors. If a missile comes our way, the Swiss are determined that I survive, along with everyone in our apartment building, most of whom I haven’t met yet.
Interestingly – I did not know this before my move – neutrality does not mean the absence of a military or the lack of willingness to fight. Military service is compulsory in Switzerland (I am just beyond the age when I should be concerned about being drafted), and the Swiss participate in U.N. peacekeeping missions.
Maybe even more surprising, the Swiss are well-armed. Nearly a third of all households have guns, compared to 43 percent of all households in the U.S., which is the most heavily armed country in the world.
And then, as if all of that were not enough, Switzerland is a country where the national hero is William Tell. He’s bigger than George Washington, at least in terms of how the national psyche has been formed. Never mind that his life and adventures are most likely a legend, it’s the spirit that lives on. And it’s a spirit to be reckoned with.
You’ve heard of the ‘Don’t mess with Texas’ slogan? I think it’s fair to say that you shouldn’t mess with Switzerland either.
These people are in it to win it – or at least to survive it.