“Hi! Have you just arrived from Britain? Really? You’re hoping to stay permanently? Well, let me tell you a bit about the place. Oh, and by the way – welcome to the asylum!
It’s been more than twelve years since I emulated Columbus and stepped onto American soil for the first time. As a Brit who’d traveled around quite a lot I was confident I could handle whatever America would throw at me. It couldn’t be that different from Europe, could it?
Maybe I was less fortunate than that dubiously intrepid explorer who’d preceded me by some five hundred and ten years. After all, he got to go home. I was an immigrant. I got to stay.
It wasn’t just the indignity of being constantly referred to as an ‘alien’, or even the Immigration Department’s female doctor, built like a Russian crane driver and with a face like a bulldozer, who rammed a finger resembling a German sausage up my ass before grabbing my testicles and declaring of one, “You’ve got a varicocele. It’s what we call a bag of worms.”
She’d failed to notice I’d had a vasectomy fifteen years previous, hence the unusual knotting within the scrotal sac. I didn’t bother to enlighten her. I was too busy trying to get my rectum back into some sort of order.
Nor was it the Mantoux TB test that showed up positive. Despite my protestations that – yes, of course it would be positive because I’d been given a BCG vaccination when I was fourteen – I was forced to take large doses of Rifampin that near wrecked my liver and almost put me in the hospital.
Did you get the BCG vaccination at school in Britain? You did!
You’ll find US doctors have no knowledge of BCG vaccinations for TB. It’s almost never used in America. They shrugged off my protestations by stating the BCG was only good for ten or fifteen years, so I must be a tuberculosis carrier. They’d obviously never heard of the BCG studies done on American Indians and Alaskan natives in the 1930s that proved conclusively BCG vaccine efficacy persists for 50 to 60 years.
It was about this time I began to doubt that everything we Europeans had been taught over the years, concerning this medically and technologically advanced nation, was actually true.
Twelve years on, I’ve had little reason to change my mind. Admittedly, when a blocked artery caused a bad angina attack that sent me to the emergency room, I couldn’t have asked for better treatment. Within three days I was back home and feeling better than ever. One week later, I got the hospital bill, which almost saw me back in there again.
I’ve spoken lots about the abomination that is the US Health Service, so I’ll not bother with further enlightenment. You can read about it on Sparrow Chat. How, or indeed why, Americans put up with it is beyond comprehension. That they do says more for the American mentality than, perhaps, any other aspect of US society.
Except, that is, for their fanatical obsession with firearms. Never mind the thousands who die every year as a result; sod the schoolkids massacred routinely by twelve or fourteen-year-old maniacs armed with Daddy’s AK47 for the fun of slaughtering their classmates, and who cares that any nutter can walk into Wal-Mart or Target and shoot up the place?
There is a positive side to it all. It gives the good folks of America the opportunity to show their love for each other by donating teddy bears, or balloons with holy messages of comfort, or even just a nice bunch of flowers to shove into the school railings. And let’s not forget the candlelight vigils. Oh, you’ll love those candlelight vigils. They just tear your heart out.
Americans will do almost anything to express their grief at such times – anything, that is, except demand their government enact legislation to curb this unnecessary slaughter.
Did I say “Welcome to the asylum”?
If you’ve any remaining doubts that the United States is doing a good impression of the world’s finest institution for the mentally insane, then a steady dose of US media will eventually assuage them. The evening news bulletins may not have an immediate impact on your nervous system. It takes time to realize that what passes as news in the rest of the world rarely makes it onto John Doe’s seventy-eight inch flat screen.
Basically, if it’s not American, it’s not news. For the first six months of American life I confidently expected the evening news would eventually inform me what was happening on Planet Earth. I was doomed to disappointment. For ‘Planet Earth’ read ‘United States of America’. Nowhere else exists, unless the US happens to be fighting a war there.
It doesn’t matter that three hundred Iraqis are massacred in cold blood by ISIS, or a European spacecraft is performing numerous firsts in space that will culminate in it landing on a comet. It likely won’t make the US evening news program. The only ‘Rosetta’ most Americans have heard of is the Mexican illegal-immigrant woman who serves them their Caramel Macchiato down the local Starbucks.
Perhaps the most maddening trait I’ve encountered in twelve years is the overall arrogance portrayed by the US media towards anything ‘not-America’. Superciliousness oozes from every pore of those whose job it is to sell America to Americans through the internet or television. No matter how disastrous the news of the day; however many kids shot in this week’s school massacre, or the latest corrupt failings of the seat of government in Washington, the broadcast will always end with a segment designed to show the viewers just how wonderful their fellow Americans are. Like, no-one else in the world bakes cookies to raise money for cancer research, helps a blind man cross the street, or donates their spare kidney to save a sibling’s life!
Do you know, over here people live in their cars? I’d never heard of families living in their cars before I came to America. The idea of people still existing in shacks and shooting squirrels for food was a lifestyle associated with third-world countries. Forty-six million Americans live in dire poverty! Surely it could only occur in Africa during a drought?
When I first arrived here I never expected the motorways to be riddled with potholes, or fifty-miles to the gallon diesel cars a non-entity, or electricity to be strung from poles that come crashing down with the first strong gust of wind.
Moving to America was rather like traveling back fifty years in time.
But, hey, don’t worry. You get sorta used to it eventually. And anyway, it’s too late for you to go back now. I just hope you don’t get the female Russian crane driver with the face like a bulldozer for your physical. Just make sure you take plenty of KY jelly with you.
Oh, and did I say, welcome to the asylum?”
 “Rosetta mission: Can you land on a comet?” BBC, November 5th 2014