Monday, March 22, 2010

E Pluribus Unum

....From Many, One.... is the motto of the United States, etched on the base of the statue atop the nation's Capitol, the Lady of Freedom, who is grounded in the United States but looking back towards England. I had a long planned trip to Washington, D.C. this past weekend, and had my boys with me--ages 13 and 9--my 9 year olds first trip ever to Washington, D.C. What a weekend to introduce him to the nation's Capitol. As we emerged from Union Station on Saturday morning and saw the dome, I got goose bumps, in part because I like public spaces, but also because it was a momentous weekend.

He was far more interested in riding the airplane simulator in the Smithsonian that lets you "flip upside down until you nearly puke."

If you haven't visited the Capitol since they opened the relatively new underground visitor center, you should, as it is very well done. The movie they show, E Pluribus Unum, tells the story of the United States as one of trying to fit many people and notions into one nation. The story and this inherent drama, continues to unfold. During the tour of the Capitol, it was great to see it again, but also to experience my 9 year old seeing it for the first time. "Dad, can you believe our whole house could fit inside the!"

Outside after the tour, my boys got a very practical introduction to a key American value, dissent and protest. We waded into the middle of the anti-health reform protest and listened to a bit of it, and took in the scene. "Dad, there are a lot of mad old people here" was my 9 year olds take. However, I noticed more families with younger/adolescent kids of my children's age than I would have guessed and the most vivid image of protest for me is a kid of about 10 chanting 'Kill the Bill' over and over inside a Metro stop later in the day.

The tea party crowd did not have the market cornered on dissent on this beautiful first weekend of spring. When we arrived at the North entrance of the White House later in the day, Lafayette Park was filled with an anti-war protest as it was the 7th anniversary of the Iraq War. In many ways, the signs at the tea party protest and the anti-war protest had more similarities than differences. And I tried to explain to my boys that if you ever find yourself resorting to calling other people "war criminals, nazi's, communists, totalitarians," etc. in political discourse, there is a good chance you are not proving to be very persuasize.

The passage of the Senate bill last night is a tremendous move ahead for our nation. It is certainly not that the bill is perfect, but it provides a flexible framework that can be returned to easily, and which could tweaked and changed in directions generally understood to be left or right. In the end, we have kicked the ball down the field and taken a step toward being able to make our system a sustainable one, but only if we remain at work over the next years and decades.

It is possible that I am sorely mistaken, and that the nation will rise up to demand repeal of the Senate bill framework and that the Republican party will paint an overarching vision for health reform that wins out in the end. I doubt it, but time will certainly tell. And even if that comes to pass, it would not have done so without yesterday's breaking of the log jam that is the status quo of our health care system.


  1. Thank you for this perspective. While I get tired of the angry rhetoric - I value the fact that we can express our point of view anywhere, anytime. I am thankful that reform has passed and that we, as a country, can still create dramatic change when needed. I only regret that the debate was as polarizing as it was. That it became a politically charged debate rather than one of costs and benefits to the country. I was hopeful, even idealistic, that a bipartisan agreement could be reached. I hope that we do not return to the status quo after mid-term elections. Again, thank you for sharing your experience.

  2. Best antidote for bad speech is good speech....not shutting down speech generally.

  3. This bill does nothing for me, or the average American. I can only hope that I really am to stupid to know what it good for me, and that my government can save me from my own certain demise.