In our family we have a saying. It started when our kids were younger (before they realized how awesome their parents are). We had some friends in the neighborhood and our kids played there a few times and loved it. From then on, whenever they were upset with us they would pack their bags and say, “We’re moving to the Cottons.” Meg says it to me from time to time as well.
The Cottons are like Canada, cotton canady you might call them. I’ve noticed that Americans often say they are moving to Canada when they are unhappy with the state of the nation. Usually its liberals who say it. But this week, after the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare, a clutch of conservatives tweeted that they were moving to Canada. This is a strange choice considering that Canada has a more progressive health care system than anything being proposed in Obamacare. I can think of some other countries that might be worth a try but not Canada.
Canada is the grass that is always greener. What if Canada doesn’t want unhappy Americans crossing the border looking to escape the madness? We always wondered how the Cottons would feel if we landed on their doorstep with our suit cases in hand!
As a relative newcomer to America, I’m still learning about attitudes to health care and rights. Most Americans who have lived in other parts of the world, or have even just travelled abroad, are more open about a public health care system, or universal health care. This is likely because they have experienced so called “socialized medicine” and it has worked and it doesn’t feel anything like voodoo socialism that fear mongering has us believe. The American author David Sedaris lived in France for many years. He said this about health care,
One thing that puzzles me in the American health-care debate is all the talk about socialized medicine and how ineffective it’s supposed to be. The Canadian plan was likened to genocide, but even worse were the ones in Europe, where patients languished on filthy cots, waiting for aspirin to be invented. I don’t know where these people get their ideas, but my experiences in France, where I’ve lived off and on for the past thirteen years, have all been good.
It’s the same for me, having grown up in Australia where there is a public health care system. I only ever used the public system and always found that it worked well. Our youngest daughter was born in New Zealand where our doctor made house calls through the pregnancy at no cost. And contrary to the myth in America, we didn’t pay outrageously high taxes to fund the public system.
Beneath the health care debate there is a more substantial issue that confuses me in America; the issue of liberty or rights. The right to this and that, personal liberty at any costs etc. Yesterday we were driving behind a guy on a motorbike, with no helmet on. In Michigan it’s his right not to wear a helmet. This guy was texting at the same time. I’ve got some problems with this. When the right to personal liberty makes you act foolishly, it may have gone too far. When his liberty puts my family in danger and could potentially cost society heavily, I have a major problem.
I’ve honestly tried to get my head around the American love affair with rights, but just don’t get it. Why does your right to own (or carry) guns trump my right to safety, or that of my kids? Why is your right to choose NOT to have health insurance more important than the right of underprivileged people to have the right to health care?
As an Aussie, I truly get the whole rebellion against England psyche. But it’s been quite a few years now. It’s time to move on from the adolescent “no one tells me what to do” mentality. At the time of America’s declaration of independence, some back in England called the American founders on their hypocrisy for being slave owners at the same time as they preached a message of freedom.
Until everyone is free, none of us are truly free. Independence is fine. Interdependence is better. We are ALL related; all of our rights are entwined.
Martin Luther King said it best,
I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the way our world is made. No individual or nation can stand out boasting of being independent. We are interdependent.
The real story last week was not the survival of Obamacare, but the inspiring example of Justice Roberts who stepped outside of his circle to vote for the common good. As New York Times journalist Thomas Friedman put it, he “took one for the team.” This is the spirit of mature independence. Friedman said,
Roberts undertook an act of statesmanship for the national good by being willing to anger his own “constituency” on a very big question.
I would like to see more people in America think about health care beyond their personal needs and rights. Follow the example of Justice Roberts. Think about what’s best for the whole, even beyond your own preference.
From this perspective, you might agree or disagree with Obamacare. I’m sure it can be improved in many ways. For my part, I would like to see it go much further. I would like to see a much stronger public health option in America and I’m happy to pay higher taxes to support it. I would like to see less focus on profit and more focus on health care. But I see Obamacare as the right step at the right time to keep the conversation moving towards a system that is equitable and just for ALL. Whatever your opinion of Obamacare, judge it on how well it serves the common good and not just whether it serves individual needs.