As a teenager I lived with my family near London, England, for two years. This was in 1954 and ‘55 — 10 years after the end of World War II. I remember seeing whole acres of London which were flat planes where bombed out structures had been cleared away but not yet replaced. Meat and coal were rationed and paper was in very short supply.
All around us I could see clear evidence of the massive cooperation the British gave the war effort and the recovery effort that was still in progress. The iron area-way gates were cut off at ground level everywhere to provide raw material to build airplanes and the like when England could not get raw materials. I noticed flowers growing in the mounded dirt around a cleared bomb site and learned the next day that they had been planted by a postal delivery man “to brighten things up a bit.”
During my first year in England I accidentally gave myself a very large third-degree burn on my thigh. I was taken to a local hospital and treated almost upon arrival there. I had to return to the hospital about every other day for dressing changes for several weeks. Although we were not citizens of Great Britain, we were not charged a penny for all of this care. Eventually my burn healed up without a scar. My family received other free health care while we were there.
I am writing about this now to illustrate that even if the United States were as devastated as England was then, we too could prevail and recover and provide decent health care for all of our citizens and visitors. Right now, too often we are given substandard and exorbitantly costly medical service. Small wonder increasingly fewer people here will even consider getting medical help in a timely manner. Nationally, our health-care system ranks lower than some systems in third-world countries. Without reform our standard of living will continue to deteriorate.
This is not necessary. If we pull together and cooperate now we can achieve much better circumstances in general. But if we continue to polarize along political and corporate lines, we can fall into a chaos comparable to that in Colombia — torn apart by factions. We have so much to do now, faced with economic and natural crises, drug resistant diseases, rapid and virulent virus mutations, our own crumbling medical and education systems, increased importation, use and manufacture of illegal drugs, and so on.
How can we even consider taking pride in our country if short-sighted commercial and political interests keep playing “divide and conquer” and manipulate us using fear? One place to start cooperating is to work toward passage of effective health-care laws. If we work together, we can do it.
Mary E. Mayo