Neighbourhood Watch

December 2, 2013

We have a neighbour who is somewhat mentally disturbed, armed and possibly dangerous. I am not talking about my next door neighbour, who is pretty good. I am talking about our neighbour south of the border, the United States of America.


Why do I say that? Just look at some of the symptoms of mental disturbance – isolation from others, irrational behaviour and a split personality. Our neighbour has them all, as a few simple examples will show.


Pretty much the whole world follows the metric system, with one notable exception: our neighbour to the south, who prefers the English system of units. Even the English don’t follow this system anymore. Even the word English is archaic; it is now replaced with British.


As a result, I cannot fill up on gas anymore in the USA; I don’t know what I am paying for. First, I have to convert gallons (US) to litres, and then figure out the currency exchange rate. If it is a US car rental, I have to convert miles per gallon to kilometres per litre to figure out what fuel efficiency I am getting. It is a totally irrational system of units; the world realized it long ago, the Americans haven’t figured it out yet.


Most advanced countries of the world have an efficient health care system that covers everyone generally free of cost. The most successful programs are single payer systems like in Canada. The US of A, however, wants to follow its own path, using a privately run health care system with minimal government control, hoping that for–profit insurance companies will do the right thing out of the goodness of their heart. It doesn’t really work that way and it will not, as long as private companies run the show.


The other sign of mental disturbance is a split personality. The US has two personalities, split almost equally. In that country, you are either a republican or a democrat and there is no meeting ground. From time to time one personality takes over for a few years and then the other personality wins the election. As time passes by, the country is getting more and more schizophrenic, trending towards the more violent forms of behaviour.


There is the occasional voice of sanity in the country but it is quickly drowned out by other voices. Sometimes, a political leader wants to apologize for a mistake but he is branded as un-American; people even start questioning where he is born. A well known TV personality,another voice of sanity, wants to reduce gun violence  in the country but he is branded as an outsider who doesn’t  understand America.


In spite of these problems, it is still one of the greatest countries of the world with great opportunities for growth.  I have  to say it because I once lived there and now my daughter now lives there. If I stay for some time with her, I may even want to give a talk at the local Toastmaster’s club.


My topic of choice would be our disturbed neighbour north of the border. I am sure there will be plenty of material to choose from, when talking about a country whose currency is called the looney.

Niraj Chandra

Presented at the Portage Toastmasters Club, November 12, 2013


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