For her own reasons, my wife pays no attention
to me whatsoever except on Tuesdays.
Every Tuesday, my wife gets all girlie and
curious. No sooner does she awake than she
starts cuddling and asks what I’m going to
write about. She will do almost anything
to find out, and I admit to being just a tad
Pavlovian about it come Monday night.
Without boring you with the play-by-play
details, this Tuesday began like many others.
But as she was leaving for work, instead of
asking, “What are you going to write about
today?” she said, “Why don’t you write about
the elections in Greece?” Mind you, it’s a
small nuance going from question to suggestion,
but it struck me as important. Was
she my new muse? I’ve been without one for a
couple of years now, so that would be a good
thing. Was it something I did? That would
be a better thing, so I made mental note to
do it again in seven days—whatever it was.
Instead of going crazy figuring it out, I just
took it as an omen.
I’ve never met a good omen, only bad ones. So, I’m doing the wise thing and writing down everything I know about the elections in Greece, which isn’t much. Here it is: Greece had socialized medicine before electing their new socialist government. That’s all I know. Meanwhile, our leaders and insurance companies teach Americans to fear socialized medicine.
In Greece you can take care of your ulcer
for under a hundred euros—not counting
the bribe to the doctor and nurse (who are
both smoking in the hospital somewhere).
Even with the bribe (there isn’t always a
bribe and it’s not called that; it’s just a
quaint tradition called fakelaki), it’s a less
costly treatment than here. That’s the way
it should be. Health care shouldn’t be only
for those who can afford it. You shouldn’t
lose your house just because you get sick.
You should not fear going to the emergency
room because you don’t have insurance.
But, many Americans do just that and, for
some dumb reason, take pride in it.
A few weeks ago, everyone was enraged
about Death Panels. Sarah Palin jump-started
the lie that when you get old and
sick, some kind of jury would decide if
you live or die. You remember Sarah Palin,
don’t you? Recent V.P. candidate. Matriarch
of a dysfunctional family. Former Alaska
governor. Nitwit. For some reason, certain
Americans think Sarah Palin is coherent.
Her unsubstantiated lie was passed along
by cohorts, partisans and enablers, and
it scared the bejezus out of people. The
episode became its
own Death Panel,
the Democrat health
Sarah Palin. Greece:
You have it backwards. It’s better to live on your feet than to die on your knees.
Naturally, no one looked at reality, which is, why worry about a death panel if you can’t afford to get into the hospital to die in the first place? Everyone who spread Palin’s lie is guilty of death by omission. The same people who don’t want the “government controlling how you die” (their point of view) make up nearly the same group that has no problem with “insurance companies controlling how you live” (my point of view).
For reasons I can’t fathom—too much
sugar? too much TV? too much Elvis?—a
frightening number of Americans think it’s
more noble to die without health care than
to with live with government (read: socialist)
health care. Yossarian would disagree.
In the novel Catch-22, Joseph Heller’s
protagonist, Yossarian, becomes increasingly
aware that the only way out of war was
to die in it. The rules for survival continually
change, and Yossarian famously states
he wants to live forever or die trying in the
attempt. Meanwhile, another of Catch-22’s
characters has this conversation with an
old Italian man shortly after the United
States liberated Italy:
Captain Nately: Don’t you have any
Old man in whorehouse: Of course
Nately: No morality?
Old man: I’m a very moral man, and
Italy is a very moral country. That’s why we
will certainly come out on top again if we
succeed in being defeated.
Nately: You talk like a madman.
Old man: But I live like a sane one. I
was a fascist when Mussolini was on top.
Now that he has been
deposed, I am anti-fascist.
When the Germans
were here, I was fanatically
I’m fanatically pro-American. You’ll find no
more loyal partisan in
all of Italy than myself.
Nately: You’re a
What you don’t understand
is that it’s better
to die on your feet than
to live on your knees.
Old man: You have it backwards. It’s
better to live on your feet than to die on
your knees. I know.
Nately: How do you know?
Old man: Because I am 107 years old.
How old are you?
Nately: I’ll be 20 in January.
Old man: If you live.
And there you have it. Greece—and Italy—both have socialized health care. Both countries have a lower infant mortality rate than the United States and a higher life expectancy. Citizens pay their “tax” to the state or to doctors, not to insurance companies that charge increasingly higher fees while providing less health protection. In both countries, the citizens remember how to live and don’t concern themselves with when to die. It’s the living that matters. And the Tuesday mornings.