A Mind That Suits What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Friday, May 21, 2004 :::
A Mind That Suits must work today, and so will leave you with a greatest hit. No promises that the links will work: "Blogger" won't let him get to the original post except through the public archives, which is intensely annoying.

The occasion is the formal swearing-in of this year's recruits to the storied Swiss Gaurd. There is a piece today over at Zenit which tries its best to paint the training of the Guards as rigorous, but all the author can come up with is that they must stand on duty in the rain and no every in and out of the many times rebuilt Papal buildings. Actually, the author says they must stand "immobile," but this is an army run along Italian lines, so nobody stands still. A Mind That Suits once saw the changing of the Guard at the Italian President's residence, undoubtedly the sloppiest military maneuver he has ever seen. The last time he passed through a security checkpoint in the Vatican, on a beautiful, crisp winter day, the kid at the magnatometer was quite unashamedly jumping up and down from the cold.

The only two corrections from the piece below that need to be made is that most of the Guard is German, so the Italian-ness of their behavior must come from being in Italy, and the blue-uniformed security guards are actually Swiss Guards, just the older, more senior ones. They put the good looking kids in the fancy togs.

The Benefits of 500-year-old Pajamas. Yesterday, 37 young men, most of them Italian Swiss, took their oath as Swiss Guards, the Pope's honor Guard for nearly 500 years. You always see pictures of them in stories about the Vatican. The comprise the majority of the very few legal "residents" of the Vatican City State. On official occasions, they get to wear metal breastplates and pointy helmets with plumes . On normal duty, they get to wear berets and multi-colored pajamas, uh, I mean uniforms, which are much cooler. Best, from their perspective, is when it is cold, or at least as cold as Rome gets, because they have these really dashing gray capes with yellow trim that set off the uniforms quite nicely.

Why "from their perspective"? The fact of the matter is, they don't do much of anything. The Vatican has a modern, professional police force that wears sharp but modern navy blue uniforms and does all the work. The Guard gets to stand around looking cool. Since most of them are really boys in their late teens, they think this is just fine Looking good in a uniform is even one of the requirements, just as it is for all honor guards the world over. For recruits, surely, one of the attractions--on top of fulfilling mandatory military service in a much warmer climate--is that this is just a wonderful way to meet girls.

An example: The arch that leads to interior buildings and famous garden of the Vatican is "guarded" by two of them, one standing at attention with a halberb leaning out in front of him (like this kid), the other answering questions from tourists. No doubt, the area is covered with cameras, as is any modern bank, and A Mind That Suits has even fewer doubts that just around the bend past the arch there lies a proper guard house staffed by grown men with thorough training, guns, and maybe one or two small armored vehicles. What the public sees is two jaunty lads with snazzy get-ups and Italian charm.

One winter, just before Christmas, A Mind That Suits came down the steps from St. Peter's to find a Swiss Guard, one hand on his hip to pull back the cape for just the right effect, telling a bunch of young ladies where some site or other was. As they walked away, he pretended to report back to his companion, but with the hand away from the public he pulled down on his cheekbone with his index finger, the gesture used throughout the Mediterranean world to mean, "d'ya get a look at that babe?"

Now, the young men must be religiously observant (which, in today's Europe, makes it hard to find recruits), but the Catholic Church, at least its Latin part, has always smiled on the youthfulness of the young. A little flirting on "duty" is only to be expected. In fact, as these are Italian teenagers we are talking about, they themselves no doubt feel it is their God-given right.

::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 9:45 AM



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What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

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