On February 9, 2016, my husband became a United States citizen. He was a British citizen previously, and he would always joke about how he didn’t *really* want to be an American (those people who incessantly chant “USA!!! USA!!!” or sing the national anthem at every.single.event.), but it would make life easier now that he has been living here for over a decade. Not surprising given how the Brits love to make fun of us so much! He is definitely all for the British way of governing and benefits, including their socialized health care system. He experienced the excellent care his grandmother was able to receive there after her heart surgeries. I marveled at how his grandmother was able to be taken care of in his uncle’s home in London, well after her debilitating stroke that left her bed-bound, into the progression of her dementia, and until her peaceful death last year. The family was able to care for her so well even though everyone worked full time because the government paid for nursing care to come twice a day, every day. There was never the internal moral struggle to possibly have to send her to a nursing home where she most likely would have declined much faster. In America, this would be impossible unless one has ALOT of money. And as a healthcare professional who has seen many patients come to the hospital from nursing homes, I would never want to send my own elders to one. (I urge you to read Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, for it paints a picture of how this system first began and why it is not the ideal answer for caring for elders in an age of rapid medical advancement and longer life spans.) But back to the topic at hand.
Aside from universal healthcare, life in Britain is very different from life here. Women’s health is not a political topic of debate. Evolution is not a political topic of debate. Religion has nothing to do with politics (as far as I know) — not only because it should have no place in politics, but because who gets to decide which religion is the one to base laws on when every religion in the world is included in that society? Also, nationality and ethnicity are not mistakenly viewed as interchangeable in England as they so often are here. For example, my husband recalls one of his American professors assuming he would know all things about India because he is Indian by ethnicity. He would repeatedly have to answer that he didn’t know because he is British. On the other hand, when he went to England last year, a total stranger was taking surveys at the train station. She heard his accent and immediately marked off “British” for nationality, no inane questions asked. In America we both are constantly asked where we are from. In his case, when he answers “England” he gets confused looks and often more questions. I am often asked by patients and their families how long I have been in this country. A few have even commented on how good my English is! When I say that I was born in Philadelphia, I don’t think it occurs to them that it was wrong to assume I am not from here based on my appearance and my name. I do have to mention that this actually never occurred until I moved to the South.
Despite all of these misgivings, I do still believe that America is a good place to live. During my husband’s citizenship oath, they played videos about the greatness of the country, and the speaker repeatedly told all of the faces in the crowd that no matter where they came from or what their prior citizenship was, from this day forward they could say that they are truly Americans. Reiterated were the Constitutional rights including freedom of religion, something that my husband and I both feel has been downright trampled on in the current political climate. It was bittersweet to hear about the true ideals and values of America during this election season, for I feel that many of the candidates have expressly contradicted these core values. Nonetheless, it was in important day for my husband. We can only hope that these rights are not taken from us based on our ethnicity, skin color, or religion in the years to come.