"I'll be back." The pledge from the Terminator has traditionally had special meaning in Graz, Arnold Schwarzenegger's home town. But now, with the California governor refusing to pardon two convicted murderers in a row and showing no signs he'll relent in a case up next month, the romance between Schwarzenegger and his home town is over.
Acting on his orders less two weeks after the Dec. 13 execution of Stanley Tookie Williams, city fathers on Tuesday deleted all references to Schwarzenegger on Web sites linked to Graz, just days after stripping his name from the city's soccer stadium. And "Arnie," as he is known in the city of his youth, also sent back the city's highest award, its ring of honor.
Schwarzenegger's move was provoked by city council threats to rename the stadium because of his hardline death penalty stance, and he tried to soothe passions in a a Dec. 19 letter saying he still planned to visit. But that pledge is now more threat than promise for Austrians who overwhelmingly consider the death penalty barbaric. Sigi Binder of the environmentalist Green party in Graz says that in just two days more than 1,500 people signed her party's online petition demanding the stadium be renamed before the appeal was closed to further signatures because of Schwarzenegger's own demand that his name be dropped. Thousands backed a separate similar petition and hundreds of supporting phone calls came in from Germany and German-speaking parts of Switzerland, she added. Her message to Schwarzenegger? "Mr. Governor, please push to have the death penalty abolished." Other Arnie-bashers are less polite.
"Schwarzenegger has proven that he is truly the total dolt that he plays in his films," read a recent e-mail signed "Mario" on the Web site of the daily Kurier, one of hundreds of impassioned readers' commentaries on the controversy that dominated front-page headlines in Austria between Christmas and New Year's day. But the dispute goes beyond Arnie. The fact that even Austria's idol has been tarnished in his home country is a renewed sign of general European disenchantment with an America that many on the old continent consider out of step with their ideals, reports the AP. N.U.