“We the people” not “We the favored few.”

I don’t usually talk about politics, and I hate how much the US presidential election is covered here in France… but after watching some of the speeches at the Democratic Convention this week, I’m feeling a little more hopeful about my country. It took me six long years to get out of the US after Bush started destroying it. I never thought I’d ever want to move back there. Yet now a tiny part of me does, if the Democrats can do what they say.

The main reason I choose France over the US is universal health care. It still blows my mind that the US government doesn’t take care of all of its citizens, but only the rich ones. Yes, we pay a lot for the amazing health care we have in France, but it is worth it. I know that if anything serious ever happened to me or David, we wouldn’t be in debt forever because of medical bills. I can go to the doctor without wasting $10 just to set foot in his/her office. I can get my teeth or eyes checked and be reimbursed for the entire bill. Even my contacts are free every year. I feel sorry for my friends and family in the US who have no health care, who haven’t been to the doctors in years, who can’t afford their prescriptions… That shouldn’t happen in the “world’s superpower.”

But there are other reasons why I don’t like the US right now. The cost of university is atrociously high. The minimum wage is ridiculously low. Foreign cultures, religions and languages are not tolerated in most areas. There is still too much racism, sexism, and especially homophobia. (Though one can argue this is true of every nation.)  The government wastes all of its money on fighting a war we shouldn’t be involved in, instead of helping its own citizens with access to education, employment and health care. Everyone is seen as a terrorist, even Americans themselves, and treated thus. The government denies that global warming even exists, while making the situation even worse. It declares the death penalty to be an acceptable form of punishment. It denies homosexuals the same benefits enjoyed by other human beings. It ignores women’s rights and the separation of church and state and the threat of HIV/AIDS as a global epidemic.

But for me, the greatest offense is favoring the rich over the poor. Classism is usually overlooked because it encompasses such a broad range of topics, but I see it everywhere. The poor cannot go to college because tuition is too expensive. Without an education, they can’t find a decent-paying job. So they’re stuck in poverty, and so are their children. The poor cannot go to the doctor because medical bills are too high. Without good health, they can’t work. Poverty leads to more poverty and no one ever seems to do anything about it.

The Democrats are going to have a very hard time fixing the mess that Bush made. It will take years to reverse the damage. The economy was obviously much better when Clinton was president in the 90’s. But even he couldn’t get Congress to approve his universal health care plan. He unfortunately approved the Defense of Marriage Act. And let’s not forget Somalia, and the two genocides that occurred while he was in office, in Rwanda and the Balkans. He was a great president, but he couldn’t do everything. I need to remember that when (yes, when) Obama becomes the next president. I know I shouldn’t have a lot of hope that he’ll be able to change everything, because it’s not entirely dependent on him.

But it is nice for once to have hope for the future of my country instead of being ashamed of it. It is nice for once to think that I may be able to return home if I want to.

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  • http://unautrejp.blogspot.com/ Justin

    All I can say is : “Amen”… It is a shame you shy away from talking about politics because you seem to have a good point of view.

    Justins last blog post..A nice dinner…

  • http://unautrejp.blogspot.com Justin

    All I can say is : “Amen”… It is a shame you shy away from talking about politics because you seem to have a good point of view.

    Justins last blog post..A nice dinner…

  • http://leahenfranceparttrois.blogspot.com/ Leah

    I’m not very political myself, but that was really a great post. Bravo.

  • http://leahenfranceparttrois.blogspot.com Leah

    I’m not very political myself, but that was really a great post. Bravo.

  • http://www.confituredulait.blogspot.com/ karina

    you said it sister! :-)

    karinas last blog post..Weekend fun

  • http://www.confituredulait.blogspot.com karina

    you said it sister! :-)

    karinas last blog post..Weekend fun

  • skylar

    I think you are brilliant Jennie. I don’t want to offend, I just want to argue, it’s fun. I love politics and philosophy…simply stated:
    Universal health care is great, just like communism. The problem lies with the non-universal citizens, right? With universal healthcare you are empowering the government to make the decisions on varying, moral, circumstances of the individuals. When two 40 year olds are in dire need of a heart translplant, and there is only one heart, who gets it?

    There always exists scarcity, the question is how the scarce goods are rationed…currently it’s with money, whether donated or saved by the consumer.

    Houses on the coast? who should get them when they are in limited supply? The all-knowing vanguard of the communist party? why?

  • skylar

    I think you are brilliant Jennie. I don’t want to offend, I just want to argue, it’s fun. I love politics and philosophy…simply stated:
    Universal health care is great, just like communism. The problem lies with the non-universal citizens, right? With universal healthcare you are empowering the government to make the decisions on varying, moral, circumstances of the individuals. When two 40 year olds are in dire need of a heart translplant, and there is only one heart, who gets it?

    There always exists scarcity, the question is how the scarce goods are rationed…currently it’s with money, whether donated or saved by the consumer.

    Houses on the coast? who should get them when they are in limited supply? The all-knowing vanguard of the communist party? why?

  • skylar

    I agree with you on education. The government should promote character in its citizens. Education, ultimately, promotes the well-being of society. I am just concerned about Individuals taking responsibility for their actions, and that’s when I am wary of universal healthcare…I like existentialists. And I do have sympathy and a genuine care for the welfare of the U.S., especially the poor. But when someone smokes, or is over-weight, why should I be burdened with higher taxes than their having debt, when I wasn’t the one smoking and mistreating my body? I’m a vegetarian, cross country runner.

    Also, I may sound cruel, but like you Jennie, I don’t have children I can’t afford. I’m actually abstinent, and a virgin. 24 years old. Should we then foster a society that creates new offspring on a whim, without concern over whether or not they can afford them? Debt is the least of consequences for their actions. Should they not be ashamed for not doing calculations before bringing new life into an environment that will not allow their offspring to get an education or have health care? Aren’t there enough children one can adopt? my parents adopted my sister and had me when they were financially capable of raising a child.

    Once again, Please don’t be offended, There is another side to what you are talking about. That’s why it is not an easy subject!!

  • skylar

    I agree with you on education. The government should promote character in its citizens. Education, ultimately, promotes the well-being of society. I am just concerned about Individuals taking responsibility for their actions, and that’s when I am wary of universal healthcare…I like existentialists. And I do have sympathy and a genuine care for the welfare of the U.S., especially the poor. But when someone smokes, or is over-weight, why should I be burdened with higher taxes than their having debt, when I wasn’t the one smoking and mistreating my body? I’m a vegetarian, cross country runner.

    Also, I may sound cruel, but like you Jennie, I don’t have children I can’t afford. I’m actually abstinent, and a virgin. 24 years old. Should we then foster a society that creates new offspring on a whim, without concern over whether or not they can afford them? Debt is the least of consequences for their actions. Should they not be ashamed for not doing calculations before bringing new life into an environment that will not allow their offspring to get an education or have health care? Aren’t there enough children one can adopt? my parents adopted my sister and had me when they were financially capable of raising a child.

    Once again, Please don’t be offended, There is another side to what you are talking about. That’s why it is not an easy subject!!

  • http://www.ielanguages.com Jennie Wagner

    I think every human being should have affordable access to health care, but I agree that those who abuse their own bodies (smoking, drugs, overeating) should have to pay more. It’s only fair to the rest of us who actually want to be healthy, but may not be because of other factors that are out of our control (like second-hand smoke, pollution, etc.)

    And I do agree about the over-population problem. More people should think about adopting before adding on to the population. I will never have children of my own and because I hate children so much, it’s hard for me to understand why anyone would want them. lol But I know I’m in the minority there… I don’t want to say that poor people shouldn’t have children because every human is entitled to do whatever they want in life… but because I’m poor, I will never have children because I don’t want them to be stuck in poverty as well. That’s too unfair to them. But I don’t think most potential parents think that way… they just think, I want a child… they don’t think, my child will be just as poor as me. They have hope that their children will have better lives they do, but that’s rarely the case, unfortunately.

  • http://www.ielanguages.com Jennie

    I think every human being should have affordable access to health care, but I agree that those who abuse their own bodies (smoking, drugs, overeating) should have to pay more. It’s only fair to the rest of us who actually want to be healthy, but may not be because of other factors that are out of our control (like second-hand smoke, pollution, etc.)

    And I do agree about the over-population problem. More people should think about adopting before adding on to the population. I will never have children of my own and because I hate children so much, it’s hard for me to understand why anyone would want them. lol But I know I’m in the minority there… I don’t want to say that poor people shouldn’t have children because every human is entitled to do whatever they want in life… but because I’m poor, I will never have children because I don’t want them to be stuck in poverty as well. That’s too unfair to them. But I don’t think most potential parents think that way… they just think, I want a child… they don’t think, my child will be just as poor as me. They have hope that their children will have better lives they do, but that’s rarely the case, unfortunately.

  • Dedene

    Jennie,
    I agree with your point of view. I too, shy away from talking politics, whether American or French. I guess I’m not as optimistic as you; not sure Obama will do much to fundamentally change a more than 200-year old system. I’m voting Obama, however. Must keep up the faith.
    As for kids, I never wanted them. Never regretted my choice. I’m adopted! If every couple could give a decent life to an unwanted child, wouldn’t that be a wonderful change in this tired, old world?

  • Dedene

    Jennie,
    I agree with your point of view. I too, shy away from talking politics, whether American or French. I guess I’m not as optimistic as you; not sure Obama will do much to fundamentally change a more than 200-year old system. I’m voting Obama, however. Must keep up the faith.
    As for kids, I never wanted them. Never regretted my choice. I’m adopted! If every couple could give a decent life to an unwanted child, wouldn’t that be a wonderful change in this tired, old world?

  • skylar

    “We are all free, but everywhere in chains.”-Rousseau.
    It’s funny because we are both completely sincere in our quest for individual liberty. The harm principle is thus a tough question. And we both deal with it differently. The individual is free to, “pursue pleasure” as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else. So this then creates a list of what harms others. The democrats, in my view, put alot on the harm principle list. Whereas, I’d keep that list pretty simple. I’d say…The individual can’t physically harm another individual. When our “social contract” is created and the Government is created by us and from us. They are to make sure that we are free to do all but physically harm another.

    The problem: There are harms to others that indirectly occur from complete individual freedom.

    So this world we live in is tiring and old? Impediments on individual freedom are all we have had for our entire human existence up until the 1500’s when the “3rd world” of merchants broke free from Feudalism and rule by nobility. Obama’s taxation of the rich and successful is not a new idea. His desire to put a heavy hand in financial transactions to “help the poor” are not new.

    Foreclosures on houses. Vote for him and we will stop that? do you know that some lender lent out money so someone could own a home, and since he stopped receiving his payments back, in the agreement signed by the lendee, it’s the closest thing to getting his money back, to foreclose on the home. if we stop that, then no one will be lent money.

    Subprime mortgages? Obama was an avid opponent of them…No one seems to know what subprime mortgages did, or how they directly helped the poor purchase a home. 100% financing…No downpayment…horrible credit scores (inability to pay bills on time, irresponsibility)…stated income (poor people didn’t make enough to qualify for a conventional loan). With those conditions people were able to purchase and become homeowners. Values in homes didn’t increase, and since the borrowers didn’t have any of their own money (equity) in the home, they didn’t have the value to refinance into a conventional loan. And when the home is forclosed on, we should feel bad for the poor person losing the home they put no money down on? We want to stop that? really?

    Let’s say we stopped the subprime loan altogether…no forclosure because the borrower never owned a home in the first place…is that a logical solution Obama?

    Sorry for the rant…love you all, you linguists you.

  • skylar

    “We are all free, but everywhere in chains.”-Rousseau.
    It’s funny because we are both completely sincere in our quest for individual liberty. The harm principle is thus a tough question. And we both deal with it differently. The individual is free to, “pursue pleasure” as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else. So this then creates a list of what harms others. The democrats, in my view, put alot on the harm principle list. Whereas, I’d keep that list pretty simple. I’d say…The individual can’t physically harm another individual. When our “social contract” is created and the Government is created by us and from us. They are to make sure that we are free to do all but physically harm another.

    The problem: There are harms to others that indirectly occur from complete individual freedom.

    So this world we live in is tiring and old? Impediments on individual freedom are all we have had for our entire human existence up until the 1500’s when the “3rd world” of merchants broke free from Feudalism and rule by nobility. Obama’s taxation of the rich and successful is not a new idea. His desire to put a heavy hand in financial transactions to “help the poor” are not new.

    Foreclosures on houses. Vote for him and we will stop that? do you know that some lender lent out money so someone could own a home, and since he stopped receiving his payments back, in the agreement signed by the lendee, it’s the closest thing to getting his money back, to foreclose on the home. if we stop that, then no one will be lent money.

    Subprime mortgages? Obama was an avid opponent of them…No one seems to know what subprime mortgages did, or how they directly helped the poor purchase a home. 100% financing…No downpayment…horrible credit scores (inability to pay bills on time, irresponsibility)…stated income (poor people didn’t make enough to qualify for a conventional loan). With those conditions people were able to purchase and become homeowners. Values in homes didn’t increase, and since the borrowers didn’t have any of their own money (equity) in the home, they didn’t have the value to refinance into a conventional loan. And when the home is forclosed on, we should feel bad for the poor person losing the home they put no money down on? We want to stop that? really?

    Let’s say we stopped the subprime loan altogether…no forclosure because the borrower never owned a home in the first place…is that a logical solution Obama?

    Sorry for the rant…love you all, you linguists you.

  • skylar

    It is too bad that voting republican means one also supports conservative Christian values. I’m for homosexual marriage(Their pursuit doesn’t harm me), and stem cell research (limited Government funded type). And why in the HELL would I want a blurry separation of Church and State to stop Women from having abortions and gays from getting married? When that same Government doesn’t practice the Pacifism that Jesus so bluntly spoke of?? I say take the ten commandments out of all public places. Screw the Government and the Bush administration for trying to “Promote” Christian values on the people. How self-righteous of them! For war…we haven’t had a worthy war since World War II.
    Oh well, I’m moving to Germany soon for 2 years. I am a world, Human citizen. The idea of “a nation” is losing it’s valour to the bigger idea of a united humanity.

  • skylar

    It is too bad that voting republican means one also supports conservative Christian values. I’m for homosexual marriage(Their pursuit doesn’t harm me), and stem cell research (limited Government funded type). And why in the HELL would I want a blurry separation of Church and State to stop Women from having abortions and gays from getting married? When that same Government doesn’t practice the Pacifism that Jesus so bluntly spoke of?? I say take the ten commandments out of all public places. Screw the Government and the Bush administration for trying to “Promote” Christian values on the people. How self-righteous of them! For war…we haven’t had a worthy war since World War II.
    Oh well, I’m moving to Germany soon for 2 years. I am a world, Human citizen. The idea of “a nation” is losing it’s valour to the bigger idea of a united humanity.

  • http://maladroite.wordpress.com/ maladroite

    Great post! I have an issue I’m dying to blog about related to this, if I ever have the time since I fly to France this Sunday.

    Skylar- For your heart transplant example, how would it be any different than it is currently, with the waiting list? At least access to good healthcare wouldn’t be restricted to the rich.
    Universal coverage is NOT communism. And what we have now is elitism, and it’s ugly.

    maladroites last blog post..Seeing Red as I go into it

  • http://maladroite.wordpress.com maladroite

    Great post! I have an issue I’m dying to blog about related to this, if I ever have the time since I fly to France this Sunday.

    Skylar- For your heart transplant example, how would it be any different than it is currently, with the waiting list? At least access to good healthcare wouldn’t be restricted to the rich.
    Universal coverage is NOT communism. And what we have now is elitism, and it’s ugly.

    maladroites last blog post..Seeing Red as I go into it

  • http://parkerjarnigan.googlepages.com/ Parker

    excellent post. though it’s off topic, don’t ever stop blogging or running the site. it’s great.

    second, though 100% in agreement, i would remind all that clinton also passed the 1996 welfare reform act which placed very real limitations on the ability of americans to attain help in hard times. and, as for Rwanda, many may not know that the Clinton White House not only stood idly by….well, they didn’t. in a crack piece of journalism, samantha power (who i just learned is foreign policy advisor on the obama campaign) illustrates how Clinton et al basically had 4 options: 1) send in troops to actively combat the genocide 2) use tactical weapons to destroy the radio towers that were broadcasting the names of the people to go kill 3) sit on their asses and do nothing or 4) actively campaign other world leaders and powers to not take action in Rwanda. Power outlines several reasons why the US would do such a thing, not the least of which was to make sure that the US didn’t look bad when other, more beneficent nations came to the aid of humanity. the US official stance on this? in order to avoid reneging on their promise to always stop genocide, the Clinton administration made the subtle distinction that led to the deaths of thousands: their stance was that genocide was not occurring in Rwanda, but only acts of genocide. i know, i know, it is probably the most regrettable course of actions a nation could take. to sin is one thing; to convince others to sin so as to dilute one’s own image of evil is disgusting. and the icing on the top: using specious, asinine labels like “acts of genocide” to avoid action.

    now, the whole point of this is 1) to keep us all vigilant and 2) to remind that even Clinton had is faults. of course, bad Clinton is better than bad Bush, and so will bad Obama be. yes, obama will be bad. he will keep the rich rich and the poor poor, but probably not as much as Bush did. and he will continue, for the most part, evil things like american unilateralism and israelphilia. but, there’s no way he will be worse than bush or mccain. fortunately, i can chew gum and walk at the same time, and you can bet i will vote for obama and maintain a strong ability to hold him accountable when he does the many things that run against the interests of america and the world.

    kudos to everyone plugging for healthcare and such

  • http://parkerjarnigan.googlepages.com Parker

    excellent post. though it’s off topic, don’t ever stop blogging or running the site. it’s great.

    second, though 100% in agreement, i would remind all that clinton also passed the 1996 welfare reform act which placed very real limitations on the ability of americans to attain help in hard times. and, as for Rwanda, many may not know that the Clinton White House not only stood idly by….well, they didn’t. in a crack piece of journalism, samantha power (who i just learned is foreign policy advisor on the obama campaign) illustrates how Clinton et al basically had 4 options: 1) send in troops to actively combat the genocide 2) use tactical weapons to destroy the radio towers that were broadcasting the names of the people to go kill 3) sit on their asses and do nothing or 4) actively campaign other world leaders and powers to not take action in Rwanda. Power outlines several reasons why the US would do such a thing, not the least of which was to make sure that the US didn’t look bad when other, more beneficent nations came to the aid of humanity. the US official stance on this? in order to avoid reneging on their promise to always stop genocide, the Clinton administration made the subtle distinction that led to the deaths of thousands: their stance was that genocide was not occurring in Rwanda, but only acts of genocide. i know, i know, it is probably the most regrettable course of actions a nation could take. to sin is one thing; to convince others to sin so as to dilute one’s own image of evil is disgusting. and the icing on the top: using specious, asinine labels like “acts of genocide” to avoid action.

    now, the whole point of this is 1) to keep us all vigilant and 2) to remind that even Clinton had is faults. of course, bad Clinton is better than bad Bush, and so will bad Obama be. yes, obama will be bad. he will keep the rich rich and the poor poor, but probably not as much as Bush did. and he will continue, for the most part, evil things like american unilateralism and israelphilia. but, there’s no way he will be worse than bush or mccain. fortunately, i can chew gum and walk at the same time, and you can bet i will vote for obama and maintain a strong ability to hold him accountable when he does the many things that run against the interests of america and the world.

    kudos to everyone plugging for healthcare and such

  • Skylar

    Thanks Maladroite, The difference between universal healthcare and Communism is the latter will happen when we die and go to heaven. The former will happen when the masses think it can come at no cost. Vote Obama!

  • Skylar

    Thanks Maladroite, The difference between universal healthcare and Communism is the latter will happen when we die and go to heaven. The former will happen when the masses think it can come at no cost. Vote Obama!

  • http://islandgirl4ever2.blogspot.com/ Leesa

    Jen…
    I haven’t read your blog in awhile so it’s nice catching up… I have to say that this post is EXCELLENT and everything you mentioned, I have had up in my brain since I was a teen… most of it, at least… I have been in the field of Education since 1989, and I do believe that one of the biggest problems of poverty in the U.S. is it’s vicious cycle and how not much at all is really done to change this. I worked in many inner city schools and saw first hand how the system works (or “doesn’t work) for people in low income bracket… It’s shameful and disgusting the the U.S. gov’t. is scooping out gazillions of dollars to pay for a war that it shouldn’t even have started let alone be involved in… while their are soooo many domestic issues that need to be addressed and fixed… I really hope that the Dems will get back into power and start to repair what horrible damage has been done already from 12 years of Bush (both of them) and hopefully the international opinion of the U.S. will begin to change in a more positive way, as well… I will still be living in France, mind you… but I sincerely hope that the U.S. will not have another 4 year of a republican ruler or I feel there is little hope after that… Thanks again for this really excellent and thought provoking post… That’s all for now…

    Leesas last blog post..By the pond…

  • http://islandgirl4ever2.blogspot.com Leesa

    Jen…
    I haven’t read your blog in awhile so it’s nice catching up… I have to say that this post is EXCELLENT and everything you mentioned, I have had up in my brain since I was a teen… most of it, at least… I have been in the field of Education since 1989, and I do believe that one of the biggest problems of poverty in the U.S. is it’s vicious cycle and how not much at all is really done to change this. I worked in many inner city schools and saw first hand how the system works (or “doesn’t work) for people in low income bracket… It’s shameful and disgusting the the U.S. gov’t. is scooping out gazillions of dollars to pay for a war that it shouldn’t even have started let alone be involved in… while their are soooo many domestic issues that need to be addressed and fixed… I really hope that the Dems will get back into power and start to repair what horrible damage has been done already from 12 years of Bush (both of them) and hopefully the international opinion of the U.S. will begin to change in a more positive way, as well… I will still be living in France, mind you… but I sincerely hope that the U.S. will not have another 4 year of a republican ruler or I feel there is little hope after that… Thanks again for this really excellent and thought provoking post… That’s all for now…

    Leesas last blog post..By the pond…

  • http://www.noregretsforme.blogspot.com/ Kim

    First time I read your blog and I see nothing wrong with making a political comment.

    One reason I’ve moved to France is how disgusted I am with the U.S. government and many of our fellow citizens.

    I’m sick of the “I am not my brother’s keeper” mentality … I am disgusted by the “everything for-profit” schemes and absolutely diabolical disinterest in basic humanity.

    Lots of other reasons to move to France, but hell, I’d agree … basic healthcare is a good one.

    Kims last blog post..like babe. only better.

  • http://www.noregretsforme.blogspot.com Kim

    First time I read your blog and I see nothing wrong with making a political comment.

    One reason I’ve moved to France is how disgusted I am with the U.S. government and many of our fellow citizens.

    I’m sick of the “I am not my brother’s keeper” mentality … I am disgusted by the “everything for-profit” schemes and absolutely diabolical disinterest in basic humanity.

    Lots of other reasons to move to France, but hell, I’d agree … basic healthcare is a good one.

    Kims last blog post..like babe. only better.

  • Craig

    SKYLAR: You’re a voice of reason in a sea of drivel.

  • Craig

    SKYLAR: You’re a voice of reason in a sea of drivel.

Why is Jennie no longer in France?

I created this blog in September 2006 when I moved to France from Michigan to teach English. Many of the earlier posts are about my personal life in France, dealing with culture shock, traveling in Europe and becoming fluent in French. In July 2011, I relocated to Australia to start my PhD in Applied Linguistics. Although I am no longer living in France, my research is on foreign language pedagogy and I teach French at a university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling and being an American abroad.

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