'Our country, right or wrong?' Critical thinking wouldn't hurt
Adding a personal story to the health care debate, Randolph Herald editor/publisher Dick Drysdale wrote the following editorial several weeks ago about a Randolph couple that had spent the summer in Canada and experienced that country’s health care system. It’s worth a read not because it tells us about the Canadian health care system, but because it reveals the shortcomings of our national bias.“One of the gravest distortions coming from those who oppose any stronger governmental role in the provision of health care is the myth that Canadians are greatly dissatisfied with their singe-payer health care system. Nothing is further from the truth.“As it happens, one Randolph couple recently returned from a summer in Canada, during which one of them experienced significant surgery. Not being Canadian citizens, they received the bill for it, and they were amazed at how inexpensive it was — so amazed that they brought the bill to The Herald for inspection. “They also brought a column from the Toronto Star entitled ‘A puzzled Canadian ponders the surreal U.S. health-care debate.’ The author, Alastair Rickard, a former insurance executive, described what he told a class of business students in Alabama about what Canadians really think. “He told the students that Canadians value their single-payer government health-care system strongly — so strongly, in fact, that any threat to change it ‘is the third rail of Canadian politics.’“If asked to single out an aspect of Canadian society superior to that of our American neighbours, most Canadians would cite first our health-care system,” Rickard said.“He also provided evidence against the fear-mongering insinuations by opponents here in the U.S. that a government program would interfere with the doctor-patient relationship: ‘Eighty-five percent of Canadians have their own primary care physician, and 92 percent would recommend that doctor to a relative or friend; 95 percent of Canadians with chronic conditions have a regular place of care.’“As for being ‘puzzled,’ this Canadian expert is deeply puzzled by the ‘credulous American public, many of whom seem prepared to believe what appears to most Canadians as laughable propaganda from the conservative right against any hint of advantage to be derived by patients from a public health-care system.’”The last paragraph is the kicker and says a lot about that part of the American psyche that trumpets, all too loudly, the familiar phrase: “My country, right or wrong.”The nation was blinded by that sentiment when we followed President George W. Bush into Iraq under the guise that Saddam Hussein would otherwise attack America; we were blinded when we refused to believe our government was lying to us about the presence of weapons of mass destruction and when we dismissed the atrocities of Abu Ghraib. In domestic affairs, we were we blind to the financial train wreck engineered by an administration that had gutted prior regulations to the benefit of the wealthy; too many Americans remain blind to the science behind global warming; and too many Americans have myopically bought into the conservative propaganda (present in today’s health care debate) that a strong economy demands unfettered capitalism without regulation, and a tax structure that favors the rich and disarms the middle class. No, history shows that unfettered capitalism leads to corruption and excessive greed and that government needs to have a role that regulates and guides, without stifling creativity.One would have thought that after eight years of being misled on so many fronts by the Bush administration that Americans would have learned to be more suspect of political efforts to deceive and mislead. We don’t want to encourage cynicism and mistrust of all things political, but a little critical thinking (especially of the rhetoric from the political extremes) is absolutely necessary in a healthy democracy.