Opinion Column


Our neighbours in the land of ... the free?

By Grahame Woods, Northumberland Today

It's interesting, living beside neighbours who, outwardly, present as being very successful and progressive - but have certain unexplained peculiarities that, being polite, one turns a blind eye to, smiles and says 'Good morning. Beautiful day, isn't it?', when in fact there are rain clouds hovering on the horizon. Much like our neighbours to the south, the United States, a country that last week mourned the deaths of eight people killed by a terrorist in New York city who deliberately drove a van into unsuspecting pedestrians.

Immediately, television news programs switched into 'breaking news' mode and, for that day and the rest of the week, devoted most of their airtime to that tragic event. But, in the same time period, 250 American citizens died by gunshot and it was, ho-hum, totally ignored. It takes an event like the October mass shooting in Las Vegas, that killed 59 people and injured 441, to really get the attention of the nation but, sadly, its attention span is fleeting. In 2015 there were over 33,500 firearm deaths in the USA - or, reduced to more identifiable numbers, 92 per day. 92! - 60% of which were suicides. Week after week. And nary a mention. But the right of Americans to bear arms trumps (no pun intended) any strict form of gun control.

What is hard to digest is that these statistics don't seem to phase the American population. 92 people killed each day is the price they pay for the freedom to carry a gun. This is the nation that landed a man on the moon, sends scientific vehicles into the far reaches of space, rescued the UK from the World War II, invented the light bulb and yet ... and yet over 30 million Americans have no health insurance - and those that do pay exorbitant premiums and not all costs are covered. That light bulb never seems to light up to show them there is a better way such as, dare I say it - such as we have in Canada? The average cost in the States of an angiogram to detect blood flow to the heart and locate blockages is $9,000. The average cost of any subsequent bypass surgery is $117,000. Oh, and that doesn't include the doctor's fee. Needless to say, that's all in US funds. So much for the land of the free. What is it they don't get?

Many years ago, following a heart attack, I was hospitalized both here in Cobourg and Kingston for around 24 days, which included an ambulance rides to Peterborough for an angiogram and later to Kingston for bypass surgery. When I was discharged I was presented with a bill from Kingston General. $8.50 for long distance phone calls. $8.50!! More recently, two separate cataract surgeries at Northumberland Hills Hospital cost, oh, 75 cents over and above my OHIP premium for gas to take me there and back.

The arrival of Donald Trump, a rich, ignorant, bigoted, bumbling fool, as President of the United States has been the equivalent of ripping a scab off a festering sore exposing a conflicted, racist nation whose attitudes haven't changed appreciably since the first settlers; a nation very much of haves and have-nots, still referred to as the most powerful nation on earth, though I think China and Russia might challenge that. As a write this, there are protests across the United States intent on forcing Trump out of office. I suspect it will happen before his term is up. In the meantime, savour what we have here. I mean, is there any other place you'd rather be?

A chilling footnote: At the very moment I was writing this column last Sunday morning, 26 people were shot to death in a church in Texas.

Grahame Woods can be reached at ggwoods@sympatico.ca