Thursday, August 13, 2009

To My European Friends

And Ozzies, too!

Thanks for all your tweets about NHS (and then explaining what it was, as I didn't know the acronym). I'm very glad (and not surprised) that you like your health care. I think I'd like that, too - though I must confess I've been lucky with private insurance here in the USA, but unlike many of my fellow citizens, I understand that many people here are not so lucky, and I think it'd be really cool if we could help them out.

As for my fellow citizens - well, what to say? They're waving around swastikas and carrying guns to public meetings and probably just generally scaring the heck out of you. But I'll see if I can explain it. A little.

I guess two of the phrases above help understand their reaction. We Americans always feel REALLY lucky. Never mind Vegas or the lottery. We flew to the moon in a contraption that looks like it was made in someone's garage. We pick fights with every nation around - and we did that long before we were the big kid on the block. And individually? There are big billboards all across the central USA that remind us NOT to try to beat trains at railroad crossings. Why not? Because so many of us feel so damned lucky so much of the time, we try to do so! There are also billboards all across the same region reminding us NOT to keep fishing near a dam when the siren sounds, because we will get washed away and drowned: they're urging us not to feel so lucky that we will be able to hold on while we catch that monster trout! (Again - more luck we believe in!) Oh, and even more billboards, reminding us not to smoke crank - because we WON'T be one of the lucky ones who doesn't get hooked - we'll be the ones (like everyone else) whose teeth turn to putty and who end up turning tricks for a five dollar fix.

So we have to be reminded constantly NOT to feel so lucky that we behave recklessly. It's in our genes. It's in our culture: we're raised to revere people who packed everything in a damn wagon and drove cross country to - God knows what! Oh, to a frickin' gold rush! That's right! Pack up and move two thousand miles, and you'll find a frickin' pot o' gold, you're so frickin' lucky, pal! Okay, never mind the pioneers: all of us who aren't full blooded Native American have some ancestor in our past who got on a boat and sailed 3-5k miles, usually with the shirt on his/her back and a couple bucks, unable to speak English, unable to read or write in his/her native tongue, and nonetheless knew s/he'd make it big in the Promised Land! Now, there's a person who thinks s/he's pretty darned lucky! And all of us have one of those as our grandparents or great-grandparents!

So unless we're coughing up blood right at the moment, we think we'll never get sick. Even if we are coughing up blood - we think it'll miraculously stop any minute now and we'll be fine! Nothing to worry about! Now, most of us after a certain age have seen parents and grandparents die, sometimes after lots of medical treatment - but that's usually covered by Medicare, so we're shielded from the worst of bad luck. Hell, all we gotta do is stay lucky till we're 65? How hard can that be? Roll the dice baby! What the hell is there to fix?! It ain't broken! Don't fix it!

The corollary (unfortunately, as this feeling of invincibility is probably dangerous enough) is that we feel those who are sick and uninsured are... well... just unlucky. Nothing you can do about bad luck, pal. Stuff happens. Suck it up. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Things'll get better. Wheel in the sky keeps on turning. What - you want a government program to stop bad luck? That's stupid. Government is to protect me from criminals and foreign invaders. (Why these two don't qualify as bad luck, I'm not sure; you've found a flaw in my analysis. Here's a penny.) Anything more it tries to do is just meddling with all that good luck that's raining down on me. Step aside and let the good times roll!

So, there you have it, as near as I can tell. I'm hoping we grow up a little and realize we're being a little immature about this whole thing, but, well, it may just not be in the cards. The people who conquered a continent and did lots of other cool stuff just may not have it in their collective psyche to be prudent.

EDIT: And here - to ligthen things up!


Blogger ScottColbert said...

Thank you for saying so eloquently, as usual, what I've thought. A great post, indeed.

4:11 PM  
Blogger KPaffenroth said...

Thanks Scott! Just trying to think of something to say other than "WTF?"

But, there is something to be said for brevity.

7:33 PM  
Blogger ScottColbert said...

I really think "WTF?" is about all you can say.When Obama was elected, and the GOP went down in flames, I thought, "Finally, now we'll be done with this circus." I now believe that was naivete on my part.

Even at the height of the Moral Majorities "power" in the 80's, it couldn't hold a candle to the birthers and deathers we have right now.

And as Europeans did for the eight years we had with Bush, they now are again going "WTF?"

I'm not feeling very lucky with that anymore.

1:38 AM  

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