Thursday, April 1, 2010

Still Not Quite on the Same Page

The other night, at band practice, the members of Bill's band were very excited to see him. They wanted to celebrate with him the passage of Universal Health Care for All Americans. They were pleased that we Americans would finally enjoy some of the security on which their nation's people rely.

"Well, I don't think it's quite as simple as that," Bill had to tell them. "It's not that the government will provide pubic universal health care -- like they do here and in pretty much every other industrialized nation on earth. Instead, it's a series of gradual reforms that will require people to sign up for insurance, and will provide it at a low cost or free of charge to people who can't afford it."

"Huh?" they said. "So it's like those parts of Europe without a single-payer plan?"

"Well, not really. It's more just requiring health insurance. For almost everybody."

The room fell silent, and looks of pity crossed a few faces.

Bill tried to recover their enthusiasm, "I know. It's a step, though."

He thought again, "Of course, most of it doesn't really take effect until about four years from now."

"Oh," they said, crestfallen. They looked truly pained for him. There was a long silence, until the tuba player broke in:

"But you must be pleased about Obama's activities tonight!"

Once again, Bill was in the dark. Were they, for some reason, pleased to have heard about the White House Seder? This seemed unlikely, given the French affection for the separation of Church and State, and their somewhat vexed feelings about religions other than secular expressions of Catholicism.

"Um, which ones?" he said, trying to play it cool.

"But you must know how he is spending his evening!" they insisted. "Don't you read the papers? Don't you watch the American news on your computer?"

Bill had to admit that no, these sources had not revealed anything particularly revealing about Barack Obama today.

"But he is dining tonight with Nicholas Sarkozy and Carla Brunei! In his own home, in the private apartments. Our ruler is the first head of state to be honored thus.

"Last June, when he snubbed the French president's invitation to dine with him, we were all deeply offended. He elected to take his wife to a restaurant in Paris instead. A restaurant! Can you imagine? When he had been invited to a true French table?

"But this, this knits our nations together once again. He has repaired the rift between our nations. And the menu…"

There followed a lengthy conversation about each item on the menu, and how beautifully it had been prepared and served. They were relieved that the awful slight of June had been repaired, and that our nations were once again friends, dining together à table.

When Bill returned, we did in fact search the U.S. press for mention of this momentous occasion. The only accounts I discovered were in the international press, and indicated that while the French were pleased with the way Sarcozy had been honored, the White House had not been intending to pass out any special favors. Read about the event yourself here.

We might live on the same planet, but we come from very different perspectives. The next time I find myself a little too certain of something, I'm going to read a paper from another nation, another perspective, another viewpoint. Too much certainty nearly always gets in our way.

1 comment:

  1. This makes me think about how consciousness about our place on earth changed back when we first had a picture of earth from space; how many American's would benefit from seeing themselves from outside themselves (as for me, I'm the choir nodding behind you in agreement, even if I'm stateside as I read)—nonetheless I found this very sad as well as interesting.