Hi. My name is Nathan. I am an American living in Sweden. And I am addicted to socialism.
I must admit that I did not come here tonight totally of my own free will, which has been apparently sapped by the Swedish welfare state. For I thought I was quite happy. I thought I did not mind paying high taxes to support the system, both for my benefit and those around me. I thought Sweden was actually not socialist, but, as the CIA World Factbook puts it, "a mixed system of high-tech capitalism and extensive welfare benefits."
But I was wrong. I see that my life has become unmanageable.
Or maybe too manageable.
I was living in the Matrix or on that cruise ship from Wall-E, my mind and spirit dulled by ease. I understand now, I do, even if it took an intervention by Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity to show me (See their wisdom here and here respectively).
I owe them so much. They showed me what a pernicious drug this "socialism" is, draining your life of that low-level anxiety about your family's well-being, easing you into a low level happiness, a stability, a sense that while the winters are soul-killing and life remains hard and unsure, you will be caught if you fall.
What a nightmare. To think I fell prey to "socialism" after all those years as a "liberal."
Though I must confess, I have already slipped. Yes, I did watch the Daily Show segment from Sweden, the one inspired by O'Reilly and his profound truthy truths about America's slippery slope towards Swedishness. I watched Wyatt Cenac trade on outdated and sexist stereotypes to make a deceptively evil, yes, evil, point - that if you give up three of your five blondes in taxes, you get one back in health care savings alone.
Just those 10 or so minutes put me on the road towards relapse, memories of my six months of paid parental leave swirling in my head. I could not stop thinking about how close I got to my daughter, how much I appreciated the chance to stay home without a massive family sacrifice or career suicide.
I could not stop thinking about cheap, high-quality daycare and the comprehensive child health care. I could not stop thinking that Sweden has introduced flexibility into its health care system, that it has some of the most competitive companies in the world, that its government actually refused to bail out a failing car company, Saab. I could not stop ...
Luckily, my bluegrass saviors, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Kentucky, slapped me across the face. The free market is dying, Bunning said. Don't become "Europeanized," shouted McConnell, waterboarding me for the third time. They reminded me what America stands for, at least for the well-off politician I could be some day - rugged individualism and cheap gas, McMansions and low taxes, conspicuous consumption and the military-industrial complex.
America is not about community, they said. Never was. Not in the colonies, not on wagon trains in the Old West, not during the Depression, not even during World War II. In America, they reminded me, it is every man, woman and child for themselves, a nation of pure individuals.
I made a fearless moral inventory, and I realized the hardest truth of them all. I am scared. One day, I hope to move back to America, if only to see the sun in the wintertime, but also to be near my family. But the thought of navigating health insurance, education for my kids and grinding jobs with no vacation is terrifying, not to mention that when you add up all the little taxes and costs - you know, Social Security, state, local, school, health insurance, to name a few - I get suspiciously near my Swedish tax rate.
But that is letting the socialists win. And we cannot let "them" win.
I am new to these 12 steps. I see I am supposed to make a list of all the people I have harmed. I am confused again. Did I harm my daughter? My wife? Myself? Oh, I am slipping again. I seem to only benefit from the safety net.
I also see that I am to take my message to other sufferers. But Swedes like their safety net. They do, even the conservative ones. Oh my, I need to hear the message again. Why Sweden is socialist. Why it is wrong.
It seems so right ...
Excuse me, I need to call Rush Limbaugh - he is my sponsor - and get my head straight.
I need to go over this in detail, health care, parental leave, the gas tax, all of it.
So see you next meeting.
Follow Nathan Hegedus on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@NathanHegedus