Americans are tired of Congressional bickering. As the government shut down enters another week with no end in sight, Americans increasing express frustration with what seems like a broken system. But more is at stake than that obvious economic consequences explored by political journalists and commentators. America’s reputation abroad is also taking a hit, as explored in a recent conversation with a friend of mine from Bristol, England, author Alexandra Butcher.
Alexandra is not just your typical Englishwoman. She is a 1998 graduate of the University of the West of England (Bristol) with a bachelor of arts in politics (UK and American) and in sociology. This background gives Alexandra unique insights into worldwide current events, insights often shared with me in our conversations which range from UK and USA politics to world history to our mutual love of animals to our writing.
When discussing the current shut down situation with Alexandra, her response remained incredulous; how could Americans be so absurd as to shut down their own government over the opposition by some in Congress to the scheduled roll out of the Affordable Care Act?
On October 6th I tweeted “Meet the Press” regarding MTP’s interview of Senator Rand Paul. A few minutes later, a tea party Republican from New Jersey responded to my optimistic tweet about the Affordable Care Act banning insurance discrimination by telling me that such provisions equal socialism and government run health care. Then he added that my preexisting condition problem with regards to health insurance could be fixed with death panels (this coming from someone who knows nothing about me or my health).
So in telling an insurance company it has to cover a doctor’s visit for chronic migraines, the government is actually putting me before a “death panel” where the government will simply kill me?
I don’t get it.
When I showed the tweet to Alexandra, she could not believe her eyes. As she explained to me, The United States does not have state run health care nor are the regulations in the Affordable Care Act even remotely close to what she lives with everyday in Bristol, coverage and services she is largely happy with.
But what puzzles and dismays Alex and others I know in the UK even more is the apparent backward priority by Americans with regards to healthcare verses firearms. In the UK, Americans are seen as fighting tooth and nail for all private citizens to own guns (not military, not police, not state national guards or coast guard units which are perceived in the UK as necessary and appropriate forms of law enforcement, emergency response, and national security), but fight equally hard to deny the poor healthcare and decent living conditions.
That Congress would shut down the government to avoid offering health insurance to those currently lacking coverage now just adds to the bewilderment and general sense that American priorities are backwards, irrational, and out of touch with reality.
Or thought of another way: it makes Americans look violent, uncivilized, and out of their minds to Europeans where affordable health care is available to all citizens, regardless of wealth and when extreme measures (like shutting down the Federal government) are taken to guarantee what looks like unlimited access to weapons on one hand while blocking efforts to offer healthcare to all citizens.
This is not the sort of image the United States exactly wants to project to the rest of the world. How can you trust a people, a nation whose values and priorities are so radically different from your own?
Perhaps it is time Americans start looking at the bigger picture instead of obsessing over the little stuff that makes the American system fodder for comedians around the world. Perhaps it is time we learn civility. Perhaps it is time we learn how to play nice with other people.
Nothing less than our reputation — and our economy — is at stake.
We can do better.
For more information about healthcare in England, please consult “Guide to the Healthcare System in England.”