The Fourth of July is not just another holiday for me. There was a time when celebrating our country was not so important to me. I was born and raised here, and just kind of took for granted the things our country offers. But that all changed for me when we lived for 11 years in Hungary, beginning soon after the Iron Curtain fell.
At that time, my wife and I, and our two small children moved to that previously Soviet Socialist country. Life there in the early days was still dominated by the oppressiveness of communism. The people’s lives were controlled by the socialized government, which means the government owned and controlled almost everything.
The government owned the apartments that people lived in, and they were all heated by a government owned and operated heat plant. So the heat got turned on by the government on a certain date each year, no matter what the weather was like before or after that date. And it was turned off in the spring on a certain date. There were no thermostats in apartments; one temperature for all. And air conditioning was a luxury the government didn’t supply.
All hospitals, doctors, and medical supplies were owned and managed by the government. Doctors owned very few medical tools, and diagnostic or procedure services were carried out at a government owned clinic.
When a blood or urine test was required, for example, you went to the government clinic, and in our large city, there might be several hundred people there waiting there for the same thing. So you waited for them to call your name.
Since you could not hold your bladder until it was your turn, everyone was instructed by their doctor to put your first morning sample in a small jar, close it tightly, and take it with you to the clinic. When it was you turn, you would take the jar to the restroom, transfer your sample to the official container provided, and then throw away the jar you brought. There was a huge garbage can in the restroom with a sign that said: “Dispose of your urine jar here!”
That was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to socialized medicine! While we had doctor friends in Hungary who gave us the best care they could without specialized equipment, experiencing that has made us tremendously thankful for the level of care we can get in this country, even with all of the problems in our health care system. It is often easier to complain that to realize how fortunate we are.
In our early years of living there, the grocery stores were supplied through the socialist system. Supplies of foods, meat and produce were controlled by the government, limited, and usually stayed on the shelf until sold. Those who could grow their own fresh foods did so, both out of necessity and as a way to supplement income by selling the extras at street stands.
Everyone, even natural born citizens, were required to register with the government and carry government identification on their person at all times. Police could stop your car for no reason at all, just to check your ID’s and everything you were required to have in order to drive your car on the roads. They would just stand by the road, point at you and hold up their hand for you to stop, no reason needed.
We enjoyed living in Hungary, and loved the people, and the conditions there have vastly improved over the intervening years. Yet whenever we would come home to visit, we would experience the freedom of America. America, where you control the temperature in your home, and have access to the finest hospitals and medical care in the world. America, where the foods are fresh and wholesome. America, where you don’t have to carry your identification papers at the beach. America, where you can talk about your country or political leaders without fear of reparations. America, where you can think and speak freely. And most of all, America, where we are free to worship as our conscience dictates.
America, the Land of the Free. Most of what we have today in America find’s its roots in the Christian faith of those who established this country. In John 8:31-32, 36 (CSB) Jesus said: “If you continue in my word, you really are my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free… So if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.”
America, land that I love. May God stand beside her, and guide her with His light from above.
Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. He can be reached at email@example.com.