Liberal rant, part two

Concerned readers might think me about ready to turn in my passport and apply for citizenship over here, given my post from a couple weeks ago and now this. Rest assured, I’m not even close to that. I’m quite happy to carry U.S. citizenship and nevertheless reap the benefits of Western European residence.

Our pal Sara in KC got me a copy of the Michael Moore movie “Sicko” as a get-well-soon present dating back to my gall bladder removal in November. This weekend, we finally got around to watching it. It was quite thought-provoking.

I’m realizing I’ve had it pretty easy so far:

  1. a hernia shortly after birth (early heavy lifting?)
  2. another one around age 12 or 13
  3. an appendectomy at 13 or 14
  4. a pretty serious (for the car, not for its contents) car accident as a young driver
  5. a couple of stitches-causing lacerations (only one of which involved a chain saw)
  6. the aforementioned gall bladder removal with apparently no lasting side effects
  7. and, knock on wood, no firearms accidents to date

I chalk this good fortune up to

  • parents who insured the family
  • a little prudence on my part (I try to eat balanced meals, be careful with my shotgun, and not drive like a jerk)
  • a huge amount of luck

What’s luck got to do with it? Well, the country I was born in was a first world country. That ups my odds of living a long and healthy life a fair amount right there — and I definitely had nothing to do with that.

But what about people who don’t have insurance? You can’t really attribute that to bad luck — unless they can’t get health insurance due to pre-existing conditions beyond their control (bad genes? flowerpot fell on your head from 10 stories up?). Or worse, pre-existing conditions they developed in the service of others. I’m thinking here specifically about the 9/11 rescue workers featured in “Sicko.”

I know the movie is intended to manipulate the viewer’s emotions (I got misty more than once) and hey, it’s coming from Michael Moore, so it’s probably at least as “fair and balanced” as Fox News is, but still…some points in the movie really hit home with me. I jotted down some quotes from the movie for those who haven’t seen it.

A random young-looking woman in a Canadian hospital waiting-room:

“We know in America people pay for their healthcare, but I guess we don’t undrestand that, ’cause we don’t have to deal with that. We don’t understand that concept.”

Michael Moore, on the phenomenon of socialized-this but not socialized-that:

“I kind of like having a police department and fire department and the library. And I got to wondering, why don’t we have more of these free, socialized things, like health care?”Jennifer Government

Note: if you think you could live with privatized law-enforcement, et cetera, read Max Barry’s Jennifer Government.

A lot stuff this codgy old British guy was saying in the movie was resonating with me — especially the bits in the special features section of the DVD. So we looked him up; he’s a total pinko-socialist-commie type.

Tony Benn, former member of British Parliament on his government’s enlightenment in the face of pre- and post-war economic conditions in Britain:

“If you can have full employment by killing Germans, why can’t you have it by building hospitals, schools, recruiting nurses and teachers? If you can find money to kill people, you can find money to help people.”

More Tony Benn:

“Because if you have power, you use it to meet the needs of your community. And this idea of choice, which capital talks about, “you’ve got to have a choice,” choice depends on the freedom to choose. If you’re shackled with debt, you don’t have a freedom to choose. People in debt become hopeless, and hopeless people don’t vote. They always say, everyone should vote, but I think if the poor in Britain or the United States voted for the people who represented their interests, it would be a real democratic revolution. So they don’t want it to happen. So keeping people hopeless and pessimistic. See, I think there are two ways in which people are controlled. First of all, frighten them, and secondly, demoralize them. An educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern.”

Maybe a little commie-pinko-socialism wouldn’t be so bad; at least for the bottom 92% (by income) of the U.S. population. And for the top 8%? I bet they’d still do just fine, don’t you?

Local peeps: let us know if you want to borrow our copy of the DVD so we can discuss.

14 thoughts on “Liberal rant, part two”

  1. Christina G

    I’d like to borrow it!

  2. Carolyn

    I think it’s next up on our Netflix list. Right now we have Fast Food Nation out. Good thing we didn’t watch the whole movie last night – We just ate McDonald’s this morning.

  3. Tammy

    I am appreciating the German health system even more now that I am pregnant. Some American friends who recently had babies there are envious over the quality of care and the fact that nothing will be coming out of pocket unless we want to get a private room and get Mathias a bed in the hospital so he can sleep.

    I want to borrow it too, but it may need to wait until I come back.

  4. B.

    Didn’t the French health care system kick ass? I can’t imagine getting a house call in the middle of the night or having someone come in to help with the cleaning and cooking after having a baby… all covered under the blanket of socialized medicine.

    I’ll never understand why so many Americans are afraid of standardized health care… they act like it’s one step away from communism. I say let them all live here for a year or two and they’ll be singing a completely different tune.

  5. Sarah


    Did you see the special features? There was an outtake about the system they have in Norway that absolutely blew France out of the water.

    The thing that stuck with me most was that Moore’s Canadian relatives don’t want to come to the U.S. without buying travel insurance – they’re that afraid of getting “stuck in the system.” Cliff and I have recently come around to the same way of thinking – we don’t leave Germany without being sure that we have the right kind of coverage. Especially when going to the U.S. How sad.

  6. Tammy

    Matthias and I just had that discussion about our upcoming trip. I have insurance because mine extends internationally, but he needs to get a special travel insurance through the bank (of all places).

  7. Cliff

    B. said:

    I say let them all live here for a year or two and they’ll be singing a completely different tune.

    Yeah, but about a lot of stuff — not just medical care, I’m betting.

    • Languages — also making yourself understandable in your native language to foreign speakers of your native language
    • Transportation alternatives (ok, y’all know already how I roll with regards to that)
    • Treatment of foreigners — when you’ve been the foreigner, you’re a lot more likely to treat the cab driver, university exchange student, or convenience store clerk with the funny accent or out-of-place clothing with not just the minimum level of respect that comes with the species, but also understanding — empathy — because you’ll know how it feels to move to another country.

    I think there are a lot of small-minded people back where I come from who would very much benefit from having their horizons broadened. I think that would help our nation’s image among western neighbors and partners a lot.

  8. Tammy

    I don’t know if I agree with the treatment of foreigners. I think being a ‘western’ looking foreigners is easier here than it is for other foreigners. I think being American is an advantage as well because there isn’t a stereotype of Americans taking advantage of the system, yet. Maybe a wave of health care refugees will arrive and change that someday, but for now, we have a good, albeit war-monger, rep among most Germans.

  9. Cliff


    Maybe I wasn’t clear, sorry. I was trying to say that when you’ve stumbled through a foreign language while living abroad, you’re aware of how humiliating it is for someone else to go through the same thing when you’re back in the States and are more likely to be patient and/or helpful toward the foreigner.

    By contrast, it’s probably more likely for someone who has never lived outside of his native country to get frustrated or impatient with (or even worse, discriminate against) someone trying to communicate in the host-country language.

    Living abroad for a while opens your eyes to things like that. I’m sure this is obvious to those of us reading this from outside the U.S., but perhaps not for our fellow Americans.

  10. Hezamarie

    Sicko is also available through Internet streaming, fast buffering, though quality isn’t that good but you get the picture.

    I’m for a universal health care system for the U.S. but the people have to be willing to pitch in for each other. I’m not sure that willingness is in the majority, sadly. Although there are those who have this la-dee-da idea that healthcare should be just, somehow, there. Healthcare isn’t “free” anywhere, in Canada or in Germany. It is the lady in the Canadian hospital who doesn’t grasp the concept. Even if she doesn’t ‘deal with it’, indirectly she and her Canadian neighbors pay for her treatment.

    Everything involved with my ACL surgery in Munich: surgeon, nurses, an anesthesiologist and my 5-day hospital stay: a bed, meals, drugs, physical therapy, doctor’s visits, only cost me 50€ out-of-pocket !! So little money isn’t even possible to cover all the individually wrapped ibuprofen pills and thrombosis shots I took home with me. The cost just didn’t go away, they were paid by the other +80 Mil. people living in Germany required to have health insurance. How grateful, I am to walk around without instability and medical debt is indescribable.

    There is a real healthcare crisis in the U.S. People shouldn’t loose their homes because they develop cancer. It is inherently wrong. We’re also seeing that individual Americans have a false mindset or understanding how necessary healthcare is. Affordable options do exist, but they’re a needle in the haystack, or filled with restrictions, or still too complicated for even upper mid-class families to decipher. A majority just complain, give up, and live the risk.

    The heart of the problem is that it will take lawfully forcing Americans to get on-board with a simple universal healthcare system, everyone paying in, to solve this crisis. In a land that touts how much freedom its citizens possess, forcing Americans to do anything goes against the very grain of what it means to be American. We got to make healthcare somehow “sexy”, or throw it into a Mini Cooper package deal for Americans to buy into it.

    Good discussion topic, Cliff.

  11. Tammy

    I agree that Americans will have to be forced to let Universe healthcare through. The same resistance was had against social security (a plan brought to life by the first woman in the cabinet I might add) and medicare, but now they are givens. I think once people experience the kind of great healthcare you can get over here without the fear of how much it will cost, they will embrace it.

    Having just gotten the bad news about my US taxes this year, I can say that the German taxes are not actually that much higher and we get a whole hell of a lot more for it over here than we do in the US. What’s up with that?

  12. Kimsal

    Was that car accident (#4) the one with David Kaye?

  13. Cliff

    Nope, I’ve never been in car accident with David Kaye. You’d think I would have been, all those times turning out of his driveway on Groesbeck there on that blind curve.

  14. M

    Good L*rd, I could just go and on about this subject from a historical, economical, political, corporate business, beauracratic, cultural and just general philosophy of “standard of living” versus “quality of life” standpoint. And guess what? The americans have the higher standard of living, but the lower quality of life. It is such a tangled mire of a mess that all began during WWII and will never be solved due to all the special interest and big money involved. It reminds me of a line from one of the early episodes of “The Simpson” when Marge was reflecting on an uncle who was mentally disturbed. And I paraphrase: “Shoot’em all and let God sort it out. He said on a cold November morn’ Now let us never speak of it again.”

    Oh, and I never saw the film of which you speak…

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