Standing at Land’s End, the westernmost tip of England, and looking at the Atlantic Ocean, I knew that America was somewhere – outside the gray horizon and heavy rain. Apart from the cold and watery gulf that separates us, we are not “Two nations divided by the same language,” according to quotes often thought to be from George Bernard Shaw, but two countries ruled by populist leaders who have more in common than that might divide us.
From my living room, and with a copy of a liberal newspaper in my hand, the repeated images painted by President Donald Trump are not entirely flattering. He was presented as an intellectually challenged leader who, for all January, February and much of March, refused to agree to the reality of the coronavirus pandemic and took several steps to reduce its potential impact.
On the other side of this pool, Prime Minister Boris Johnson reflected his blonde cousin and American nationality, even taking a two-week vacation in February when the reality of a pandemic storm began to form and present an existential threat. to England and the world.
Prime Minister Johnson escaped some level of criticism right when he succumbed to the corona virus himself and was hospitalized with subsequent suggestions that his life had hung in balance. Furthermore, and within a few days after being discharged from the hospital, his fiancé (like Donald Trump, Boris was a serial polygamy and had not yet established how many children he had actually been a father during various marriages and infidelities) giving birth to their first child and the tabloids were spent with photos and narrations of other junior Johnson.
But here in the United Kingdom, a mitigating factor protecting Prime Minister Johnson and his colleagues from a truly incompetent aide is the presence of the NHS (National Health Service). Indeed, when the 75th anniversary of VE Day was celebrated in May, we were reminded that one of, if not the most valued institution that emerged after the great fire that occurred was World War II. Despite being poorly managed by our political leadership, and chronically underfunded, the NHS has been recognized as a gem in our national landscape. This is part of the “better normal” that emerged from the Second World War.
However, it is an expression coined during the First World War (to describe the relationship between infantry and generals) of the “lion led by donkey” that best describes the contemporary views of the gallant NHS and their incompetent political rulers.
Thursday night saw people gathering outside their homes to clap and clap for their NHS heroes – a feature covered on various television channels. Rainbow pictures adorning windows on the ground pay homage to the role of the NHS, and even the elusive Banksy (an anonymous street artist) has donated a picture praising health care workers to NHS hospitals in the southern city of Southampton that may be worth more than $ 1 million. Tom Moore, a hundred years old, a World War II veteran known as “Captain Tom,” recently appointed nearly $ 40 million for the NHS by walking around his garden.
These examples attest to the fact that HNS is seen in Britain as the closest thing we have to national religion. “Obamacare” is sometimes touted as the American equivalent but, as Linacre Quarterly (a peer-reviewed journal from the Catholic Medical Association) observed, the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act denies universal access to care that might be needed.
“Many Americans do not have better insurance coverage; and many face increased medical expenses, premiums, and deductibles. Millions of people remain uninsured. Immigrants do not have access to basic health care. … Many working families cannot afford pay for a deductible plan that they have to buy. “Donald Condit wrote in the Linacre article, “Catholic Social Teaching: Precepts for health reform” in 2016.
The loss more than 33 million American jobs the seven weeks covered by the coronavirus pandemic meant that many former employees and their families lost not only income but also health insurance that came with the job. This can only add to the fear, anxiety and uncertainty that comes with sudden unemployment.
The fact that we will never be considered poor because medical bills are given here in the UK and throughout Europe. More than a year ago I celebrated my 60th birthday and proudly boasted, at a dinner party hosted by friends, that I had never experienced an underlying health condition. My words haunt me again and the last 12 months have seen me diagnosed with hypertension, possible prostate cancer, and chronic cataracts in both eyes. My doctor has prescribed me medicine to reduce my blood pressure, invasive surgery to explore the potential for cancer, which proves that I am fortunately free of disease, and procedures to have an artificial lens implanted in my right eye (left must wait until the age of coronavirus passes and surgery electives that are not urgent can be continued). And how much is it? There is no.
If I succumb to coronavirus I will be hospitalized and receive the exact same treatment given to Prime Minister Johnson – who is also treated at the HNS hospital (St. Thomas’, just across the River Thames from the British Parliament). Once again, I don’t need to pay anything.
As a university lecturer I worried that my job would be lost if students did not return to campus in September. I worry that my daughter might not be able to go back to school in the near future. But I was never afraid that I might not receive the best and most appropriate treatment was that I was a victim of COVID-19 or that such treatment made me reduced to penury.
This treatment is a reflection of Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations in 1948 that “Everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and social services as needed. “This declaration was made in the same year as the National Health Service Government Minister Aneurin Bevan was first opened.
Pope Francis himself confirmed it was only a few years ago that “health is not a consumer good but a universal right, so access to health services cannot be a privilege.” He went on to note that for too many people, health care “is not a right for all, but it is still a privilege for some, for those who can afford it.”
Such sentiments did not always make Francis loved by senior church people, including some in America, who saw papal teachings as strongly influenced by what was termed a “Marxist inspired” liberation theology which emerged in South America after the Vatican Council Second.
The impression given to us in Britain is that America considers such concern as a manifestation of “socialism” (euphemism for “communism” :). This is bullshit. Can you imagine what it would be like for every American to feel confident that he would receive first-class treatment for any medical condition without the threat of bankruptcy? Private health care is available here in the UK and can allow the prospect of shorter waiting times for normal elective procedures. However, if something goes wrong, the patient is immediately transferred to the NHS hospital where all emergency procedures are available.
Many Americans who reject universal health care advice are now inadvertently becoming recipients of income or unemployment benefits – certainly an example of a “socialist” safety net that they should reject and ignore. Whether it ensures that a fellow citizen does not die because he cannot afford insulin to treat his diabetes or support the family not to be driven out of their homes due to loss of work – this is a manifestation of the Christian community, a response to Jesus’ Command to “Love your neighbor.”
However, when the locking continues and the days and weeks pass a little to distinguish one from the other, the frequently asked question is “When will things return to normal?” But instead of looking back to the state of “halcyon” a few days before the coronavirus, voices began to articulate hopes for a better “normal”.
Of course, for many of my friends in America (and I spent more than a year there studying in Chicago and having visited many times since then) the prospect of universal health care inspired by Christians might be part of the normal “normal” that arises from this pandemic.
[Mark Faulkner is a university lecturer in London, England, where his specialist subject (other than a keen interest in promoting and applauding the work of the NHS) is the indigenous religions of Africa.]
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