Appenzell is a small canton in Switzerland. I do not think there are many changes in the central village, at least not in a hurry. The other day, I sat with a good friend watching democracy in action. They do not worry about electronic media, polling machines, and extended campaigns. The democratic process is open, accountable, and a time for celebration! As we experienced a weekend of celebration culminating in a parade and town square meeting, I was struck from the pageantry, civility, and respect that everyone gave to each other and the process itself.
Most came to the even dressed in traditional attire. Men were admitted without question if they were carrying the family sword. Everyone else, young and old, men and women, had to show identification to the stewards dressed in black uniforms and wearing gold helmets.
The process started with the band announcing that they were leaving to pick up the officials and guests for an escorted entry. As the crowd grew, it was clear that everyone was eager to be part of it all! Young boys were honorary guards, standing with at least one elder. As the various referendums were presented, along with debates for and against, everyone listed in rapt attention. I have no idea how the judges counted their show of hands, but they did and everyone seemed satisfied that the will of the people had been expressed.
Every community has their wisdom. At times, we seem to have lost ours, and yet I believe that it does not need to be permanent. There “is basic wisdom from Moses, preached and honored for centuries now in city after city as we have met and kept the Sabbath.” (Acts 15.21) It is wisdom worth remembering. It is wisdom worth debating. It is wisdom worth passing on to the next generation.
I saw this in Appenzell. While our forms are often different, their example gives me tangible hope. Sharing across generations can be fun! Making a community decision, even in our differences, is a time for celebration. We can follow their lead.
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