Trump in Aisle 10

Shortcut > Happy belated 4th of July – May this again be our land.. “Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed. Let it be that great strong land of love. Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme. That any man be crushed by one above.” – Langston Hughes

July 4th, 2017

I’m always fascinated at the number of strangers that reach out to me when I travel. I suppose the accent as an American invites curiosity… or contempt… or just sheer confusion these days. In 2001, it had me welcomed with hugs and thank-you’s from Moroccans while I traveled, but that was a different time. People seem to genuinely be asking what the American people are doing. Within the first week back in New Zealand the issue of Trump has come up on numerous occasions often leaving me questioning things I was trying to become ‘okay’ with. Last year, we were here pre-election and people insisted that Americans would NEVER elect him and laughed. See the first post for a little background.

On this 4th of July weekend at home, many of my US readers (ahem those 2 family members and 1 friend 😉 are celebrating with fireworks and parades as well as donning the red white and blue. Here, not to be mentioned, but from afar, I’m observing. I’m keenly observing what is transpiring back home. I’m also watching what is reported both on NZ news as well as Al Jazeera and the outlets during my 10 minute moments between kid napping and feedings and work.

On my first grocery trip to New World, in the town about 45Km away in Whanganui, a nice woman, about my parents age (baby boomer), noticed my accent in Aisle 10. She proceeded to ask where I was from and was happy to share she had a son in Kentucky. This son she missed dearly, but he married an American girl. The woman asked me sincerely ‘What is happening there? What do you do about health care?’.  We probably chatted for about 10 minutes (a long time in grocery store time) as I filled her in on my roots in the Midwest and, yes, people there did actually vote for the guy, Trump that is. At this, she was aghast almost as if she thought I’d say no one actually voted for him and the entire percentages for him were a hack job…oh, so much to digress on here, but keep focus Lanah.

When she asked what do we do about health care, this knocked me back, again, as I hadn’t worried about our health care for… oh, a week. The health care hits home with me for a variety of reasons not least of which is being a dual self-employed family, a ‘so-called’ American concept of pre-existing condition, two children and having worked on access to health care for kids and rural Coloradans for the first decade of my career. I explained costs and that if you didn’t qualify for a federal or state program, you often spend $10,000 out of pocket even WITH insurance best case – again, aghast as here in New Zealand health care is free and universal.

Free and universal you say? A public base with private upgrade option?

Wow, so like the US and free? No, it isn’t fancy, nor is it ‘sexy’ here – don’t look for a flat screen here in a hospital but you also don’t have to look for a bill. When I had a very serious life threatening required surgery here nearly 10 years ago, I had a shared ward with other patients. I didn’t have a flat screen TV, but I had timely and good care without ANY stress or bill. Can you even imagine just being able to focus on your and your loved ones well-being and health? I’ll never forget my first experience with the health system in circa 2005 during my initial trip here when I got a huge gash on my ankle. Everyone insisted I go to the ER. I said no, no as I was just backpacking for a few months (well, ended up consulting but longer story) and was on a tight budget. Everyone looked at me blankly until my kiwi friends said ‘she’s American’ and everyone said ‘Oh…’ while sitting totally confused why a bleeding young woman would refuse health care. The ambulance came, I was whisked away and taken care of. No issue, thanks to ACC (Accident Compensation Corporation) – another post could be on this great system covering any accidents. The other instance was presenting in ER while living a while in NZ and having severe stomach pain. No one around me was sitting terrified if they’d be kicked out, shoved on, or in medical bankruptcy for getting care. I think there is some serious research possible in terms of how health outcomes could be improved if we REMOVED the STRESS from simply getting care due to the insane costs. Health care bills still biggest reason for medical bankruptcy. Sorry, back to it…

What about insane taxes? And, no, the taxes aren’t as shocking as any opponent of universal care may tell you, to be honest, give me higher taxes and make sure we all are well. It saves money for all of us in the long run and is the humane (fill in blank here with your religion) right thing to do. I digress…again.

For a country that sees health care as a human right, it is really hard for people here, and around the world, to understand the debate the US Continues to have on this, and the costs people have to make, as well as subsequent choices – Do I start my own company? Do I have a baby? Can I pay my mortgage or my health care bill?

We chatted for a while and she ended the conversation noting that she hopes they choose to return here in light of the ‘situation’ in the USA. Think about this. People are WORRIED about people in America, they pity us in many ways. When people ask if we are returning and raising our kids in the US they seem so worried as every day there is some drama of Trump, some threat to democracy, some shooting, some health care battle or some viral video of kids doing shooter drills as pre-schoolers – yes, this comes up often here. And, it isn’t their imagination that the US is become ‘less peaceful’ if you see the latest Global Peace Index 2017 from a great site called www.visionofhumanity.org. The lady in Aisle 10 wished us luck and asked would we be returning to the US? 

This is the tip of the iceberg, but again, in the first week these experiences remind me that I am in a different country. A different country with different systems in place. I’m old enough and have seen enough places in the world to know that NO place is perfect. That said, after living here 5 years over a decade ago and 6 months last year and at least another 6 months the year, I will vote for a universal plan any day as long as the ‘basic’ package is comprehensive and those who seek more, or flat screen tv’s, can upgrade – here, you can purchase private insurance if you so choose. No, New Zealand doesn’t have the most technologically advanced surgery suite for advanced cancer, but for 95% of care needed, it is a great system at less than half of what we are sending here. According to OECD per capita public and private health expenditures combined in The United States are $8,895.10 USD while New Zealand spends $3,291.80 USD. And, this is a fun little page to compare variables by country noting the data needs to be taken into context with details read – http://www.ifitweremyhome.com/compare/NZ/US.

Now, did you mention free early childhood education for all children 3-5 years old? What? Oh, yes you did. More to come on that one.

Oh, and happy Independence Day – may we someday again, I pray soon, be the beacon of light, beacon of hope and opportunity for all we once were. I have said this often but I want to be truly PROUD of MY AMERICA again. I traveled 25 countries most of them beaming with pride and receiving hugs and thank-you’s from people… and later making apologies and giving hugs to the Iraqi man I met in Oman and others when they heard my accent. May I be able to travel with my kids and not want to hide my American passport in fear of it making us at risk. May we be a country that welcomes those in need and sees, that in doing so, we are being human and also working for long term national security. May this quote, from the great (and succinct) CTZNWELL newsletter,  be a reminder from Langston Hughes:

“Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed. Let it be that great strong land of love. Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme. That any man be crushed by one above.” 

Peace.

Stay tuned for more from Lanah. A social impact consultant, world traveler, yoga teacher, writer, speaker and now mom of two littles exploring the world. Putting her Master’s of International Relations thesis on Cosmotourism and the power of travel to connect each of us to the test on a daily basis…a little less roaming the 25 countries pre-kids, but some adventures await us from the Midwest to New Zealand and beyond.

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