I was getting all ready to do a post about NPR tweeting the Declaration of Independence and the kerfuffle over the CNN video and its source, but then I realized there was something deeper to say about the implication of mottos.
Since 1956 — the height of “godless communism” — the motto of the USA was “In God We Trust” and “Under God” was added to the pledge. Before that, the unofficial motto — since the founding of the nation — was E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One). The change was made — ostensibly — to distinguish us from the godless Commies. I think our decline into partisanship began then.
Think about the two sayings. When you say, “In God We Trust”, the first question is: Whose God? Is it the God of the Christians, the Jews, the Muslims, the Hindu, the Buddhists, the… And what about those who do not believe in God, or who question God? “In God We Trust”, ultimately, is a motto that divides us. It also explicitly gives a religious basis to what makes us strong. If “In God We Trust”, then it is God that makes us strong. Actually, it is my God that makes us strong, and your God that makes us weak, so you better do what my God says.
Now consider “E Pluribus Unum“. This is a strength that comes not from the Divine, but from the people. It says that it is our diversity that makes us strong — our different ideas. It is all of us working together that makes this nation great, setting aside religious, cultural, and political differences to find compromises that move us forward.
Our National leaders — starting from the era of Eisenhower and “In God We Trust” (for this is when both Nixon and Reagan got their starts) — have increasingly emphasized the divides in our nation. Religion. Class. Color. Gender. They have played those divides to accumulate power and wealth. We see the results in Washington DC today. People work for party over the nation, believing what is good for their party must be good for the nation, unquestioningly. We have seen a populace that unquestioningly hates the other side, considered them to be sub-human. We have seen the hatred grow, and the unity disappear.
For America to survive, we must remember that we were founded for E Pluribus Unum, not In God We Trust. We must come together to celebrate our diversity, find the strength within, and work together for all people. We must elect leaders who feel the same. We must remind our currently elected leaders that if they do not work for all the people, then they may soon be looking for a new job.