August 23rd, 2007

new year

Once upon a time, there was a country with universal health care

After the mayhem of getting Number One Son off to his second year of college, we went out to dinner and a movie. This doesn't happen very often, so you see it was something of a celebration, even if it was Number One Son who suggested it. Over our usual Thai (starter of #11, with #42 and #47) at the usual place, where the plating looks much nicer when they haven't been packed in plastic take-out containers, we found a paper and checked the local movie listings (which I long ago stopped trying to keep up with, so at least I don't have newspapers piling up like the magazines). We decided to try the new (well, not all that new by now) Sundance cinema multiplex, and just for a laugh to see Michael Moore's new movie, SiCKO.

It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me want to be sure I get out for my walk every day, and it made me want to spread the word.

For international audiences, this movie will show you what Americans are going through right now. Our health care system is part of the wholesale fear and paranoia we suffer, that keeps us so discouraged we can't get out to vote the bought and paid-for bums out of office. The denials of coverage, the cost of healthcare, those parts of the movie are so much part of the landscape here, it's nothing that would be news to Americans. We all know people suffering and dying of treatable illnesses, people who are afraid to call ambulances because it will cost them too much, and we see regularly on the news stories about people thrown out of hospitals, or dying in emergency rooms because they can't pay or are on Medicare (same thing).

This movie does provide Americans with valuable information on how universal health care works in other countries. To begin with, Canada and Britain, where the people Moore interviews can explain it in plain English, although it begins to sound like a joke. It gave me a much-needed reality check: health care is supposed to take care of sick people! d'oh! and here I was thinking it was more like a protection racket.

The Americans in Paris that he interviewed about the French health-care system got a little riotous with the fairy-tale unreality of it all. Yes, they are Americans, but the French system covers them -- go figure. Doctors who make midnight house calls? Babies you don't have to pay for?! Mother's helpers sent by the government?? Paid leave to recover from your chemotherapy?!?! surely you jest.

Being Michael Moore, he pushed it well over the top. He took some of the volunteers from 9/11 who ruined their lungs working in the hole during the week after the catastrophe, who are being left to slowly die by our shameful system, took them on a boat to Cuba. Sort of a reverse boatlift. They couldn't get into the Guantanemo prisoners' medical facility. But they were taken into a Cuban hospital, given the expensive treatments and medications they needed, and even honored as heroes by the Cuban people. It is to weep.

I'm telling you that last bit, which could be considered a spoiler, because I know you won't believe it. You have to see it for yourself. There's plenty more. I might have to see it again myself. His video-collage technique digs deep into historical media sources, to excellent effect.