Anyhow, to mark the occasion anyway, here’s part one of what I’m calling a two-parter: Good riddance, America, you ain’t all that (the four biggest reasons why.)
(Tomorrow: Come back, America, you’re the best…)
Reason # 1: The Health Care System
The American health care system is written about, discussed, and debated so incessantly that just being in front of it, or near to it, starts to give you a headache. In spite of its endless complexities, however, I think I’ve finally succeeded in having a straightforward opinion about it. Namely, that the American health care system is both staggeringly inefficient and flagrantly unfair… long-story-short, because its masters are the businesses who provide it and not the people who need it.
The businesses get fat together chowing down on profit, and the people are left picking up the check – someplace between baffled and bankrupt, depending on their initial economic means. If you get sick over here, sure, you could be short drives away from some of the world’s very best hospitals and doctors… but if you’re uninsured, out-of-network, not that great with paperwork, or unlucky enough to have something wrong with you that’s ‘not covered,’ well, hard luck buddy, the richest country in the world would rather watch you die than dig into its deep pockets to help.
For my part, during my nearly eight years in this country, I’ve been enrolled in about the same number of different health care plans. All of them different, and all of them equally difficult to understand. If I’d kept all the ‘information packets’ sent me by medical insurers, I reckon I could stack them up to reach the ceiling – thousands of pages that nobody bothers reading. What’s the point; we’re screwed either way.
If the health care system over here were a person, he’d be a total dick. And if it were a bus, you better believe the ‘blacks’ would still be standing.
Reason # 2: The Glorification of Comfort and Convenience
Yes of course there are many industrious Americans. And yes of course America’s history is not that of a work-shy nation.
But, nevertheless, there is something about the modern version of this country that is stupefyingly lazy. That ever-expanding part of it that’s had it too easy for too long – and basically just wants to sit around on its ass all day watching TV while consuming foodstuffs of dubious providence. In between, perhaps, occasional rounds of golf, and traveling from hole to hole in a stripped-down milk float.
It’s a soul-sapping thing to observe, and the deadbeat pull of it is insidious and constant. Forget the deep waters of hard-won reward, says a precious, pampered segment of this nation: settle, instead, in the lukewarm shallows. In this the land of the motion-activated hand-dryer, of drive-thru Dunkin Donuts, home-shopping networks, valet parking, buying on credit, and the Segway Personal Transporter.
Reason # 3: Religious Conservatism
Said to me and a roomful of students once, by an ex-pat American professor in Canterbury, Kent: “America’s problem is that it’s too damn big, with only an ocean to its west, an ocean to its east, a largely indifferent country to its south, and a largely irrelevant country to its north.”
Well, I’ll take a pass on how well those characterizations of Mexico and Canada stack up – but the rest seems pretty sound. America is freaking massive, and, unfortunately, is a case study in what happens when too many Christians are left alone with only each other for company. You get scary high levels of bigotry, homophobia, and misogyny, and a heaping mass of people determined to call these things by any other names (tradition, family values, decency, blah, blah, blah).
Even in a more liberal Boston, for instance, just about every day I lived there I walked past a Planned Parenthood Center that was so relentlessly harassed by anti-abortion protestors that – literally – a line had to be painted on the sidewalk outside the entrance to keep these scumbags just a little bit at bay. They were legally prohibited from crossing it.
How to hope for something better, though, when even scores of elected officials over here are openly against gay marriage? In the name of a ‘God’ they insist upon portraying as likable.
Reason # 4: Dogged Belief in American Exceptionalism
As Aaron Sorkin’s new TV show The Newsroom usefully points out, America is more than happy to ask itself why it’s the best country in the world without stopping first to wonder whether or not it actually is. Indeed, so determined is America to love itself, consider the moment in Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth when the former Vice President congratulates his country on “abolishing slavery.” Seriously, consider that a second… Kind of like a serial killer saying, “come on everyone, I’m a really nice chap now – haven’t killed anyone in ages,” isn’t it?
Yep, it’s not exactly humble. Plus, let’s not forget, the U. S. of A. is also notoriously prickly when criticized, as though for an outsider to miss its self-evident greatness is simply and solely the fault of the outsider.
Boy, America, I really want to say, “relax!” What the hell are you trying to prove all the time? (And, hey, an Englishman’s birthright is to love his country and to endlessly moan about it, too – these things never mutually exclusive.) Why do you think so much of the world likes you even less than uptight, pompous, fuddy-duddy Britain? Frankly, my dear, do you even give a damn?!
…Hey ho – like I said, I’ll play nice tomorrow, I promise.