On March 1st, 2012 I was off to Chicago for my first face to face Board of Directors meeting with the Coffee Party USA, an issues & advocacy base political organization. A 29 year old friendly young lady sat next to me and we immediately began talking. It turned out she was a PhD Chemical & Biological Engineering so I knew the conversation was going to be the nerdy type, being a Mechanical & Software Engineer myself. Interesting enough we spoke technical for about 5 minutes on some research she had done.
She told me she worked as a consultant for hospitals navigating healthcare reform and general efficiencies. While she was extremely knowledgeable in the mechanics of hospital operations and what needed to be done for the hospital, she had no political or social awareness to the negative effects of our current healthcare system and other safety nets. She told me she did not watch TV or read newspapers and as such knew very little about all that was occurring in our national discourse. I began talking about a healthcare system where the risk pool was all of America and why only a single payer system could manage such a risk pool without leaving a group of folks uninsured or those with pre-existing conditions or the old with ridiculously high premiums. Her answer was that because she had excellent insurance she never thought much about that but would entertain it if I could present her a paper with numbers to make the case. I have written about this ad-nauseam so I will provide her the information.
Inasmuch as her stance was that of someone who wanted information outside her immediate domain given to her as opposed to something she was willing to do minor research on is one of the reasons purveyors of false information like Fox News can be so very effective at misleading much of the country. That said, the conversation with her was great because her raw intellect made the two and half hour flight to Chicago seem like 15 minutes. At the end of the flight she teased me a bit on my idealism and I invited her to help write policy papers for the Coffee Party.
At the board meeting I used her as an example to illustrate the task we had at hand to have Americans focus on what is really important for the nation as a whole. The country is full of intellect but in general apathetic or dismissive. After an extremely intense board meeting that went for three days, two days with sessions past 1 AM, I was ready to come back to Houston and decompress. We codified the direction we were taking the Coffee Party to best engage and make a difference in our body politic not only for the election but to be a part of the solutions for systemic problems in our laws.
On the flight back I was sitting next to a 22 year old German young lady and coincidentally a Spanish man who lives in Germany. The German lady was distressed because the flight was late and she had to catch a connecting flight to Monterrey Mexico to meet her boyfriend. She was crying after the flight attendant was dismissive of her. I calmed her down (I had visions of my daughter’s first time presence in a foreign country and scared). I consoled her and checked my Motorola Xoom to note that her flight to Monterrey was late as well. Her relief was palpable. That one event changed her opinion of Americans given what she said was poor treatment throughout the different terminals in the US.
When everything calmed down she started to tell me that she was a health insurance consultant in Germany. That immediately grabbed my interest given my passion for healthcare reform. She explained the German tiered system of government/private insurance. She also could not understand how Americans could support a system that did not guarantee basic healthcare to every citizen as a right. She had a lot to say but could not find the English words so we used the Spanish man who spoke German as a conduit. She would talk to him in German, he would relay to me in Spanish. I then spoke to him in Spanish and he translated it to German to her.
The bottom line is just like the Canadians I’ve spoken to over the years; my first detail conversation with a German national revealed that she knew our healthcare system and much of US policies. She said every German irrespective of income went to the University free and thus has equal access to success. She even brought up privatization of public transportation and their post office. She said in Germany the postal service privatized & forced employees to work longer hours for the same pay as they cut services. She said when parts of the German transportation system was privatized the cleanliness and quality changed for the worse. In fact she said a European country she could not recall the name of took the transportation system out of the hand of private companies after their corner cutting infuriated the citizens. She is supposed to email that information. On a side note; we flew United Airlines. She asked me if it was a budget airline. I told her it was one of the biggest airlines in the country. I asked her why she asked and she said because of the poor service and dilapidated state of the plane. She said that it appeared like the plane that she pays twenty euros roundtrip when she flies from Germany to Spain, no frills or service.
This German young lady was not trying to compare countries. In fact she said she is coming back to the US to do a full east coast tour. We are still a country people are curious about. We are the country that has a past vision to live up to. Even a young 22 year old German who would not mind living over here for the “American Mystique” would not give up the particular humane social safety net policies of her country.
In the five hours I spent with the two very bright young ladies, one American and one German, I saw the instantiation of all that I feared. I saw a complacent and apathetic American that was virtually oblivious to the real America and the rest of the world. I then saw a very young engaged German that not only understood the changing policies good and bad of her country but also of our country. Many studies have quantified our deliberate decline into mediocrity. My 5 hours with these two ladies made it real.
|My Book: As I See It: Class Warfare The Only Resort To Right Wing Doom