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Home / Articles / · Archive / News & Columns /  Had Enough?
News & Columns

Had Enough?

By Holly Mullen
Posted // July 6,2007 -

My neighborhood grocery store features one of those nice community bulletin boards, where people post ads for apartment rentals and housecleaning services. Sometimes, a plea goes out for help in finding a lost dog. But the saddest pitch of all, and one showing up with alarming frequency, is the fund-raising concert/yard sale/block party for a sweet little kid with some unpronounceable form of cancer or genetic condition that only a long stay in some distant children’s hospital might cure. “Please Help Kaden? the paper will say, followed by a long explanation of every traditional treatment the little guy has been through with no success.

nn

As if it weren’t enough stress and anguish to provide for a dying child, Mom and Dad must now humble themselves and rely on the kindness of strangers. See, in America it’s pretty clear. This mom and dad have no health insurance. And if they do have a medical plan, it simply won’t cover treatments its administrators have deemed “experimental.?

nn

There’s a twist on the community bulletin board that’s every bit as grim. It’s the note that increasingly comes at the end of a newspaper or television account of a horrendous traffic accident: “The family has no health insurance. A fund has been established at [insert bank name here] to aid the victims and their family.” Their loved ones will bet on the benevolence of strangers to pull them through a medical crisis but would scarcely think to demand it of their government.

nn

I saw Michael Moore’s film Sicko this week. It’s peppered with images like those I’ve raised'cancer victims who die while an indifferent insurance company with a billionaire CEO denies their treatments; elderly patients with no home who get dumped (by hospitals!) outside homeless shelters; chronically ill 9/11 rescue workers caught in health-care limbo because they weren’t covered under New York City’s insurance program but showed up anyway to dig out bodies at Ground Zero.

nn

In what has become his trademark style, Moore resorts to more than a few moments of melodrama and histrionics to drive home his point'that America can and should do better. But to focus strictly on the health-care deficit would be to miss the bigger and much grander point, the underpinning of the entire film.

nn

An American woman sitting in a French restaurant with Moore and several other ex-patriots said it best, after several scenes showing the wonders of universal French health care and an enviable way of life. “In France, the government is afraid of its people,” she said. “In America, people are afraid of the government.” Everything flows from there.

nn

America gives more vertical mobility to its citizens to chase wealth than the French. We’re all striving for that, right? Middle-class Americans are far less willing to upset their flow of income in their climb to the top of the social scale. We wouldn’t want to risk messing up heaven before we get there.

nn

The French'and most developed Western nations'find satisfaction on a smaller scale. A sumptuously furnished and decorated apartment in Paris, though far smaller than an American starter castle in Herriman, is enough.

nn

We never have enough, and that is the window into the American psyche. We may feel a little cheated but never enough to stop the upper classes from waging control with money to support the systems that support them: big business, big industry and big government'all of which continually distribute income upward.

nn

It follows that social responsibility for the basic needs of life lack high priority in America. Education, universal health care, affordable housing, job security and reasonable time for leisure always get shifted to the bottom of the pile. Finding solutions to those problems always becomes too complex, too political, too difficult, because in America, we’re told, one size doesn’t fit all.

nn

If we really looked at what’s important, like our health and our time with family, we would become like the French and British. We might start complaining; maybe even take to the streets. We don’t. We lose our jobs, or at least tremble at the thought of unemployment, if we 1. try to start a union; 2. speak poorly of the company we work for; 3. complain about cost-cutting when the company forces extra work on a smaller staff; 4. gripe about continuous cuts in health care benefits'if there is health insurance at all; or 5. dare take a two-week vacation all in one bundle. As for three weeks? You kidding me?

nn

So in America, we settle for less. We’re even willing to get kicked all over the place in doing so. An “ah-ha” moment in Sicko comes in a piece of 2006 campaign video, with George W. Bush sitting beside a fawning, big-haired constituent. Beaming ear-to-ear, she tells Bush she not only works but must hold down three jobs! Says the clueless prez: “Now that’s as American as it gets!”

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We’re sick all right, but it’s in deeper ways than lack of a national health insurance. We aren’t willing to fight for that. We’d rather post a flier at Dan’s.

nn

More Mullen: Mullentown.com

 
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