Some of the posts on flteach are addressing the movie Sicko because it deals with the health care system in countries like Canada, France and Cuba, countries foreign language teachers teach about.

At several points in the movie, Michael Moore makes the point that people in countries that have universal health care coverage “care about each other”. He also makes the point that Americans are very generous toward each other. What gets left out is that our society has always been fractured and we are afraid that our money might go to help someone in one of the “undeserving” fragments.

I’ll never forget the time a 16 year old kid stood up in class, he was so excercized, and shouted, “I don’t want my tax dollars sending some Black kid to college.” I doubt he was even working, but the feeling among his segment of the population was so strong he was merely echoing what he heard around him.

This is why we won’t cover everyone; we can be very generous to people we think are “deserving”, but we have some deeply ingrained notions about who those people are, what they look like, how they talk, etc. Hurricane Katrina revealed this to the world or, as my wife said, the U.S. showed its ass to the world.

It isn’t that countries like France and Britain and Cuba don’t have social divisions; it’s that they either aren’t deep enough or they are too recent to have affected the sense of being one people. Americans don’t think of themselves as one people.

Last night, my wife and I drove just a couple, and I mean a couple, of miles up the freeway to see Sicko. We got out of the car and walked into the theater. As she was buying popcorn, I said to her, “You know, I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of this.” And as I went on to mention the treatment we were getting, she chimed in with, “Yeah, I wasn’t going to say anything, but it’s really blatant.”.

What makes this esp strange, is that in our area of South Chandler, still considered East Valley (Valley of the Sun = Phoenix metropolitan area), we are very comfortable. Also, even in places where my wife is the only Black person, most people are perfectly friendly. But just a few miles further east, it all changes. My granddaughter’s school has a very mixed population. She is listed as “other” by my daughter-in-law, although most people would assign her to the category “White”. There is a huge amount of that in South Chandler but not in the further East Valley. Interesting.

Now a great many White people will try to assure me that I am imagining things. My wife and I check each other out on such perceptions. We also talk to other people. The best source is the students in our classes; they feel free to talk about what they hear at home. Some are accepting of it, others reject it, but it is racism. We will not solve this because most White people simply will not discuss it. “We don’t see color.”

I have been reading Roy Brooks, (Harvard U. Press) for some time now b/c he advocates for Blacks establishing their own infrastructure. Despite all the undeniable changes for the better, I still see that as the best path. Conservatives do not like scholars b/c they use evidence to disestablish the mythology that conservatives depend on. I remember my step-father trying to convince me that Blacks had the same quality schools as Whites in 1950s Alabama. An academic who publishes data refuting that is destroying the edifice built up to protect the status quo.

So we must pretend that anyone who lacks health care is either undeserving of it, like AIDS patients, or must have done something wrong like not work hard enough. After all, if we give health care to anyone, where are the rewards for hard work and the punishment for sloth? Isn’t it better for a child of a single mother to pay for its mother sins of sloth and sexual license and improvidence by going without medicine than to reward such behavior by making sure mother and child have health care? Katrina, Michael Moore… anyone or anything that disputes the Standard Myth gets attacked. Even CNN claimed MM had falsehoods in his movie…. until he forced them to admit he had told the truth.

But we overcame our national myth in the 60s and we can do it again. Let’s hope.

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