This 4th of July is a good time to reflect how our country today differs from the nation our Founders envisioned. A handy measure is to compare the national motto the Founders chose vs. how our country behaves today.
What is the national motto.
The U.S. national motto is “In God We Trust.” This phrase first appeared in some coinage during the Civil War, was officially sanctioned as the national motto in 1956 by then President Dwight Eisenhower, but is not the original national motto the Founders chose. Actually, the Founders rejected that and other similar phrases for obvious reasons: they were trying to build a secular nation that acknowledged the blessings of Providence but rejected the supremacy of any specific religion (including Deism, to which several Founders adhered). The subject was important enough to the Founders that they wrote this as the first clause in the Bill of Rights: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
The motto the Founders chose was “E Pluribus Unum” — From Many, One. The “many” were the several states carrying their own philosophies, economies, and customs. The “one” was the new nation governed by one Constitution and one goal of realization. Of course, one must acknowledge that the norms of that time and place, which allowed for a more homogenous leadership and electorate, facilitated the transition from many to one. However, the sentiment of E Pluribus Unum could have remained unaltered as our nation grew. It did not. At least it did not to the extent the Founders envisioned.
Sentiments of divide and conquer that permeate the national psyche have webbed and flowed since the nation’s birth. Today, we are on an upward flow. Media, including social media, compartmentalizes everybody into spheres of preference – echo chambers – and turn participants into one-issue zealots. Schools, especially government schools, are indoctrination centers, as are workplaces. When school children and employees are forced to sit through hours of diversity training, it is a good bet that a true preference for diversity (when persons will “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”) is not occurring. Add to that brew, legislators that moved away from an ideological center that allows for rational discussion and compromise.
Happy 4th of July
Enjoy the hotdogs and the fireworks. Take a few minutes to cogitate on the new national motto vs. the old one. If you prefer the old motto, perhaps help turn the tide towards E Pluribus, Unum.