A reader writes:

I agree wholeheartedly. As you also said recently, we have a president. He’s doing what I wanted him to do think, take his time, take the long view. I don’t and won’t agree with everything, and he’ll be limited by reality at every turn, but I have faith that he’ll do his best, and faith that his best is very good.

He also, to my admiration, has faith in the democratic process, however messy it gets. While I’ve been pretty aghast at what the debate over health care has looked and sounded like, I’m very glad we’re having it.

John Cronin, who’s spent his life doing environmental work, made an excellent point a few years ago.

He compared the environmental movement to the civil rights movement. The latter convulsed the country. Everyone was thinking about it, debating it, yelling at someone else, throwing rocks, marching, weeping, going to jail. No one missed it! And in the end, the Civil Rights Act was passed. It didn’t solve a lot of problems right away, but no politician since has ever dared run on a platform of returning to segregation. And, slowly, it did make a difference, though we are still on the path.

The environmental movement never had that convulsive argument. The EPA was established in the Nixon era (still something of a surprise) and the government began to regulate in a piecemeal fashion. Because there was never a cultural defining of what we want our environmental policies to do for us, they are always at the mercy of the next round of polemics.

So, yes, there’s been some real insanity in the health care debate. Not as bad as murdering little girls, mowing down people with fire hoses, or stoning school buses full of children, however. And we’ll come out of it thinking about what health care in our modern society should look like. And I’m willing to bet this is just what Obama wants.

The point is: it's been so long that we had this kind of politics we cannot quite absorb it. But history will judge it in ways our current frenzied moment cannot.

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