LANDMARK: a distinguishing landscape feature marking a site or location

When the 216th Member of the House of Representatives clocked in with a “yes” vote on the heavily-debated Health Care legislation last night, it was tantamount to becoming law.  There are a couple of U.S. Senate steps remaining to firm up the decision, but for the most part, the United States now has a Health Care Plan that begins the process of providing universal health care for the nation.  In doing so, the U.S. joins the rest of the world’s leading nations in recognizing the country’s responsibility to be responsible for the health and welfare of all citizens, even those previously unable to afford the protection.  Many who commented on the moment last night called it  landmark legislation.

To be true to the definition above, that means that one of the ways people around the world will recognize the United States is by its provision of adequate health care for its populace.  If that is the case, the reverse must have been true also:  prior to last night the United States was seen as a nation that chose not to provide such care for its people.  That’s embarrassing.

Nobody…from the President on down…thinks that what happened last night is the end of the quest for quality health care for the nation.  It is simply the first step with many, many more to follow.  Health care is one of those provisions that is static…constantly changing.  The discovery of new methods of treating illness and injury, the recognition of emergent medical technology, the constant experience of new strains of illnesses popping up…all this signals the need for our leadership to be responsive.   What happened last night was the government of the United States signaling that it was prepared to do that.

This first step was contentious.  To put that in a more accurate framework, the people responsible for acting on the proposed legislation were contentious.  Over the past year confusing medical, financial, and moral information flooded the minds of the electorate.  Superfluous data was distributed, lies were told, exaggerations and fears were nourished,  self-congratulatory comments were abundant, and the government almost ground to a halt over the legislative conflict.

In the end the people of the United States had an opportunity to witness a party seeking and creating ways to bring disparate opinions together to carry out a legislative action that forged a landmark moment.  There will be plenty of time to smooth out the kinks and ripples in the legislation, and that process will begin immediately.  It will last for decades and  even centuries.  But in the end, the common good was the motivation that spurred concurring votes.   Good negotiation and necessary political maneuvering within the Democratic party assured the passing of the bill before the House.  Unfortunately, the Republican Members of the House chose not to sign onto this  landmark bill.  The opportunity to assign their names to a pivotal decision was too much for them, and this moment will be registered in history as partisan, the product of the ruling Democratic Party.

Down the road it won’t matter a great deal to the people who are the recipients of the benefits of this legislation.  For right now it is a hot potato in the political world, and will have some impact on the 2010 elections.  But the focus is not on the political aspect;  it is upon the social aspect and the provision of affordable health care to the citizenry of this vast country.  The President and the Democratic leadership in the House are to be congratulated for their hard work in bringing about this moment.  The leadership of the Senate will have a similar opportunity over the next 48 hours.

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Photo Credit: American Landmarks

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