Sunday, July 1, 2007

What I'm Watching: Sicko

Tracy and I went to see Sicko yesterday and were not disappointed. It definitely generated plenty of discussion and some serious thinking about where our country is headed and where we'd like it to go, and how we might make a difference. That seems like a pretty successful film to me.

I wish he'd talked a little more about exactly how we got into the health care mess we're in, and offered a few more ideas for how we might get out of it. But it's funny, entertaining, moving, and thought-provoking. Certainly not a perfect film, but that's not what I was looking for.

We've been pretty lucky with our health care coverage so far, but we've also had to fight with our insurers to get various tests for our son covered--some of those fights we won, and some we lost. People complain about long waits in countries with socialized medicine, but we've experienced that here, too (waiting more than a year for some evaluations). We've been lucky to have some resources to pay for tests that insurance wouldn't cover, but it's definitely been (and will continue to be) a strain on our budget. Lots of Americans aren't as lucky as us.

Expect to see the establishment come out hard against this film, because Moore's not just saying that socialized medicine is a good idea, he's also saying that there's lots of things that other industrialized countries do/offer (like better childcare for working families, more vacation time, cheaper college education) better than ours. People with money and power get what they need and more, in our country, but access for the working man is highly restricted. And oddly enough, there is no true labor party in our system (the Democratic Party is far from being such an entity).

It seems strange to me is that the discussion of politics, not just party politics, but real political ideas and viewpoints, seems to be mildly taboo in our culture. I don't know if it's just me who feels this way, but this seems a very dangerous thing.

Moore has me thinking about the big issues confronting the United States at the moment. My list would be:

  • The war in Iraq and our outrageous military budget (we spend more on defense than all other industrialized countries, COMBINED. This week's issue of Newsweek lists our 2006 military budget at $560 billion. After us comes: UK $57.6 billion, France $55.4 billion, China $35.3 billion, Russia $24.9 billion, India $22.4 billion, Israel $11.3 billion. Why do we need to spend so much more?
  • Our idiotic healthcare system. (A national healthcare system makes total sense to me. A for-profit, insurance-based system seems an idiocy that enriched a few people and corporations, with little incentive for actually making people healthier.)
  • Race relations. (I actually spend time working on this already.)
  • Money in politics. Campaigns should be publicly funded. Corporations should be banned from campaign contributions altogether, ASAP. The campaign finance system we have seems incredibly corrupt.
  • Rising class divisions. The concentration of increasingly large amounts of wealth in the hands of a few people seems likely to cause increasing instability in our society.
  • Global warming, use of fossil fuels, and our industrial food chain. These link pretty closely together for me.
  • Our current paralyzing culture of fear.
In Sicko, a retired member of the British Parliament talks about how a people who are healthy, educated, and confident can be difficult to govern. I'd like us to be all three of these. Sadly, I feel like I'm poorly educated as to how I make those things happen. I'm pretty good at writing plays and novels. I've even written some political plays, but I can't say they've had a great impact yet. I need to think of ways I can use my talents (and limited time) to get more actively involved. It feels like our country will actually need a revolutionary change (hopefully peaceful) in order to solve these entrenched problems.

Anyway, go see the movie. It might get you thinking.

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