Sunday, December 18, 2016

Think Donald Trump is the Only Reason That Americans Should Feel Embarrassed? Think Again

When I was a kid growing up in the eighties, I was a bit stricken (and sickened, admittedly) by the general apathy towards political discussion and causes in the United States. The one issue that seemed to be a bit of an exception to that was activism against apartheid in South Africa. There were concerts, there were speeches, Congressional action, and tons of debates. I myself got involved - at least as much as a teenage boy at a high school in suburban New Jersey could probably get involved, trying to stay informed. I even went to see Nelson Mandela in 1991, when he finally visited New York City!

One thing about that, though, was that it was not particularly controversial. Few people would openly admit to being pro-apartheid back then, and the idea of white supremacy was particularly repugnant in a country that had itself experienced it's own version of apartheid not long before. So, it was not an issue that sparked controversy, or anything. It occurred to me at the time, though, that officially, the United States was one of the few countries that was not boycotting apartheid South Africa, which could be taken as a sign of support for the racist regime. After all, that country still profited from the unfair, racist economic system, and doing business with them was tantamount to helping to support that system, to keep in in place and even entrench it further.

However, that was not the only issue that got me worked up back then. Two other issues really got my blood boiling. The first was the deterioration of the environment, and global warming in particular. Since then, it has come to be known as climate change, since so many people misunderstood that name and came to believe that it meant that the world would just get warmer and warmer. That mindset was in evidence when a Congressman brought in a snowball onto the floor of Congress during a speech as "proof" that climate change was a hoax. The fact of the matter is that plenty of other countries have already taken serious action to combat climate change. The Netherlands is getting rid of cars that run on gasoline, Germany has developed wind power to such a point that much of the country runs on this very clean energy. Other countries are also making adjustments, even costly ones, to try and do their part to make things right or, if that is a bit exaggerated, at least to lessen their own footprints.

But then there is the United States, where tens of millions of people still hold the global warming or climate change "theory" in contempt, and believe that it is not only false, but that it is one big hoax. Hell, we just elected a man president who claims that it is a hoax! This has been a consistent source of embarrassment for the United States for decades now, since the Reagan administration. We were far and away the biggest polluters in the world until just before the Beijing Olympic games in 2008, although American athletes made a spectacle of themselves by wearing masks as a form of protest against the excessive pollution there. In typical hypocritical and ugly American fashion, though, they remained largely silent about excessive pollution in their own nation. Back then, we had President Bush in power, who had run in 2000 promising to be the environmental president, but then cited "new research" just two months into his presidency to change course and weaken environmental legislation. His predecessor, Bill Clinton, had noted environmentalist Al Gore as his Vice-President, yet the bulk of the strong environmental legislation that they pushed forward came in the last three days of an eight year term, knowing full well that the next regime would quickly get rid of all of these policies. Barack Obama also claimed that he would get serious about climate change, yet he did almost nothing during his entire first term - which could have been his entire presidency had he lost in 2012! Since then, he did enact some strong legislation, although it is not nearly strong enough to seriously make America anything resembling a leader in this field.

The second issue that I always felt stood out as a major embarrassment for the country was it's failure to provide it's citizens universal, affordable healthcare. At the time when I first started to be politically aware, back in the 1980's, two industrialized countries did not have it: the United States and South Africa. Now, I already mentioned quite a bit about South Africa, and it should be clear why they did not have it. After all, it was an officially racist country. Which left me to wonder how Americans were not embarrassed by it. 

Now, of course, apartheid ended in South Africa, and one of the first things that they did there was to institute a form of universal, affordable healthcare, which left the United States as the sole country remaining that still did not have such a healthcare system in place. Americans could find themselves in serious trouble, and have their lives turned upside down, because of medical emergencies and/or not being able to afford proper medical care and medicine. Some people have lost their jobs, their homes, and just about everything else, because their medical bills are too high. As it is, Americans pay far and away more than any other nation for medicine. How so many Americans were up in arms, outraged over the modest proposals put forth with Obamacare, while no one seemed outraged or even surprised at the fact that the same drugs made here in the United States could be sold in Canada for a fraction of the price that it was sold here, always confused me. They wanted to clamp down on the black market, as people would understandably buy the drugs in Canada and resell them here, and they were still considerably cheaper than the official asking price here! It was outrageous, and frankly, a national embarrassment. 

What made it worse - and far worse, at that - is that there has long been readily available information about how such a system could work here. After all, it works in plenty of other countries. Countries that are open to the same information, and engage in similar debates as we in America have. Yet, every single one of those countries has stuck with their own healthcare systems over the privatized one that we have here. I always ask why that is, whenever I hear people mention how the American healthcare system is the greatest in the world. It indeed might be great if you are rich enough to afford it. If not - and tens of millions of Americans are not - then it no longer seems all that great, does it? 

I saw this meme on Facebook, and thought it deserved to be shared. It illustrates and highlights the ridiculous position that we Americans have put ourselves in and come to accept for far too long, that a single-payer, affordable universal healthcare system is somehow impossible. Here is a list of nations that have such a system in place, and these are not Communist countries. Some of them are very familiar, and as close to our lifestyle as possible. Nations like Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Israel, all have such healthcare systems in place. Yes, we are the only ones who do not have this kind of a system in place, and it is to our own great detriment and shame!

It made me angry when so many people - particularly Hillary supporters who should know better - referred to proposals like affordable, universal healthcare as "pie in the sky" ideas. The reality is that the United States has stood alone for decades now as the only industrialized nation that fails to provide this basic right for it's citizens. Other countries can and have done it, across four different continents, yet many Americans feel that it cannot be done, in an extreme case of being willfully and pathetically ignorant of the world outside American borders. Seeing things like this should serve to embarrass Americans at least as much as, if not more than, seeing a President Trump soon to take power!

The thing about apartheid in South Africa back then was that it was one of the last real major issues that seemed crystal clear, in terms of wrong and right. Almost everyone agreed that apartheid was wrong, and that it needed to go. It seems that few issues these days are as clear cut and, pardon the expression, but as black and white as that. To me, however, climate change and affordable, universal healthcare are just such easy issues to figure out, even if Americans seem to be struggling with these issues. Like with apartheid, the desires of a small minority consistently outweigh the need of the vast majority, and it is to the detriment of the country as a whole. I know that this opinion probably puts me among a tiny minority in the United States, but this is because the propaganda machine here is so damn efficient, that Americans (Democrats and Republicans alike) consistently think and vote against their best interests. Like with apartheid, this is kept in place because of the willful ignorance of a majority that could easily discern the truth, if they so desired, and were serious about loving their country enough to move forward and improve it in a genuine manner. Sorry, but it is hard for me to see it in any other fashion, even if this sounds extremely judgmental on my end. As a country, we will never advance beyond the problems that we have now until we get past out collective and individual narrow self-interest, and look quite a bit more to what would be for the greater good.

Shame on us, America!