Since our election in 2016, I have a very open mind as to whether the United States of America can be considered a civilized country. I saw the rise of witless fascism coming a few years ago, and now I live abroad, where I pay into a national health care system–about fifty dollars a month–and for about three years I have made no claims against that system.
The name of this country is Costa Rica. I am a legal temporary resident of Costa Rica, paying as I said into their single-payer health care system, but last week I actually made use of it and had an experience that certainly amazed me, if no one else. Normally I get around the town where I live, Esparza, on a three–wheeled adult tricycle. It is good looking and I enjoy using it to go to the store or the bank, but last week I took a foolish chance riding it in the dark. Despite the street lights, I lost control and ditched in a gutter beside the street. Gutters are deep and wide in Costa Rica to catch rain overflow, which happens.
As I called out for help, my neighbors appeared and they went into action like a trained team of first responders. One of them called an ambulance immediately, another ran for my husband, others secured the trike and my bag of groceries that was in the rear basket. Soon I was being interviewed by paramedics, who were wonderful but spoke no English. If you ever consider going to live in another country, learn the language for occasions such as this.
They drove me to the public hospital in the provincial capitol, the city of Puntarenas. There the experience really began. I was interviewed, screened, saw a doctor and then got a shot for pain plus two x-rans for my head, where there was a mark from some kind of blow, and my knee, which had an abrasion from the pavement.
After the x-rays were given to me I reported back to the emergency-room screening doctor, who read the x-rays and admonished me that I had been almost supernaturally lucky not to be seriously hurt in the accident. Then I turned in the x-rays to the front desk and I was free to leave. I went outside, waited for my husband and we went back to our house in Esparza on the free public bus–free because we are senior citizens. By now I have had a glowing black eye for several days, that forced me to stay mostly at home because I look dreadful. This disturbs me because I wonder how close I may have come to getting a handlebar in my eye, but I will never know.
So what is missing from this picture? Money, that’s what! I went through the ambulance ride and the hospital visit and paid nothing! I did not even see a cashier’s window in the emergency room, nor were there patients lined up anywhere to pay for treatment. I just went home. This is what national health care feels like.
My experience with this compassionate health-care system is exactly what the Republican-dominated Congress is fighting to deny the American people. Apparently Republicans wake up every day with the specific intention of making sure that Americans suffer and die for lack of health care and medication. Or, as Alan Grayson said, if you do get sick, please die quickly.
Well, I’ll say it once again. I live in a civilized country. I live in a country where the government serves the people, not the other way around. And I am prepared to apologize to the people of Germany, because now I have seen how fascism can get into your government by consent or as the result of apathy, or because of fake news stories and vendettas. I’m sure now that there were thousands of German people who laughed off the posturings of Adolf Hitler and predicted that his movement would blow over and come to nothing. And when they saw people disappearing and neighborhoods of Jewish Germans attacked, I know how fear crept over the country and no one dared to protest.
There are going to be initial protests against the illegitimate presidency of Donald Trump next week. The response of the authorities and that of the protestors is going to tell you what you need to know to predict the future of our nation. Is your passport up to date?