Monday, 22 March 2010

I Just Can't Help Myself

I promised myself I wouldn't do this. I swore an oath to myself that stated in part, if I found myself in an uncontrollable fit of commentary and unable to contain myself on the issue of some other country's health care, I would punish myself severely with meal after meal of broiled eggplant. (And many of you know how much I loathe eggplant.) I really didn't want to restate the obvious moral arguments that I had hoped would carry some sway with members of congress, but instead only seemed to be the prosaic equivalent of the proverbial red flag. No. I had decided that I had had enough of being called such filth as "Socialist Canadian" or "Fascist Canuck". (Never mind that the morons who levelled these epithets had no idea that they were speaking of opposite ends of the political spectrum, and if I were a socialist, the chances of my also adhering to a fascist doctrine would be philosophical gymnastics.) I was determined to stay the hell out of this fight that I reasonably thought was all but lost after the donkeys in the Democratic party mismanaged the campaign for Kennedy's seat. I wanted to continue living part of my winter in the Southern Home without care, obliviously purchasing out-of-country insurance coverage to protect against the pitfalls of a savings-crushing injury like a hangnail. I could console myself with the knowledge that my country is civilized. My country has universal health care. Nobody in my country ever loses their home as a result of catastrophic illness or injury. My country would never allow anybody to be turned away from a hospital because of an inability to pay, and my country would never allow women to be categorized as different from men simply because their biology is different. It isn't perfect by any stretch. There are wait times for non-critical care and funding is a never-ending headache, but there is comfort in knowing that sickness is treatable for all, no matter their bankbook. Nope! I was done. I didn't need the aggravation. And then, it happened.

The theatre of American politics in action played out live and in living colour for all to witness through the magic of the cable news nets. It was like witnessing a train wreck. I simply could not turn it off. I watched from the interesting perspective of a interested visitor and spectator, secure in the knowledge that my health care was lifelong and not under attack. I watched as representative after representative took to the microphone for their allotted 60 seconds to spout platitudes or invectives. I watched as the House Minority leader got all red-faced as he posed rhetorical question after rhetorical question, and heaped his shame upon the august body he claimed to serve. He even shouted "No we can't" several times in an obvious attempt to discredit the president and his well-known catchphrase, and at one point was admonished by the Speaker for his lack of decorum when he yelled "Hell no!" The Speaker on the other hand, was the picture of cool. That often is the case amongst the winners of a battle. She spoke of honour and character, and she spoke of my oft-spoken premise that health care is a right and not a privilege. The polarization of America was on display for all the world to see, and the players seemed absolutely oblivious to the giant spectacle in which they were participating.

In the end, the first smallest of steps was ironically taken with the passage of the biggest single piece of legislation since the New Deal. Is it going to cost? Probably. Has life changed for most Americans? Probably not. Are the insurance companies searching for bankruptcy lawyers this morning? One could only hope, but obviously not. In fact, just the opposite is true. Big insurance and Big Pharma saw their stock prices rise last Friday in anticipation of the passage of this bill. Did the world stop spinning and did the planets change their alignments? Well....? The fact is that for most Americans, they probably won't notice a thing has changed and even if they did, it won't take effect until 2014. But for some, for 32 million of you, life has changed. Your child with juvenile diabetes is now covered. Your college aged kid can stay on your health care plans a little bit longer. Your wife undergoing chemo and radiation won't find her coverage cancelled in the middle of treatment, nor will it wipe you out if, God forbid, there is a recurrence. It may be small, but it is progress. The first step is often the most difficult to take and like it or not, yesterday's step was historic.

Several years ago, Canadians were asked in a national poll to select the most influential Canadian of all-time. The list was long and varied. Not surprisingly it was littered with hockey players, (Gretzky was in the top five!) celebrities, inventors (Banting and Best were up there too!) and political figures. But the person Canadians chose as the number one all-time greatest, was a little man from Saskatchewan named Tommy Douglas. Aside from his obvious claim to fame as Kiefer Sutherland's grandfather, Mr. Douglas is well-known in my country as the father of universal health care. It was Tommy Douglas who fought for and helped achieve that which Canadians hold so dear, and we recognized that monumental achievement with great status.

Perhaps yesterday's vote will underscore that great societies begin with the health and welfare of all its peoples, and perhaps we can stop spouting bullshit like Armageddon. If just one person is saved by this legislation, if just one less person is forced into bankruptcy, if just one child gets the help that they need, hasn't duty to country been served? It is why I was willing to eat eggplant for a month.


  1. I, too, am a Canadian with a blog, and I had a full rant today which included things like the American struggle with health care. Thank goodness they've passed something at last. It's hard to sit by and watch these sorts of things going on and wonder how anyone could possibly think that the good health of their neighbours and fellow citizens isn't important.

    I think the big thing I'm left ranting about at the end of the day is the lack of universal day care.

    Bit by bit I suppose.

  2. Rant away!
    I use this space often as a place to vent. I have often wondered if we as a society have dispensed with the idea of the collective good and instead have developed a f@#* you mentality. Some might wonder if that is the beginning of the end, I prefer to battle. Universal daycare is not a bad place to start. Thanks for reading.