First, I want to comment about the latest glaring example of how in America, the greed of the few outweighs the needs of the many. I am appalled at what has happened the past few days in Standing Rock, with the expulsion of the water protectors and the arrest of those who stayed. But it’s not like we didn’t see it coming. The writing was on the wall the instant then-President Obama broke the momentum of the struggle by giving those fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline and their supporters the fleeting, ephemeral victory of a temporary halt by an easily reversible executive order.
Doing so with less than two months left in office gave cover to faint-hearted politicians both native and non-native, undercut the eagerness and zeal of all but the most hardcore of resisters, and allowed time for the crowds to dissipate to a more manageable number for his successor’s storm-troopers to clear.
All to make way for the black snake to carry fuel for out-dated technology that is destroying the planet, both by aggravating climate change and by poisoning the land with leaks and spills which are inevitable given the utter lack of interest in preserving infrastructure clearly evident in nearly every part of America. Water is life, and native lives matter.
And now to the NHS.
The following is from a leaflet introducing a new government program to citizens and residents of the UK in 1948: “Your new National Health Service begins on the 5th of July: What is it? How do you get it? It will provide you with all medical, dental, or nursing care. Everyone, rich or poor, man or woman, or child can use it or any part of it. There are no charges, except for a few special items. There are no insurance qualifications. But it is not a charity. You are paying for it, mainly as taxpayers, and it will relieve your money worries in times of illness.”
Michael Moore’s 2007 film SiCKO was my introduction to the UK’s National Health Service, and the quote I just read is from Labour Party stalwart Tony Benn reading from that leaflet. He also made several insightful comments during his segment that I’ll be covering at another time, as they point to larger issues than the one here. Among them, however, he quoted Margaret Thatcher saying that NHS was a given; that no politician in the UK would ever think of touching NHS, or the social welfare support system in general. He added that if that ever happened, there would be a revolution.
My East End-born and Oxford-trained anatomy and physiology professor at Dalton State College echoed Thatcher’s comments in a discussion we had during the 2008 U.S. election campaign, and she said that while she had been a Tory in England, if she were an American, she would probably be a Democrat. I refrained from pointing out that it was a Democrat, Bill Clinton, who had led the charge to “end welfare as we know it”, all but destroying the New Deal and handing over Medicaid to the states so that now poor people such as myself have no access to healthcare.
What I saw of NHS in the film, which also featured the systems in Canada, France, and Cuba, filled me with envy. To stay in a hospital, go to an emergency room, visit a doctor, and then just leave, with no bill to pay, no huge debt to sink into, no insurance forms to fill out, and all without having to get permission from corporate bureaucrats more concerned with profits than patients and their well-being…it was amazing. And then medicine. A prescription at the time was only £6.65, which was just $10 US. Of course, now it’s £8.40, but because of the fall in the pound due to Brexit, that still works out to about $10 US. For an American, it was like a fairy-tale.
Please, people of the UK, I’m begging you, rise up. Stand and defend the NHS before it’s gone, bankrupted into nonexistence by politicians redistributing pounds that should be spent on the welfare of your people rather than tax cuts for the wealthy and corporate welfare. Because once it’s gone, there may be no getting it back. Your health, your safety, and your freedom depend on saving it.
Go out into the streets and make yourselves heard. Deluge your MPs with phone calls, letters, emails. Campaign street to street, door to door. March, chant, scream. Hold up the American system as the example of what your life will become without NHS and declare that you deserve better. Because you do. In fact, we all do, every person on the planet. Saving the NHS can be a first step to taking back power from the market-place and putting it back into the hands of the people. Into your hands.
Fight for yourselves. Fight for your friends, family, neighbors, compatriots, and guests in your country. Fight in the name of the water protectors driven from their camps by storm-troopers serving the minions of the wealthy and powerful few. Fight for all of us. Fight for me. I won’t benefit directly, of course, but knowing your health is safe and secure will give me hope, hope that one day in American the needs of the many will finally outweigh the greed of the few.
Thig ar latha, our day will come. Keep the faith. Peace out.