Friday, June 29, 2012

The Ignorance Epidemic

Greetings Friends,

Yesterday, my Facebook news feed was moving at light speed after word hit the great electronic void that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld President Obama's mandate that approximately 30 million uninsured Americans should be required to purchase health insurance. The 5-4 decision by the high-and-mighty judges is a major victory for Americans, but unfortunately, too many of them are too ignorant to understand why. This landmark decision puts into place one of the most important social programs in decades, and will effectively eliminate many of the bonehead insurance practices that prevent many people from obtaining health insurance (pre-existing condition, anyone?).

If you want more about the details of the decision, I suggest reading this Washington Post article and checking out some of the related links. What I find most infuriating is this amalgamation of Tweets and Facebook conversations by Americans who claim they want to move to Canada because of this decision. Reading them should have made me laugh, but instead, I had to shake my head at the abject ignorance on display by clueless people who think that moving to Canada holds the promise of a better life - at least from a health insurance perspective.

Well, here's some news, my fellow Americans: Canada has had a government-sponsored healthcare system in place for 50 years. While it is a far from perfect system, Canadians have been living with it, and for the most part, thriving. The earth hasn't opened up and swallowed anyone up, nor has Parliament spontaneously combusted during the ongoing debates about how to improve it. And here's the kicker: three men, Tommy Douglas, John Diefenbaker and Lester Pearson (the latter of the three are former Prime Ministers), each with diverse political ideas, managed to come together to create the system that is still in use today. That much cannot be said for American politicians; Democrats are celebrating the decision, while Republicans are crying in their tea over it.

To all the Tweeters who want to move to Canada, the joke is very clearly on you. There have been many knee-jerk reactions to various American policy changes by legions of political ignoramuses and the solution always seems to be, "I'm moving to Canada!" There were times when I agreed with that sentiment, but this particular trumpeting of "life is better in Canada" is at best laughable, and at worst, an indication of just how stupid some Americans really are. Yeah, the American public school curriculum doesn't teach its kids all that much about their neighbours to the north, but with all the access to technology we now have, a simple Google of "Canadian Health Care" would have made many of these moronic Tweeters refrain from posting their threats of flight. And, before any more of you start calling the United States of America the "USSA" (United Socialist States of America), I suggest doing a little more research on Canadian politics. Canada in no way resembles the old USSR, but it does have significantly more social programs in place to benefit its citizens. And that's with a conservative government in place, mind you.

The heath insurance issue will never be one that is not fraught with controversy. I applaud President Obama and the U.S. Supreme Court for taking the necessary steps to make life better for all Americans, but I soundly boo all Americans who think moving to Canada is the answer to escaping these so-called socialist policies. Do your homework, people; reading about your ignorance is giving me a headache. And before you go shooting bullets in my direction, I have an Ontario Health Insurance Plan card in my wallet, and I am a citizen of both countries.

Have a great weekend, a happy Canada Day, and God save the Queen.


Friday, June 15, 2012

All Happy Families Are a Load of Crap

Greetings Friends,

Anyone who has slogged their way through Tolstoy's Anna Karenina is familiar with the line, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Anyone who is of my generation and grew up watching "The Brady Bunch," "Leave It to Beaver," "Father Knows Best," and the rest of those happy-go-lucky family shows, and wished they had June Cleaver or Carol Brady for a mother, knows exactly what I'm talking about. Once the masses tired of the Carol Brady/June Cleaver unattainably perfect mom hooey, we were given shows like "Eight is Enough," "Family," and my personal favourite, "Dallas," to sink our teeth into. I bring this up because the re-boot of "Dallas" premiered this past Wednesday, and at first glance, Larry Hagman's J.R. Ewing has lost not a lick of his implacable cruelty, which is comforting in a sense, but deeply disturbing in other ways.

When I was younger, I had many illusions about the sanctity of the family. My own was a pretty frightening amalgamation of deeply flawed characters who were always hell-bent on tweaking one another utilizing the most vindictive forms of behaviour even the most talented fiction writers would have trouble conjuring. As I aged, I attempted to bury the abject dysfunction of my own lot in favour of observing the dysfunction of others. I loved playing voyeur and watching other families rip themselves to pieces at a distance. The ones I was privy to made me feel better about my own; I took comfort in knowing that I wasn't the only person who grew up in a loony bin. I was still on the lookout for that seemingly perfect, supportive, unconditionally loving group of people that would tolerate just about anything. If they're out there, I still haven't found them. If you happen to know who they are, please let me know so I can halt my ongoing search.

The resurrection of "Dallas" is proof to me that despite the attrition of the generations, there are certain patterns of behaviour instilled in every family that are about as hard to eradicate as fleas, lice and termites. They are passed down genetically as well as learned, and no amount of outside influence can disabuse these individuals of their destiny. Yes, they are actors re-creating iconic television roles, but they are also depicted as having adapted to the changes that have taken place over the decades. That holds true for fictional families as well as real ones, in particular my own, since none of the deeply flawed characters who are at this moment still drawing breath, seem to have learned anything from their personal histories. And, as with re-booted television series, new characters have been added that deepen the intrigue, and add to the lunacy.

Watching the first episode of the new "Dallas" brought on an epiphany that made me feel both lighter and unbearably sad. Lighter in the sense that life does indeed go on, but sad because those who were once malevolent and vindictive will always continue to be so. Even if they can manage to convince the world that their facade of decency and altruism is genuine, those who have the misfortune of knowing another side of these individuals will always be privy to the truth. What you do with that knowledge has everything to do with shaping the person you were, the person you are, and the person you want to become. You can either wallow in destiny, or you can take the necessary steps to distance yourself from it. Do you want to be a victim of nature, or do you want to nurture yourself beyond that to which you were born? The choice is yours; and it is one many of us struggle with.

I hope those of you who are members of similar familial loony bins have taken comfort in these words. As for those of you who come from a mythical, perfect family, please identify yourselves. I'd so love to be disabused of my cynicism.

Have a wonderful weekend.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Sacred Canadian Right to Bitch

Greetings Friends,

As both an American and Canadian citizen, I feel I am uniquely qualified to debunk some of the myths Canadians believe about Americans and Americans believe about Canadians. I have been traveling across the "great undefended border" all my life, and have been living in Canada full-time for the past three years. I can say with complete honesty that neither country has life all figured out; in fact, they both have a lot to learn about what makes them so different from one another. Mud slinging, name calling, and righteous indignation solve nothing. Ignorance seems to trump all, even from the Canadian media, which I always thought was a tad more credible than its American counterpart. Boy was I wrong.

This morning, while perusing and sipping my milked and sugared mug of tea, I came across an astounding load of bitch-crap, courtesy of one of those supposedly credible Canadian journalists I used to somewhat admire. CBC's Senior Washington Correspondent, Neil Macdonald, penned a "thank you Captain Obvious" editorial titled The sacred American right to overeat. Gee Neil, had you not enlightened us to the fact that millions of Americans suffer from obesity and related ailments, I would have thought all these specimens with "[b]ellies hanging down over belts, rolls of neck fat, faces so bloated they’re losing their original appearance, huge rear ends and breasts (on men as well as women), curtains of fat hanging off the undersides of arms, and thick, heavily veined legs muscular from years of hauling around all that extra tonnage," were dropped from alien crafts to live among us and Hoover up all our natural resources. How nice of you to enlighten us Canadians to the fact that it is a "sacred right" we Americans have to indulge in endless gluttony whilst expecting our brethren to pick up the tab for our excesses. And there are no obese Canadians roaming the land mass north of the 49th parallel consuming "over-processed, high-sugar, ultimately toxic food?"

As you can see, I am pretty steamed by Mr. Macdonald's choice of topic. While I used to think he did a somewhat decent job of communicating the ins-and-outs of American politics to Canadians from his perch inside the Beltway, he has now lost all credibility with me. Not only did he choose a topic that is one of the hottest of hot buttons in American culture, he forgot to acknowledge that his fellow Canadians suffer from the same penchant to overindulge and all that goes with it. But since it has become de rigueur to poke fun at Americans for practically any reason, Neil decided that to kick us while we're down was something he could do to fill up his downtime before the Romney vs. Obama heavyweight bout gets underway.

Don't get me wrong; Americans deserve to be made fun of; so do Canadians for that matter. Unfortunately, the world listens when Americans are made the butts of countless jokes. Fortunately for Canadians, you can joke about us from now until the Rapture and the world will not bat a collective eyelash. Why? Because on the world stage, Canada is an inconsequential nation that rides on the blubbery coattails of the very fat United States. Much as Canadians claim to love and and admire Americans, the fact is they are pea-green with envy. They are so jealous of Americans they can barely see straight. Personally, I don't feel Canadians have much to be jealous of, but to attempt to disseminate that opinion would result in some jiggly belly-laughing by the majority of the population. Canadians have their own mountains of dirty little secrets the world has no clue about. We have our share of obese citizens inflicting themselves on the government sponsored healthcare system, due to the same gluttonous tendencies Americans possess. The difference is, nobody cares. The spotlight of the world has always been on America, with Canada glowering in the background like a group of homely girls who can't get dates for the prom. The rest of the world may believe that Canadians are a group of nice, polite do-gooders, but the truth is, they're sometimes mean-spirited and jealous as hell of the United States. And that's not very neighbourly.

Macdonald closes out his editorial by stating, "[W]ere I an American, I'd rather not help pay for Rush Limbaugh's bypass surgery, once he qualifies for Medicare." Guess what Neil? The tax dollars you pay to the Canadian government are footing the bill four countless bypass surgeries for your fellow citizens. Worry about them, not some blowhard right-wing American pundit who is the reason why you have a job.