The Michele Bachmann / Switzerland citizenship brouhaha, which played out quickly over the course of a few days this week, has me thinking about Cole Porter musicals.
While we don’t know all the details of what really went on behind the scenes, I’m sure the 1930’s Broadway version would re-write the story to revolve around an unlikely relationship with international overtones.
Michele, a blushing American farm girl, meets Marcus, a dashing Swiss industrialist, when he comes to Bettendorf to demonstrate a new machine that will add Swiss chocolate to cows’ milk as it comes out of the udder.
Marcus’s attempts to woo Michele meet with some initial success, but she hesitates to commit because her one true love is the manager of the local grain elevator, an inexplicably attractive hick named Potus. But Potus has never looked at her seriously, and Michele fears he never will.
It seems that every four years, Potus becomes eligible and a frantic contest ensues to win his Pledge of Allegiance, which is highly coveted but only good for another four years. Potus has exacting requirements for those he will accept. One unshakeable condition is that each candidate must be clearly aligned and totally committed. No wishy-washiness allowed!
Each time the quadrennial courtship begins, Michele considers launching a bid of her own, but with Marcus in the picture she has something more solid to go to – the very real possibility of a tangible kind of happiness in a cozy chalet in the Alps.
But one dusty day near the truck scales, Potus casts a meaningful glance in Michele’s direction and she realizes she must chase her crazy dream of someday fairy-land happiness with Potus. She campaigns relentlessly for his attention, flying off in all directions at once and saying outlandish things to re-capture that moment of magic. Her friends shake their heads at this irrational fixation, particularly since they all think a cozy chalet and a cup of Swiss chocolate with sure-thing Marcus sounds pretty great.
Marcus waits with the carefully calibrated patience of a fine Swiss watch, marking off the days and hours until Potus breaks Michele’s heart, which, of course, Potus does, choosing to go off with a wealthy lightweight Michele considers to be a glaring fake.
In her hour of humiliation, Marcus re-offers Michele a ring, and this time she accepts.
On her wedding day, while walking down the aisle under a veil of regret, Michele is stopped mid-way to the altar by the Swiss embassy’s charge d’affairs, who informs her that when she ties the knot with Marcus she will automatically become a full citizen of his country, and will have to adopt a small herd of goats and sign the Pledge of Neutrality.
This she cannot do.
Happily calling off the wedding, Michele informs the Swiss official he can keep his wimpy, wishy-washy pledge – she’s going back to Iowa to continue hoping … and waiting.
Or something like that. Of course Cole Porter didn’t write the tangled plots of those goofball musicals – he just did the tunes and lyrics. I haven’t had time to think of what those lyrics might be, except for this verse from some early song where Michele wrestles with her choice between potential happiness in the Alps and her irrational love of Potus:
All of Switzerlands’ attractions –
Private banks. The Matterhorn.
Can’t compete for someone who was
In a place much flatter, born.
If I choose to go with Marcus,
living in another place, we
won’t remember I was born
just down the road from John Wayne (Gacy)
Obviously, “Swiss Tease”, the musical, needs lots of work.
In the meantime, from what country would you accept dual citizenship?