can be read as a part of Ta-Ta, London. Hello, Awesome., written by Sarah Lyall, who spent 18 years in the UK as a correspondent of sorts for the New York Times.
Several paragraphs jumped out at me:
And so a country where even Conservatives are proud of the nationalized health service cannot comprehend a system that leaves tens of millions of people unable to afford basic health care. A country that all but banned guns after the slaughter of 16 small children in Scotland in 1996 cannot understand why some Americans’ response to mass shootings is to argue for more gun rights, not fewer.I will let the remarks about a functioning legislature and attitudes towards Sarah Palin pass with much commentary, except to note that a simple majority in Commons is usually sufficient to enact anything the majority wants - no real problems with either a bi-cameral set-up or the ability to block by filibuster or other delaying mechanism.
Despite the sometimes immature behavior of Britain’s legislators, they manage to enact laws without deliberately obstructing the running of the country. Britons are perplexed by the sclerotic hatred infecting so much political discourse in America. And not one Briton I ever met understood why being able to see Russia from Alaska was at one time apparently considered an acceptable foreign-policy credential for a prospective vice president.
But I want to comment on both health care and guns.
First, on health care. This disbelief about what we do in this country is not limited to the UK. Canada also has a national health care program. My wife has a number of Canadian relatives (descended from someone who went to Canada at the time of our Revolution - her mother's father was born there). She has twice helped organize extended family reunions on Prince Edward Island. One thing she noted is while some of her Canadian kin are very conservative politically, they all supported the health care system, and had trouble understanding the way we do things.
On guns - we do need to remember that the Bobbies - ordinary cops in Britain - are not armed. The ability to move as quickly as they did is because the attitude towards guns was very different. They do not have the distorted tradition we do, which in our case includes the cowboy culture, and some distorted understandings about gun ownership in colonial times.
But it is worth noting that there are cultures with stronger traditions about ownership of guns that either do not have the kinds frequent occurrences of mass shooting that we do (Canada, for example) or which have after a mass shooting moved to better control gun ownership (Australia).
We have a sense of "superiority" because we are Americans, something which at a minimum bemuses those in other nations, and sometimes angers them because of our national arrogance.
After all, if we are so superior,
- why do we have so much - and ever increasing - economic inequality?
- why do so many people lack access to health care?
- why do so many Americans die from guns?
- why have we seen unions being less influential?
- why do we not have sick pay?
- why are our vacations so short?
- why do we burden those who go on to higher education with crushing debt burdens?
Or in short, why are we so unwilling to learn from the experiences of other nations, experiences that could lead to a better life for millions of Americans?
Just a thought or so.
And tomorrow I officially report to my new school, although I was already there for parts of four days last week.