Friday, October 8, 2010

Leaving the land of plenty

"It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver."
~ Mahatma Gandhi

Have you ever thought about what it really means to have your health? How many times have you felt badly for some reason or another, and only after the malaise had passed could you appreciate what it meant to feel well? How that malaise, no matter how slight, had seeped into every part of your life, and how it had nearly transformed you into another person, a person with a different set of footprints on this world. Maybe it transformed you into a sick person, a gray cast over your glow, or maybe it transformed you into any angry person, envious and loathing the seemingly healthy people walking past you in the supermarket. Maybe it transformed you into a weak person, when you once believed you were so strong. Or maybe it opened your eyes to the light of the world, making you finally see truths that weren't so apparent before this thing took you over, making everything look more stark and simple, making priorities and decisions look strangely obvious to you now.

I sorely underestimated the effects of returning to America after so many, many years abroad. Just as I had no idea what I would miss when I left my homeland so long ago, I was just as clueless about what I would soon miss when I returned. I was as naive at 20 as I was 40. I was ingenuous and adventurous as always. I do not regret my choices. I do not look back and wish to change anything. I actually feel lucky in my underestimations, which have always given my license to dive into life head first. Some of the biggest decisions I have made in my life... getting married, having children, moving around the globe... were made in the spirit of knowing that things would always work out in the end. I'm still sure they will. They always will.

I have been walking in the shoes of sickness for several months now. I have been biding my time, praying to no one, and am almost to the finish line. I will be leaving in three weeks to have surgery in Italy, a place that I often scorned just before leaving for its frivolity and chaos, and which I now know has its scatterbrained, luscious, extravagant roots entwined in a deep set core belief in humanity. This value is something I took for granted when I was living in its midst, and now long for it to my very marrow as I am living in a place that lacks it, this so-called land of plenty.

I believe America will never reach the greatness it aspired to at its founding until it provides health care to its people. It will rot from within from its own neglect, it will become more and more polarized with the haves on one side of the fence and the have nots on the other, the haves being those who have access to health care, and the have nots being those who do not. Because the truth of the matter is, no matter how much money or passion or love you have in your life, if you do not have your health you essentially have nothing. Why America cultivates a population of have nots on the margins of its aspirations to form a more perfect union is unfathomable to me. It is just as unfathomable to me that I am living amongst so many people who believe this is acceptable. If a human being does not have a right to health, all other rights are moot. At least that's how it looks from this side of the fence.

And so I now see my life on a different trajectory. I will be leaving this land of inhumanity, of neglect, war, ignorance and blindness for good in the future. I will miss the majestic mountains and wildlife. I will miss the open space and night sky. I will sorely miss my American family, some of whom are probably reading this now and tearing up along with me. This is the America that we have all created together, an America that has slowly sapped the life blood right out of me trying to find a way to make it work. This is the apparent land of plenty of our fore fathers, where all men are created equal.

I'm leaving the land of plenty.


Addendum: I do not want to be mysterious here... I have severe gall bladder disease. I need to have it removed.


Vicky Cook said...

I am an Australian resident in the US. I am horrified at the way Americans have rejected socialised medicine. To me it is a basic human right. Why should my right to access medical care be dependent on the lottery of birth, having a family who can afford to pay the outrageous premiums.

What are people really scared of in the US? Is it really the fear of what will happen to premiums or is it they think they may have to wait in line behind someone with an inferior household income? I think it is easy to say you don't want socialised medicine when you are fortunate enough to have your coverage provided by an employer.

Good luck with your operation.

Betsy said...

I so get this! It's just one of the many reasons I prefer to live here in Europe, yet few people I explain it to can or want to understand this.

Good luck with your operation! If you've been having trouble for so long it will probably be a big relief to have your gall bladder taken out and to finally be able to return to your normal, healthy self!

Sending positive vibes your way!

G in Berlin said...

I hope you are feeling better now and that the operation has successfully and easily been past.
I think Americans are in the grip of evil commercial interests, that the media is corrupt and feeds vileness to them and that Americans, when asked correctly, have shown over and over again that they want people to have medical care regardless of income level. But when that question is asked in a certain way, perhaps using the term "socialism", they are negative: this is a result of ingrained fears (made so through the vile media and the ineffectiveness of the non-vile) and I find it very sad that the government doesn't protect the people from lies and falsehoods.

Jennifer said...

Until this post I thought you'd be coming only for the surgery, but now you've got me wondering: are you moving back for good?

Nothing is perfect. There are some things about Italy that I find perfectly detestable, but after ten years the good parts outweigh the bad. I was a little miffed when you wrote about such an ugly Italy right before you left. She's not perfect, but I love her anyway.

The same, though, can be said for the United States, although as time goes by and my distance grows, I see the "positivity" the country seems to rinse everything in. If most Americans don't want universal health care, I think their stance has more to do with the media force of corporate America than the kind of people they are. Fearmongering works, unfortunately. And the current system is far too profitable for too many people despite failing many more.

That said, the system here is far from perfect. There are many interests. There are tons of doctors/dirigenti who have no business holding the positions they hold. Again, the patient's interests are often last in line.

I hope you get the care you need here. It makes me proud that I live in a country that will help you. I was sorry to read that you were sick and I will be hoping for a quick recovery.