The State Of The Union – Why The Big Question Of The Day Is “What The Hell Is Going On In America?”
When I was a teenager, there was a drama on the BBC called “Threads”. It was about what might happen if there was a nuclear war. I vividly remember the scene where the bomb is actually dropped. A young man stares at the mushroom cloud blossoming above Sheffield. “They’ve done it” he says, as he literally wets himself, “They’ve bloody done it.”
This scene was all the more frightening for the people who watched it because there was every chance, back then in the Eighties, that it might become a reality any minute. Though there would have been many who wouldn’t have mourned the destruction of the city of Sheffield too deeply.
I imagine many people in America are feeling the same way as the fictional young man standing in the shadow of that mushroom cloud. Mouthing the same words of disbelief. “They’ve done it, they’ve bloody done it”. Or whatever Americans say instead of “bloody”. Freakin’ or something, probably.
The Republicans have gone for the nuclear option and actually shut down government rather than pass a particular piece of legislation. As a Brit, I find this all very perplexing. I’m not perplexed by workings of American politics, of course. We have a bi-cameral system over here too, though our country is run by the Civil Service really. Our politicians could all evaporate in a puff of smoke tomorrow and everything would run pretty much as normal. The Queen signs all of our laws into existence. No President or elected officials necessary.
What confuses me is the subject of the contentious law. Is Obama trying to ban personal profit? Introduce a Glorious Five Year Plan? Or, heaven forbid, outlaw guns? No, he is not. He is attempting, in the best way he knows how, to cure the sick. Not in a New Testament sort of way. In an “establishment of the National Health Service” sort of way.
The Republicans have blocked him in the most spectacular fashion possible. Rather than allow the tiniest speck of socialism to pass into law, they have effectively shut down America. Nearly a million Government employees will have to take unpaid leave. It will cost the economy at least a Billion dollars.
The question in my mind is this: why is health care the odd one out in the various services delivered to the American public? Everything else is already delivered on socialist lines. Paid for by taxes and free at the point of delivery. Education is free, and indeed compulsory. Nobody receives a bill from the Fire department when its fire tenders’ hoses stop a home from burning to the ground. Insult is not added to injury by the police presenting an invoice for dealing with the victim of a violent mugging. So why is health care such a different political animal?
Now this is the point where I usually offer a clever explanation, usually with a comic call back to something earlier in the piece. That’s not going to happen today, I’m afraid. I’m genuinely stumped. None of the theories I’ve been able to formulate make the slightest bit of sense. The explanation can’t lie in the interests of Big Business. All centralised health care would mean to Big Business would be guaranteed Government Money on top of all the private health care dollars. After all,Britain has luxurious hospitals too for those who can afford private health insurance subscriptions.
It’s not like the USA will be prone to the “health tourists” that we get in Britain either. That is, people from other countries who come to our shores for free treatment because the people of Britain happen to believe that if you are ill, you should have access to a doctor. In America’s case, Mexicans tend not to be let into the country in the first place and the Canadians have free health care anyway.
Perhaps the Republicans don’t want to be in charge of a healthy country. Perhaps they fear that the principle of “Mens Sana In Corpore Sano” might take effect and that people might come to their senses. They might open their eyes, investigate the “part of a well regulated militia” clause of the Second Ammendment that everyone conveniently ignores and start doing something about Government ineptitude by force of arms.
No, there is only one feasible explanation that I can think of and I don’t like it very much. The behaviour of the Republicans only makes sense to me if America is confusing “technologically advanced” with “civilized”. The measure of any civilized society is how it looks after its poor, its sick and its vulnerable. So if America is willing to elect people who would rather shut the country down than make sure sick people are able to get medical treatment, then America has to be one of the least civilized countries on Earth.
I’m trying to avoid this conclusion because it does actually make me feel quite sad. Considering its military might, America hasn’t really invaded that many places. Not if you compare it to Great Britain, which invaded pretty much everywhere when it was in charge of things. America has invaded the whole world culturally though.
Much as the rest of the world hates to admit it, a lot of countries really do look to The States for inspiration, or at least for a guide as to how our own futures might go. It is the country in which anything can happen. Unfortunately, as we have just seen, it is the country in which anything can happen, including the Government shutting itself down like some sort of huffy computer. As the saying goes : when America sneezes, the world catches a cold. This is one infection we Brits don’t want. Mind you, we’ve got free health care, so maybe it won’t be so bad after all.
© Copyright Michael Grimes 2013
Tags: America, bi-cameral, Big Business, Canadians, civil servants, civilization, government, Great Britain, health care, insults, Mexicans, Mushroom clouds, nuclear option, Obama, Obamacare, Politics, republicans, Sheffield, socialism, the fire department, the police, The Queen, the state of the union, USA
About thedailygrimeAt that awkward age - too young to be a grumpy old man, but just acerbic and downtrodden enough to have an opinion. Read it here.
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