Forgive me, but I need to vent.
With the upcoming election in the US, emotions are running high. And we Mormons are no exception. You could ask why I even care. I’m not American, I don’t live in America and I’m not even eligible to vote. So maybe what I say doesn’t really matter.
I was born and raised in Canada. The past six years I’ve lived in Norway. But I have strong ties to the US because of family, friends, and the fact that I grew up in a border town. I’ve travelled extensively through the US and every day I watch American TV, read American news, and am surrounded by American media. I love America and Americans. I think that America does a lot of things better than anyone else in the world. Taking care of its poor is just not one of them.
I find some of the online political debates interesting, particularly where Mormons are concerned. Liberals and Conservatives duke it out and both try to defend their points of view with scriptures and “what Jesus would do.” I’ve taken part in some of the discussions and have been surprised by some of the things I’ve read, particularly the resistance where health care is concerned. If Obama wins, he has his work cut out for him.
One person in one of the health care debates referred to me as “an unabashed socialist.” I’m not a political scientist, so I’m not going to get into a detailed analysis of my political leanings, except to say that my ideals best fit the label of “Social Democrat.” I don’t agree with everything regarding socialism, but all I can do is give my point of view and tell about what has worked for me. I’m not talking about the Soviet Union or North Korea here. I’m talking about good ol’ modern-day, western European democratic socialism. Socialism: the dreaded “S” word.
I’ll never say that the systems under which I’ve lived are perfect. I can point out plenty of problems and challenges that need to be addressed. However, I have to say that I get frustrated when American Mormons deem the systems of other countries to be a “failure” because we might have to wait a few months to get a non-emergency operation, or even “evil” because so-and-so prophet was a Republican. Some go as far as to say that you can’t be a “real” Democrat and a good Mormon. Or you can’t be a Democrat and a “real” Mormon. Some view Liberalism and Mormonism as the antitheses of each other. You can be one, but you can’t be both.
I saw the case of one member in the US who was adamantly against socialized health care and at the same time was trying to spread the word about raising money for a toddler’s liver transplant. It was a very admirable gesture and I certainly hope that the local ward came through with the funds to help this child. But if I needed a liver transplant, I’d be sleeping better at night if I knew that my government health plan was going to pick up the tab, than if my surgery was riding on my local ward, or whoever else, chipping in out of the goodness of their hearts. Perhaps I’ve just become too cynical over the years, but I just don’t have much faith in the charity of my fellow man. If I needed a transplant, I think my odds would be better if people are forced to pay taxes to fund my care than if they are given the choice. On top of that, I know that their turn will eventually come and they will need to see a doctor for whatever reason.
A government that includes things like socialized health care, or social benefits and programmes may not be the only solution. But has anyone come up with a better one? It may be superficial to do so, but I’m only going to look at the surface. I don’t live in a mansion and I don’t drive an Escalade. (If I did, I wouldn’t be able to afford the $12 USD/gallon gas!) We have to pay pretty hefty taxes and the cost of living is very high. It can be hard to keep your head above water and stay out of debt here, just like anywhere else. However, we don’t have to worry about who will pay if we have to go to the doctor, have surgery, chemotherapy, or get disabled. If we have to take some time off from work for illness, we won’t lose out on income. If we had kids, we could take time off to be with them during their first year of life or when they’re sick, without worrying about losing our jobs or pay. Some people here have a little and some have a lot, but the class difference is less evident and virtually everyone has what they need. Maybe not what they WANT, but what they NEED. When people have what they need (i.e. a roof over their heads, food on the table, basic healthcare), then they’re generally happy. A happy population with minimal poverty naturally results in less crime, which makes society generally safe, peaceful, and productive.
Canada and the Scandinavian countries have consistently topped the UN’s Human Development Index of the best countries in the world to live in. Since 1985, Canada or Norway has been first every year, except for 1991 and 1993 (Japan) and 2007 (Iceland). This is largely to do with health care and the state welfare systems. Somebody please tell me why this is bad for me and my fellow man?
You may say that it’s wrong for the government to restrict gun ownership. I say I’m relieved to know that if I tick off some guy in traffic, it’s very unlikely that he has a gun in his glove compartment. In my view, the less guns in society, the better. You may say that there’s more to it than just providing for the physical and temporal needs of a population. I say that basic, temporal needs (i.e. food, shelter, clothing and basic health care) must be met before spiritual needs. You may say that providing health care or welfare should be up to charitable individuals and not the government. I say that even if the most charitable people have limited resources. You may say that we should be free from the burden of taxes. I say that you don’t get anything for nothing and the funds have to come from somewhere. You may say that we should be self-sufficient and not rely on the government for our needs. I say that part of the human experience is having to rely on each other and no matter how prepared or self-sufficient we are, we are dependent on each other.
So why are some American Mormons so adamant about defending a system that leaves so many people on the street when they should be in a hospital, or widens the gap between rich and poor? And what religious basis is there for this?
Scandinavian society has its faults and I could make a list of things that I don’t like about it, but it’s generally a peaceful, productive, equal society that cares for the basic needs of the people. Last I checked, that’s what the Lord wanted.
So, someone please tell me. Is God frowning on Scandinavian socialism? If so, please come and rescue me from this oppressive government.