Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Point of Pride

What a show at the Opening Ceremonies for the Adult XXX Summer Olympic Games in London this week!  (Every time I see that “XXX Summer Games” on the channel guide I brace myself for some full contact beach volleyball in glorious hi-def, and inevitably I end up disappointed).  It was going to be impossible to outdo the 100,000 Chinese who performed in the Rite of Global Intimidation opening of the Beijing Games 4 years ago, but those plucky Brits gave it a try as only a former world superpower could. 
It was a celebration of everything the British love and cherish about their nation.  They pulled out all the stops.  National treasure and serial groom Paul McCartney performed some of his most famous hits from his blue period before he formed Wings.  J.K. Rowlings read from a book that was probably Harry Potter but I’m not really sure.  Mary Poppins and the Queen fell from the sky voluntarily.  They devoted a significant portion of the program to two parts of English culture that they know and love, Mr. Bean and the National Health Service.

WHAT?!!??  Mr. Bean is beloved.  That we understand.  But the NHS?

Americans with a world view that reaches from the ends of the living couch to the shores of the email chain letter in their inbox from crazy Uncle Glenn must have been shocked.  Why would the host nation take time to highlight to the world a health care system that from everything we’ve been fed is an abject failure?  Where were the Dancing Death Panel Judges?  There is only one logical answer to why the Opening Ceremonies showcased Great Britain’s national health care system.  The participants in that system disagree with the American characterization of that system.

The Olympics opens our eyes to different cultures, different sporting events, and different ways to politicize what should be a non-political celebration of the human spirit.  In this case, the Brits were not rubbing their health care system in Antonin Scalia’s face in order to score cheap points.  The host nation obviously believes that one of the defining characteristics that makes it a great place to live is its commitment to national health care.  The program was founded in the aftermath of World War II, right after that country fought back against the fascists.  Sometimes in the face of unimaginable losses you can see clearly what is important.  The Brits believed that providing health care to everyone was important, and they are proud of that.

The point is not to advocate for a copycat of the British system, or to suggest that the British system is without flaws.  Have you seen the dental work over there?  The English have one system.  There are others, and all work in slightly different ways, leveraging the free market in slightly different ways.    The German system is employer based.  The Japanese system has fierce competition between private providers.  The point is that perhaps the British system isn’t as evil, isn’t as hated, isn’t as much of a failure, as we have been led to believe.  Maybe instead of demonizing their system we could learn from it and improve upon it.

The richest nation is history can insure all of its citizens.  Maybe someday, our health care delivery system will earn a 5 minute dance routine during the Opening Ceremonies of some future Olympic Games.  Can you imagine being that proud?     

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