Independence Day makes me feel conflicted. Jingoism seems to be an international problem, and although patriotism is deemed next to saintliness, I have my doubts. No nation is perfect *gasp!* and we would all do well to learn from others. America is a nation in love with money and that affair has serious consequences. One is our medical care system. We’re one of the very few (if not only) “advanced” nations without universal medical coverage. In fact, people routinely suffer because they lack insurance or their coverage doesn’t provide for what their physicians think is best. This came home to me while staying with a family member who was hospitalized recently. On the television the GOP was sponsoring ads against universal health care. The irony was thick enough to be sickening.
Highly touted as the most affluent nation in the world, we refuse to take care of our own. How am I supposed to get into the mood for Independence Day? In Britain (as in most other places) they have universal health care. I lived there for three years and knew that I could get treatment without emptying out the bank. Here, in my native country, we have less care. Someone might make a few dollars less, and that, we’re told, is unacceptable. Anyone who’s experienced the illness of a family member knows the old one-two. The treatment itself and the bills that come after. Lately I’ve just been throwing up my hands and opening up my wallet. It’s Independence Day.
Not that I’d expected much to change, but my first inkling of being a writer was winning a state-wide essay contest right here in Pennsylvania. I wrote an essay on “Americanism” back in 1980. It noted the false sense of righteousness that accompanied the notion. I was an evangelical Christian then, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t cynical. In my small town I’d seen John Cougar Mellencamp-level suffering. I saw unemployment, drug use, and desperation. I saw politicians saying everything was great and would be even better if we had more guns. I saw trickle-down economics stemmed at the source. I knew we were being lied to. I did hope that things would get better, but now with the GOP fully behind 45 the true ugliness of jingoism has become clear. It’s Independence Day and I feel sick. I look across the ocean and see the nation from which we declared said independence suffering from a similar backlash. But at least they can afford to go to the doctor.