Sand Dunes and Democracy

August 17, 2009 Leave a comment

The debate about how to reform health care in the United States rages across the country in a series of town hall meetings, constant cable coverage and apparent confusion and misinformation. I have been watching all of this from the distance that you can only gain by being on vacation. And, because my family has vacationed in Wellfleet, Massachusetts on Cape Cod for the last 25 years, I have been reflecting on the messiness of democracy while walking the dunes of the national seashore and riding the waves on the protected beaches of this part of the Cape.

It is a powerful reminder of how advocacy, policy and structural change is at the heart of creating a more just and sustainable world. Had President John F. Kennedy not signed a bill in 1961 authorizing the establishment of the Cape Cod National Seashore, (the goal of which was “to preserve the natural and historic values of a portion of Cape Code for the inspiration and enjoyment of people all over the United States”), I could be meandering through condominiums, McMansions and strip malls.

This was the first time the federal government had created a national park out of land that was primarily in private hands. Months of hearings and meetings were required to produce a bill that balanced private and public interests, the result of which is 43,000 acres of pure joy.

We can only hope that we will see another act of spectacular policy-making about how we receive and pay health care in this country that enhances the well being of all our citizens just as the national seashore guarantees space, beauty and more connection to the earth.

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