We Americans pride ourselves on our independence. I write this in the days prior to the Fourth of July, our true “Independence Day,” so it’s appropriate. But apart from barbecues, family picnics and fireworks celebrations, everyday is independence day.
Perhaps because the very foundation of our country lies in our historic action of fleeing those who sought to oppress, then fighting the ruling party to crush a system of unfair taxation.
It always comes down to money, somehow, doesn’t it?
At any rate, a huge percentage of our country was founded by brave individuals forging west, searching for space to settle, farm and stretch their arms wide. I’ve always been fascinated by the fortitude of our nation’s pioneers. Laura Ingalls Wilder probably had something to do with this.
The truth is, our pioneers could only live independently for so long. In time, they created settlements, the precursors to our modern cities, so they could live in communities and benefit from the abundance that comes from many hands working together.
We Americans like to consider ourselves islands. Individuals who live side by side, but who don’t really require each other, even in the most basic sense. We have babies, yet expect them to learn independence from birth. We guide our children to stand alone, resist peer pressure and always move upstream, even when the entire population is moving downstream. We spurn the greater good in favor of personal achievement.
As such, we have trouble understanding a philosophy that is built on the whole, instead of on the individual. We shun collectivism, boosting the lone fist high above the clasped hands. We fail to understand that other nations were built not by individuals, but by communities. Not everyone believes in the individual above all else.
And that doesn’t necessarily make it good or bad. It just is what it is.
Our recent health care reform is one example. Countries with nationalized insurance plans provide adequate care for everyone, and it seems to work moderately well. Is it a perfect situation? Probably not. But how perfect is a system that ultimately works to keep people sick for the sake of profit? How perfect is a system that only goes so far to provide wellness programs through hospitals and clinics, knowing that successful results mean substantially fewer dollars generated?
Yes, taxes are higher for people with “socialized” medicine, perhaps reducing the average person’s disposable income substantially. But a nation whose people don’t feel tied to an employer’s health care plan is potentially a nation richer in entrepreneurial spirit, where people learn that there are many ways to make a living, to earn a decent amount of money without slaving to the 9 to 5 routine.
Because how is being shackled to an employer, who can wave you off as easily as hug you tight, true independence? We fear building government that has the potential to provide each citizen with some element of coverage in times of grave illness or injury, yet cling to a system that does not necessarily promote what we prize above all else – a true spirit of independence.
Of course, nothing is ever as simple as writers like me make it seem. We have a long way to go to make our health care system right, and perhaps an even longer way to go until we, as individuals, learn to take responsibility for our own health in a way that reduces our need for lifelong medical care. Now that’s true independence.
I have faith that we can get there. If we really want to.