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I’ve tried to stay out of the political debate on health care over here in the US. No one will be surprised by my position on this one. I’m not going to comment on the Obama speech or even the stupidity of Wilson. No, I won’t. I want to scratch a little bit deeper here. Deep down to a little thing known as personal responsibility…

So you are against universal health care. Or the government option – or whatever the hell you want to call it. Let me get this straight…

You are against government providing health care to those who can’t afford it or those who the private insurance companies deem as too costly to cover. Better to let them die, right?

Look, the current system isn’t working – we can all agree to that. The problem is that your proposal doesn’t address any of the fundamental challenges of the system – covering the poor and those in need. If I lose my job today then I lose my health care coverage as well. Except if I have the money to pay through my neck for it while I don’t have any income. Doesn’t sound right, right?

Let’s agree on one thing before I rant – cut some of the crap being covered by health care. Obesity? Stop eating crap. Obesity isn’t a disease. Cancer is a disease. Way too much shit is covered by health insurance. Plastic surgery? 90% are crap. Only those with facial defects and burn victims should be covered. A new boob job because you want bigger boobs doesn’t count. Whiter teeth? Go British I say. Cut the fat off coverage and only cover stuff that is really pushing people to their death.

Blame the pharmaceutical companies for lobbying for crap to be covered. They create “medicine” that will address these social “diseases” and then lobby the hell out of (mostly) Republicans for these to be covered. Why? Not because they want to address the real health issues but because they want to make a bigger profit from growing some hair over that bold spot of yours or magically make your beer and Mickey D laden fat go away.

While I’m on obesity. Yes, we carry the burden of that in the US and most developed countries. Stop eating crap and start going outside. If you get a heart disease because of your diet? Make sure you have good funeral coverage. I’m sick and tired of people being covered by health insurance for things that they do to themselves. Over and over again.

You shot yourself in the foot with your own gun? That’s stupid so pay up yourself. You want to carry a gun them suffer the consequences…

Back to the point though. So who will care for those who lost their jobs and can’t afford health care insurance? Or those who the insurance companies judge as too risky or too sick to cover? Let me give you an alternative to the government option.

You.

Yes, you. I’m talking to you Mr and Mrs I’m-Against-The-Government-Option. You should be paying for it.

Why? Because you claim to be on the side of America and the Christian right. That’s just stupid. It’s not an answer it’s just empty words of fake patriotism. America and Christianity is about solutions and not just about shooting your mouth off.

You can’t open your mouth without giving some form of solution. The health care system in the US is a failure. No one can argue against that. We all know it and we all accept it. Private industry is not the answer. I would love for them to be the answer but, in this case, they are not. They are generally the best answer when it comes to making cars (huh?) or computers or televisions or other crap we don’t need to survive. Oh they can make the medicine and medical equipment we need better than any government. But they have proven to be a complete failure when it comes to dealing with our actual health coverage. Especially when it comes to the poor and those in need.

So what alternative are you offering here? Some wishy-washy plan that will NOT result in those people being covered? I’m not interested in making your insurance any cheaper. (Or mine for that matter.) I’m interested in how we deal with those in need. Let’s assume for a minute that we won’t go for the government option. Let’s think of a plan that will help those people in need in another way.

And this is where you come in…

You can’t be American (or anything else) without taking some level of responsibility. You can’t open your mouth against something if you aren’t willing to offer up some form of solution. You do this way too often.

You are against abortion. But you are not willing to take in the unwanted kids. Or those born with disabilities. Or those born with alcohol syndrome. Or those born through rape. Or where the mother died because of the birth. I don’t see you rushing forward and claiming these babies. You shout from the side and walk away when someone holds up the results of your actions and stupidity. Here is my advice to you…

Man up or shut up…

I’m sick and tired of us having to pick up after you. I am sick and tired of having to clean your mess. You spew stupidity and we liberals have to live with the mistakes of your actions and empty words. Yes we do – why do you think those who work for charities looking after unwanted babies, HIV/Aids patients, battered women, the environment, animals etc are almost always a bunch a liberals? Because someone has to fix the crap you created. And I am sick and tired of cleaning your mess.

Shut up or pay up.

You are big enough now. Time for you to take responsibility of your own empty words and actions.

You want abortion to be banned? Then fine. You take care of the unwanted babies. The sick babies. The disabled babies. Because remember, you don’t want government to interfere either now…

You want to carry a gun in the open or hidden? The fine. You take care of those kids and innocent people getting shot by their mates by accident. You take care of what your actions resulted in. Remember, you don’t want government to intervene…

You want to stop people suing others because of defects in stuff they bought or doctors who didn’t do their jobs properly? Then fine. You take care of those people who lost their jobs and income when they got injured and hurt. Remember, you don’t want government to interfere…

You want to be able to cut down every forest to dig for oil and coal? You want to be able to dump your crap anywhere you please? Then fine. You take care of the… oh wait. We are all going down on this one. Here’s my solution. We’ll take that gun you like to carry so much and shoot you. I’ll even dig your grave myself. Hell, you are busy digging mine with your policies and actions. That way we can claim our bit of oxygen left as you wasted yours with hot air – in more than one way.

Man up or shut up.

You can’t just spew stupidity without coming up with a workable solution. You can’t be anti everything. Not when what we are trying to fix is all fucked up. You are either part of the solution (any solution) or you are part of the problem. It’s not working stupid. Fix it. And it you don’t like my plan then come up with a better one. Take responsibility for your stupidity.

It’s easier to say what is wrong with a specific part in a proposal than come up with a workable solution yourself. But it doesn’t solve the big problem standing like an elephant in the corner waiting to walk all over all of us. Someone is going to get hurt and I will be damned if it is me and my kind again.

Let me put it this way.

If we had to write into law the current state of health care. Guess what. We will all be against it – you and me. The current system doesn’t work and what is proposed by the Big O is better. Not perfect but at least better. And if you don’t like it? Then either come up with a better plan or take responsibility of your own position and stupidity.

Man up or shut up. Own up or pay up.

Until then – grow a pair of balls and stop shouting from the sidelines. 

And one more thing…

This Christian thing you claim to have going on your side…

God stood for very few basic things. Actually, it all comes down to a single concept – love for all (remember that bit? You should love others like you love yourself and as much as what you love God blah-blah-blah…) Dammit you must hate yourself a lot if that part is true. And I believe it is true.

Because if you did love your neighbor… Let me ask you this. Letting a person die because they can’t afford to pay for health care and you knowingly supported them NOT getting any help. Is that the way God will want you to love? Letting someone die from cancer because they lived in a community where some mining company dumped their crap and now they can’t even afford their health care – and you knew about both of those. Is that the way God would want you to love?

So stop giving me the Christian crap. I think we might be serving a different God here. My God is ashamed of you. I know my God actually cares about everyone and cares for everyone. Ask yourself this before you open your mouth – What would God do? Would he be proud? Would he help those who needs help? Or would he walk away? If you pick this last one – here’s something to think about… He walked away from you a long, long time ago…

Own up or pay up. Man up or shut up.

I’m not cleaning your mess anymore.

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This post was inspired by Monroe Anderson (I still can’t believe that he reads my blog. I am not worth the crossing of his t’s. He is the man.)

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The first shop I went to when we landed here in the US two years ago was a convenience store just down the road from us. It’s called Honey Farms. Just your run-of-the-mill convenience store like a 7-Eleven. Nothing much. Bread, milk, cigarettes, Coke and chocolates. Everything I need to get through the day if pushed. That’s where I met them. The people working at Honey Farms.

The first guy I met was this old guy that must been at least 65 in the shade. But still in excellent shape. He cycles to work and back. We just called him ‘the old guy’. My lovely wife knew who I was talking about whenever I told her I had a chat with the old guy at Honey Farms. He was the first American I had a just a normal general chat with. Good guy. Exceptionally good guy.

It started off like any normal chat for us foreigners over here in smaller towns. The accent. He loved my wife’s accent. Called it “the Queen’s English”. Well, she does have a pretty good English accent even though she is South African. He made her talk just so he could listen to her accent. And then he will just be like a little kid and be all giddy. And tell all the other customers to listen to her speak. Yes, I think he had a bit of a crush on her.

I didn’t get the same treatment. But then, my accent is a bit more harsh. Less exotic, more farmer. But what can you do? We did have many good chats – me and the old guy from Honey Farms. Anything really – and he was as funny as hell.

Whenever I bought my cigarettes he would offer me “free” matches. And he used to say that they are so committed to customer service that they are happy to replace the matches if I am unhappy with them at any time. Yes, they were free to start off with.

Or the time I walked in and asked if they had dish washing liquid or tablets for the dishwasher. He made a huge scene claiming that they have the best dishwasher liquid in the whole of downtown Natick – if not in greater downtown Natick. (You can’t buy or find it anywhere else in downtown Natick.) He went to tell me how good this dishwasher liquid is. His wife swears by it. And he has never had a customer come back to say it didn’t do the job. With a smile I asked him if he has ever used it. He shook his head and said no. Never used the stuff. He still washes his dishes by hand. And then laughed a bit more. Both of us.

Yeah, he was a funny guy. Always something funny to say or a smart comment to make me leave with a smile.

But it always bugged me. Why is he still working when he should be taking it easy? When he should be retired. So I asked him. I asked him why is he still working. And he stared at me for a little while. And then just uttered a simple little concept…

“healthcare…”

“Why healthcare”, I asked. Simple, he needs to be covered if something happens to him or his wife. Especially in their old age. And he needs the extra money to pay for it. As security for when they really need it. The government will help but it might not be enough. In his old age he has to worry about that. He never had to worry about it when he was covered when he was young and healthy and looked after.

He also told me that he got his daughter a job at Honey Farms. But that he had to make her stop working there and found her another job. He was worried about her safety. When she worked the late shift. When some of the rougher and drunker guys came around. Nothing ever happened. But it wasn’t good for her to be exposed. It was good enough for the old man, but not good enough for his daughter.

He left my Honey Farms a few months back. He got a better offer to actually run a Honey Farms in the town next to ours. We still walk into each other now and again. And we still have our chats then. He still makes me laugh. And he still cycles to work.

Actually, he is doing more than that. One of the many discussions we had was about American addiction to cars. Hell, people will drive 200 yards to Honey Farms to buy their stuff. But more than that, single drivers keep on driving to work and back or to downtown Natick on a beautiful day when they could be walking. It bugged him. And he decided to do something about it. A campaign. A campaign to get Natick people to cycle more.

This old man decided to do it on his own. He got a plan together that we spoke about a few times. And he took it to the local authorities to get their backing. And convinced them to support him. Not with money. But with communications – posters, notices, free bicycles etc. And off he went. His “cycle more” campaign. Good for traffic and good for your health. This old man that should be retired did it because it bugged him. Never made a cent out of it. It was all about getting people out of their cars and start cycling when they go to downtown Natick. Yep, he was an activist in his own way.

I really liked him. Still do.

He is America for me. Him and the other people I have met at Honey Farms. The other slightly less old guy who knows everything anybody ever wants to know about the history of coins – American coins. Or the gay middle aged woman who suffers from depression. Or the woman whose kids always come to visit her when she works the late shift on a weekend. Or the young black kid from the wrong side of Natick that is taking extra jobs to stay out of trouble and build himself a future. All of them. They have been America to me. Proud. Strong. Easy to talk to. Friendly as hell.

Yes, they might not know as much of the world as what the world knows of them, but these people are good decent people that I would be happy to call my own. I can see in their eyes why America is great. Because they are great people.

So why am I telling you this? Why is this even important? I’ll tell you why…

…McCain and taxes…

What?

Yep, McCain and taxes. McCain is attacking Obama for wanting to raise the taxes of the wealthiest of Americans. One key line of argument from McCain is that the top 1% of Americans will pay almost 35% of American taxes under the Obama plan. That just doesn’t sound right. That is just unfair. It isn’t just. Why should 1% pay so much of the taxes? Well… Because that same 1% also own almost 35% of America’s net worth. That’s why. Mr McCain.

If you own 35% then it makes perfect sense that 35% of the taxes will come from you. Easy economics. Not socialism. Just easy economics.

And before I forget. Just 10% of the population owns 71% of America’s wealth… I expect that 10% to pay 71% of the taxes…

I won’t even mention that “in a survey of 120 major cities, New York was found to be the ninth most unequal in the world and Atlanta, New Orleans, Washington, and Miami had similar inequality levels to those of Nairobi, Kenya and Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Many were above an internationally recognised acceptable “alert” line used to warn governments”. I won’t go into that. Just saying that the distribution of wealth in America is beyond unfair. It ranks with the most unjust systems in the world…

Tell me why should the wealthiest not pay according to the share of wealth they have? Are they better than the old guy from Honey Farms? Do they mean more to America than the Honey Farms people? I don’t think that either group means more to America than the other. Or at least, I don’t believe that either group should mean more to America. CEO’s can be replaced as easily as the guy in Honey Farms. Don’t let them tell you otherwise. I work with CEO’s of some of the biggest American companies out there today. The biggest of the biggest. The best of the best. Make no mistake… I can count on my one hand how many of them are truly irreplaceable. And they generally earn a sh*tload of money. Way more than their counterparts from the rest of the world.

I get it that they earn more. I have no problem there. Maybe I have a problem with the extremes of what they earn, but I do get that they should earn a nice package to keep them in the job. But they are not more American than the old guy from Honey Farms. That much I know.

He has worked his backside off for this country. Never moaned. Never bitched. Never complained. When they ask him to serve he serves. When they ask him to sacrifice he sacrifices. He, and everyone else at Honey Farms, are the backbone of this country as much as what the CEO is. Without him there is no America. America is not a country of CEO’s. America is a country of Americans. And everyone should pay their share of being able to call themselves American. The old guy paid his dues. Through sweat and taxes. Even today in his old age. He kept that CEO in his job. Buying his stuff and protecting his rights. The CEO can afford to pay more taxes so that the old guy doesn’t have to work in his old age. Or that the woman suffering from depression can get good help even though she can’t afford it. She works her butt off. Each and every day. She doesn’t sit back and do nothing. She contributes. She pays taxes. According to what she can. Her share. Even though her share of the American wealth is nothing compared to the CEO. We can’t expect him to let it “trickle down”. It won’t. It never has. It’s a fallacy that Reagan tried to sell and we now know it doesn’t work. Mr CEO doesn’t buy from Honey Farms.

One more thing… Patriotism.

Conservative Republicans keep on saying that the American companies will take their business elsewhere if they don’t get the “breaks”. Can we then please question the patriotism of these companies? Who are they? Let’s all stop buying from them if they hate America so much. They made their money off the back of American sweat and American consumers. And now they want to leave? They made their American Dream come true through the hard work and money of other Americans. They made their American Dream off the back and sweat and hard earned cash of those Americans who defines the true American Dream – freedom, justice and liberty without the money attached. Let’s leave them alone if they don’t show the same commitment to America as the old guy from Honey Farms.

I like my old guy from Honey Farms. I like everyone who works at Honey Farms. They taught me about America. Not the CEO and his buddies that I have known for many years. They are also Americans. But they are not America. It was Honey Farms that made me realize what America is all about. The spirit. The belief. The patriotism. The people.

I earn more than the guy at Honey Farms. Way more. I don’t earn $250,000 p.a. (Not yet!) But I am willing to pay a little more to make sure that the old guy from Honey Farms can just ride his bicycle and not worry about the cost of his healthcare. He is America and I am willing to do what it takes to make that work. I am willing to pay my share according to the share I own and earn. That should be the American way.

Yes, South Africa is failing us. No wait. Not South Africa. The ANC. The ANC is failing us. Our government is failing us. Us – the people of South Africa. And it has nothing to do with Apartheid.

Let’s get this straight – their failure has nothing to do with Apartheid. Apartheid was a despicable oppressive system. There was nothing good about it. Nada. Nothing. Zilch. Zero. Okay, maybe for the white South Africans it was a holiday camp. But for the majority of South Africans it was an oppressive system who gave them no rights – a concentration camp. No political rights outside of a failed red-herring joke of a homelands system. Ha! 13% of the land for 80% of the population. No right to ownership. You want land? Go and eat dirt. In your homeland. No right to economic wealth. The best jobs were reserved for whites. Ever wondered how all the top jobs were occupied by white faces? Now you know. Reserved parking only. South Africa was covered by one single sign that we saw on the benches and doors and busses every single day under Apartheid – Whites Only.

Oh I can go on and on about how bad Apartheid was. But I won’t. You should know that. If you don’t – go read the TRC document or any decent and recent history book. Or pull the bigot stickers off your eyes. If you liked Apartheid stop reading now. You won’t like the rest of this piece either. But neither will the ANC.

Make no mistake, we can blame Apartheid for many of the problems we experience in South Africa today. The legacy of Apartheid lives on. And the chickens are still coming home to roost. Only problem is that these bloody chickens don’t know the farm is under new ownership. But here – have a few of these on the side.

The education system in South Africa sucks. No surprise there. Under Apartheid the per capita expenditure for white schoolkids were 5 times more than for black kids. Oh, and the ratio between white teacher and white kids were about half of the ratio for black schools. Yes, they had separate schools, separate authorities and a separate curriculum. No surprise there. And due to the lack of adequate financing and training, teachers in black schools were generally less qualified than white teachers who had some of the best universities in the world. So what the hell did you expect to happen when Apartheid ended? That everyone will all of a sudden get the same education as traditionally white schools? A system change was needed and that takes time. Make the per capita expenditure the same, but you still had to rebuild the infrastructure of the traditional black schools and retrain many of the teachers – white and black – to get up to speed to a non-racial curriculum. And merge all the different education departments in South Africa and those in the homelands. No easy task hey? Imagine the largest corporate merger in the world – and instead of two make it about ten or more companies merging into one. So stop bitching. The education system is much better than under Apartheid for the majority of South Africans.

How about policing? Yeah! Under Apartheid the primary function of the South African Police Service (SAPS) was the suppression of political dissent. Stopping criminal activity, beyond that which directly threatened the white minority, was a much lower priority, and there were almost no tradition or expertise in criminal investigation in South Africa. Between 80 and 90 percent of criminal convictions were gained on the basis of confessions, obtained by what was called the “choke and talk” technique of police intimidation. Oh yes, and in 1994 they had to consolidate eleven Apartheid-era policing agencies into one. So, reform was needed while at the same time show the public it can actually reduce crime as well. Or, as a senior SAPS officer once said, “Police reform is like rebuilding a ship while it is in full sail during a hurricane”. No problem, hey Sherlock?

Okay, let’s see where to go next – last one. Healthcare. On the one hand we had a system that provided first-world healthcare to a small minority – provided by a well-resourced tertiary system. I mean really, we had the first heart transplant done in South Africa. On a white South African. Because only they had access to this level of healthcare. The rest? Let’s just say that they had very little health to care about in the first place. There were no basic or essential services provided in any structured way. So come 1994 – what did you expect? To continue to live the life of luxury while the majority remain dying from bad water and weather?

Wait – let’s do just a last few. Basic services like water, housing and electricity. Except for a few toilets build in the middle of nowhere, the Apartheid government did jack shit for black South Africans. Don’t tell me about the single line of electricity that ran into a selected township under Apartheid. One swallow doesn’t make a summer. It’s like saying that anyone can now sit on the bench in the park – but only whites are allowed in the park. Or that anyone can now swim in the sea – but only whites are allowed on the beaches. Sorry to disappoint you. The Apartheid system sucked. And nothing good came of it for the majority of South Africans. And we still live with the failure of that system. The sins of our fathers…

The end of Apartheid wasn’t just a change from one government to another. That would have been easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. No sweat. No problem. ‘n Boer maak mos ‘n plan. Geen probleem broe. Daasie kakkie want daasie kossie. It was a revolution. It made the fall of the wall in Berlin look like a walk in the park. And we had no money compared to them. The fall of the USSR – no problem. Here? Each and every law had to be rewritten (yes – we wrote more laws between 1994 and 2000 than any other country in the world). We had to merge ten to 15 departments into one for each group under Apartheid. We had to retrain people to serve and not kill. We had to reallocate budgets when South Africa was already an emerging market with extremely limited funds – comparable to Argentina and Egypt and India. Not the US or UK – that was the life of the whites in South Africa. We had to change from a limited healthcare system to one that provides primary healthcare to all South Africans. We had to change an economic system from inward looking to export-oriented. And all of that isn’t even half of it. We still had to get rid of institutional racism and go through the rebirth of a nation (thanks TRC – you got us closer). So don’t think it was a change in government. It wasn’t. It was changing from Nazi Germany (without any money or a world plan to finance rebuilding) to a free society overnight. Like that – “Snap!”. Now you see Apartheid – “Snap!” – now you don’t. Gone. Welcome to freedom – now let me turn your world upside down.

But still. I blame the ANC for failing us. Because they are. They are failing us. I don’t give a damn about how tough a job they had and have. I know the legacy of Apartheid. I know that it hasn’t been easy. I know what shit they inherited from the Apartheid regime. I don’t blame them for not building enough houses. I don’t blame them for not creating enough jobs. I don’t blame them for the violence and crime. I don’t blame them for the kids failing school. I don’t blame them for not building the clinics fast enough. Because all of those things are better than under Apartheid for most South Africans. But I do blame them for failing South Africa. And failing us – the people of South Africa.

I blame them for creating a false hope. I blame them for promising us a better government than what they have become. They are not a bad government. They are just a government. Making bad choices. And making good choices. A mix bag of some good stuff and some bad stuff. Like other governments.

The arms deal and corruption? Nothing special. Bloody hell, they actually dealt with it better than others. Finding Tony guilty and sending him to jail! The Chief Whip of the ruling party! Can you imagine the UK or US doing that? Here Dick and Halliburton was so closely linked but no one blinks an eye – never mind investigate. Or Blackwater and their backhanders. And the UK? The UK government refuses to investigate the bribery that took place in the arms deal with the Saudis. Why? Because it will “threaten national security”. So, sorry people, the ANC is no worse than other governments. They all fail foreign policy. You think Mbeki and Zimbabwe is bad? Have you heard anything from the US on the Saudis who have one of the worse human rights record in the world? No, sorry people, the ANC is no worse than other governments. They are just like them. And that is why they are failing us.

We believed naively that the end of Apartheid meant the start of a super-government. That our government is above other governments. More just than any other. They are better then the best. The most human of all humans. The fairest of them all. They lied to us – without saying a word. They made us believe in a world that is better than any other.  We somehow believed that we are the chosen people. And our government who gave us our freedom will somehow give us the freedom of our souls.

And when we had Mandela we actually entrenched that belief. A South Africa where miracles happen when Madiba snaps his fingers. Our “Special One”. The one who brings hope, love and peace to all. We love him. We truly love him like no President or leader is loved. And that is right. Because he is like no other. He is our Madiba. But still they failed us.

They failed us because they made us believe that we are somehow better than others. That somehow they will be better than others. They failed us by being just another bloody typical government. Like all others. That is their failure. For being too normal. And we were the suckers for falling for it in the first place.

Sorry South Africa – welcome to the world. You are now just as normal as the rest of the world. With a government that sometimes fail and sometimes succeed. Nothing special. Not what the ANC promised us. But still – just a government like all governments. And just a country like all countries. We are not special. We are just people. Just a country. Just South Africa. Like anyone else. Just normal. Normal. Normal at last.

Free at last…

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Note: We still have biltong, Simba chips, Stoney, boerewors, Liqui-Fruit, mopani worms, afval, Marina braaisalt, Marmite, putu, bobotie, sosaties, Top Deck, Cream Soda, Castle, koe(k)sisters, beskuit, vetkoek, pannekoek and Peck’s to name a few – okay, drop the afval and mopani worms. And I haven’t even started on the Rugby World Cup or Kaizer Chiefs (I am an Ajax CT supporter but acknowledge power). If we lose that we are stuffed. Then we won’t be able to even brag about the bloody food or sport anymore. And then we have nothing but a cute accent, good looking people, Table Mountain and crap music. Hey wait. Apart from the music the left-overs aren’t that bad either. I’ll just blame the music on Apartheid or the ANC. You pick boeremusiek or kwaito – blame it on the boogie… man.

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