Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Obama Signs Health Care Bill with Many Pens

I had hoped to put these pictures up as they were happening, but I was already late for the State Affairs Committee.  This is certainly an historic moment.  Will the passage and signing of the bill mark the highpoint of the opposition or will this mark a point where the conservative anti-forces go into a new phase of anti-government organizing,   bolstered by corporate America's new power to spend money at election time?  Will they make proving themselves right their priority and work to sabotage the bill?  How many will accept the decision and work to make it work for the sake of the citizens of the United States?  In any case, this is not the 'end' of anything, but rather a notable stopping point on the collective journey we're all on. 

Would the opposition be less extreme if our President were a white man or a woman? 

Whatever the answers, this is a major event in American history. 

As with all major bill signings, President Obama used a number of pens to sign the bill.  My basic reaction to this practice is negative.  I understand the practical benefits of being able to give a number of people a 'piece of history' but it seems to me this is like moving Washington and Lincoln's birthdays to the 3rd Monday and calling it Presidents' Day. We take 'practical' action which dilutes the symbolism of real events. We give a dozen people a pen that was used for a letter or two instead of having one pen that was used to sign the bill.  We take something that has inherent value and then chop it up into little pieces each of which have some cheaper value.  

This speaks to the interesting nature of how our brains work, to add value to an item because it has some unique characteristic. An original Rembrandt is worth far more than a copy that no one but an expert can distinguish.  Much of that value is historic value, but much of it simply becomes commercial value. 

I do the same thing.  My grandfather's pocket watch has value to me simply because my grandfather touched it.  It's a connection between us that I wouldn't otherwise have.  So I'm not condemning how our brains work, just noting it.  I understand why the President uses so many pens, but one pen seems more 'pure' to me.  Whatever that means. 


  1. I still ask why is it such a great deal?

  2. Ropi, Because so many vested interests were making money with the status quo. Various attempts in the past have all failed. Overcoming that opposition has taken a long time in the US. We have a lot of people who believe in rugged individualism and believe government is evil. They fought this as hard as they could. Finally, this was characterized in the media as a test of Obama's presidency. Many were ready to call him a failed president if this didn't pass.

  3. Ropi, it's complicated. Steve gave a good 30-second take.

    I can relate to your statement (it sounds like a challenge) by likening it to how I might understand a major political event in your county If I had learned Hungarian, read its history, but never had lived in Hungary. I might not quite know how something was important, either.

    As you have an interest in other cultures, a good next step is to turn your question into "what do I need to learn" about this country? I'm afraid it will be work for you to do.

    My own confusion? As I want to become an EU national in the next two years, I am trying to pick up on over 50 years of government theory, politics and struggle through books. I still have to decide on which European language I wish to study. I still have to deal with my accent positioning me as 'pro-American' on any and every question of the day. I am reacquainting myself with European history while remembering what I felt was and is best of my birth country.

    I am American and left the United States. My direct ancestors were from Denmark, Sweden and pre-state Germany. I'm married to a man whose grandparents were Irish and Lithuanian. I can still wish the USA well but I now turn to what I can do to help my European neighbors.

    Steve may have told you about his family history. He may not have. I do know that you have, with him, an excellent guide when asking these questions. Until recently, he was a university public policy professor.

    All the best, and perhaps I should say more on your blog from here.


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