This week I was surprised to learn that, to the delight or chagrin of many, Michele Bachmann, a conservative United States Representative from the state of Minnesota, former Republican presidential candidate and Tea Party darling, became a naturalized Swiss citizen.
Apparently she was eligible to become a Swiss citizen, because her husband, the son of Swiss immigrants to the United States, was already the proud owner of a red passport. Bachmann’s dual citizenship status was, however, short-lived.
After receiving much criticism from her own political base as well as from her political opponents, Bachmann decided to renounce her Swiss citizenship, stating that she is a “proud American”, who is “100 per cent committed” to the United States Constitution.
It is common knowledge that dual citizenship and politics, at least in the United States, don’t mix well.
It is a strange coincidence that, while Michelle Bachmann was struggling with the concept of dual nationality, roughly 200 American and Swiss-American citizens got together in Zurich to attend a Town Hall Meeting with US Ambassador Donald Beyer in order to openly discuss their own difficulties with being US citizens in a foreign country.
Being a US citizen myself, I was interested in learning about the experiences of other Americans living in here in the Confoederatio Helvetica.
While many different topics were discussed at the meeting - airport security, visa requirements, global warming policy -the topic that garnered by far and wide the most interest was taxation.
Questions regarding tax filing requirements and liabilities easily took up more than 80 per cent of the discussion time.
Stories were shared and frustrations were expressed: “What happens if I forget to file a form?” “My Swiss bank no longer wants my business because I am an American citizen.” “My opinions as an ex-pat are not being adequately represented in the United States Congress.” “Will I be arrested the next time I fly home to visit family, because I didn’t declare my foreign bank accounts?”
One could almost smell the fear and uncertainty in the room.
In fact, while many of those in attendance expressed their pride in being an American, just as Representative Bachmann did in her statement to the media, the topic of expatriation was one that was nevertheless broached on several occasions.
The difference, however, was that in these cases, the nationality being considered for renunciation wasn’t the Swiss one.