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Voices / Letters from readers

For health and compassion, not derision and ignorance

RE: “Land of the free?” [Viewpoint, May. 8]:

I had to read Gerard Cloutier’s submission twice to be sure it wasn’t a joke. The sheer volume of misinformation imparted while crowing about his selfish lifestyle was truly breathtaking.

A few points:

1. Universal health care is not free. I lived in England for over 20 years. I paid for my health care through taxation and National Insurance contributions. When my British husband and I decided to move to Vermont, the scariest part of the decision was leaving the National Health Service, an organization that had literally saved my life and is the best thing about the United Kingdom.

Moreover, universal health care saves money, as well as lives, which is why every single other developed country in the world — except for the United States — has some version of it for the vast majority of its citizens.

Throughout my entire life, I’ve seen relatives and friends in the U.S. struggle, go bankrupt, or even just fade away or surrender and die because of the inability to pay for the medical care they need.

It’s disgusting. It’s unnecessary. It’s deplorable.

2. Paying taxes in return — for excellent public education, clean air, water, for safe roads, homes, and neighborhoods rather than to line the pockets of cruel, greedy corporations and individuals who don’t pay a penny themselves toward such things even when they use them — is what would truly make the United States a great nation, but it’s become glaringly obvious over the past two years that people like Mr. Cloutier don’t actually want to be part of actual American society.

They’ve been, for some inexplicable reason, entranced by a bigoted narcissist spewing hate from the podium of his little Nuremberg rallies, to the point where they think “American” means “every man for himself.” (Never “herself.” Women remain second-class citizens.)

And screw you if you can’t afford or aren’t allowed the opportunity to live the American dream of life, liberty, and happiness.

3. My grandfather, who I think must have been around the same age as Mr. Cloutier, immigrated to Vermont from Quebec to look for work as a stonemason.

While he did experience xenophobia, and even had to change his name to one that sounded more English to eventually find that work, my grandfather was not ripped from his home and family, put into the hold of a ship, and sold as property to be worked to death.

To imply that these two situations are in any way equal is obscene.

Mr. Cloutier’s willful disregard for the truth about the state of inequality in this country, the bigotry, the impossibly low wages, and the disparities of wealth and opportunity that keep so many people in poverty despite their hard work is both sad and disturbing.

I feel thankful that my community is, overall, one where caring people offer help and compassion to those who need it rather than smirking derision and proud, self-serving ignorance.

Patricia Sheehan
Brattleboro

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Originally published in The Commons issue #510 (Wednesday, May 15, 2019). This story appeared on page D3.

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