Andrew Sullivan links to this video on Remote Area Medical in a post titled "This Is In America, Not Africa." He prefaces the video by saying, "A moving film about Remote Area Medical, the kind of volunteer health care charity that you see in developing countries."
I have really strong but mixed feelings about this. It is a national embarrassment that people in our country have to camp out to see a doctor they can afford. I mean, if this video doesn't make you think there's something very fucked up in our country, I can't imagine what will. These are people in our state who depend on a guy in a truck to show up and get them glasses, who don't even know that they have spots on their lungs from smoking because they can't get an X-ray, unless it's from this program. And the workable response we have to their health care needs is to treat it like a regularly occurring natural disaster, complete with people camping out in sports stadiums waiting for volunteer help to arrive.
But I hate the "This is in America, not Africa" stuff. Africa is a whole continent. If you looked at our whole continent, you could find some really backward hellholes, too. It's unfair to talk about Africa as if it's a place full of a common poor people with a common shitty culture when it's full of a lot of different ethnic groups with really different, vibrant cultures living in really different circumstances.
Honestly, would we really be so bad off if the people in this video from East Tennessee lived like people in Cape Town? No, that'd be an improvement, so maybe we should not use "Africa" as a synonym for "terrible place full of destitute, miserable people" — especially not when our response to our own fellow Tennesseans' suffering is so inadequate. OK, especially not when our response to the suffering in our own country is to just ignore it.
We are a country with no shortage of destitute, miserable people. Period. We don't need false comparisons to Africa. We need to find better ways to help them.