Pull out a coin and find “E Pluribus Unum”

Reject fear, choose plurality, choose One America

On both, in Latin, is written “E Pluribus Unum” (From many, one).

Not surprisingly, neither the phrase nor the Great Seal excludes Muslims “nisi Muslims,” (except Muslims), nor “nisi’s” any other group.

 In fact, you’ll find exactly the opposite.

The reason is that exclusion is in direct opposition to the core spirit of both the Great Seal and E Pluribus Unum — and America itself – and is why many Americans view the immigration order targeting Muslim countries as un-American.

For many Americans, the ban touches on a fundamental American value of plurality. Moreover, barring a proven or imminent threat, Americans expect the executive branch to prioritize its use of power to acting as a long-term trustee of common values, like plurality, over short-term concerns involving policy, including border security.

At the core of these symbols of unity, representing plurality, is tradition and daily lived experience.

Adopted as a de facto American motto in 1776, E Pluribus Unum traditionally represented the merging of many states into one nation. It also signaled a rejection, by the founding fathers, of hundreds of years of European state-sponsored religious persecution and bloodshed.

The contemporary meaning has focused on the concept of the “melting pot,” wherein out of many peoples, religions, languages, traditions, countries of origin and backgrounds Americans are one nation, one people.

In 1956, the phrase “In God We Trust” was adopted as the “official” U.S. motto (note, it does not specify any religion’s God) and yet, pluralism continues at the center of the American experiment.

Essentially plurality means “we the people.” One America.

More important than coins, mottos or traditions, E Pluribus Unum is the living societal norm in the form of a promise, which most exalts individual freedom and autonomy. In other words, plurality is the American promise we are all free to individually pursue the liberty and equality of individual conscience (as long as it doesn’t harm another). And, we are free from prosecution for pursuing our consciences.

Plurality, as a value, is a promise to all. And yet, the focus of plurality is its individual character, not as a passive rule, imposed on the nation, but its active quality in individual daily lives.

The framers of the Constitution brilliantly understood plurality’s individual character does not weaken the moral community. Plurality’s daily effect is just the opposite, it strengthens communal morality.

Individually, by supporting each other’s freedom, to worship, to pursue individual notions of “the good life” – no matter how odd or uncomfortable — we are similarly supporting our own freedom. In doing so, “we the people” (not a ruler) actively navigate an agreement to a moral consensus.

Pressed on all sides by different people we exercise the muscles of plurality by extending to our fellow Americans – as different as they are — the neighborly, but sacred notion “live and let live.”

The constant, nearly unconscious exercising of E Pluribus Unum, renews American democracy, makes it stronger, binding the melting pot nation together. Americans agr ee to not impose any version of how to live as a requirement for living the good life.

Now, more than ever, this one America, of E Pluribus Unum, must take precedence.

Granted, America’s pluralism is an idealistic concept of liberal democracy, a fantastic experiment. Skeptics have described it as foolish since the founding of the nation.

However, even when good intentioned or seemingly justified by “reality,” history has harshly judged the actions of those in power who prioritize short-term security over long-term values, as a weakening of American democracy.

The historical actions viewed through the long-term lens of American pluralism, include banning Jewish immigrants and interning Japanese-Americans during World War II, McCarthyism, and a myriad of unequal historical treatments based on religion, color, creed or national origin, on Indigenous Americans, people of color, Catholics or Irish, etc. … or now Muslims.

Because we exercise it daily, E Pluribus Unum, inscribed on every coin, is also uniquely inscribed within the soul of the character of Americans. The ideal of plurality serves as a long-term safeguard against our own short-term fears and impulses.

In this way, it is also a bright ray of light illuminating America’s way forward in a troubled world. Any action treating this value lightly, no matter how justified, should arouse deeply held questions about who we are.

The executive order tests the long-term idealism of America plurality, in favor of fear and short-term security. Fear, powerful as it may be, is the weaker choice and rightly should be viewed from that perspective, while plurality encompasses the strength of American individualism and national moral character.

That is why many Americans feel the executive order is repellent and reject it.

They are rejecting fear, a nd choosing a fundamental American value, plurality. E Pluribus Unum, written on the coins in your pocket, “we the people.”

All the people. One America.

4 thoughts on “Pull out a coin and find “E Pluribus Unum””

  1. Taking out the Garbage: Why Pragmatism is the better choice
    If the challenge is a Trumpian “winner take all” center of political gravity and Steve Bannon’s world view of “one sized fits all” in the White House, whats the worldview/center of gravity alternative?
    Its a kind of thinking that most of us use when making decisions -like taking out the garbage – in our own homes. Good old American pragmatism.
    Importantly, for pragmatic thinking, rules and principles supplement rather than rule our judgement about a situation. We weigh the facts, consider the moral pluses and minuses, as well as rules and make a determination.
    For example, if I consider taking the garbage out I think through the facts: its Sunday evening and garbage pick up is Tuesday, the bag is almost full but not quite, there isn’t anything stinky in there at the moment…okay I’ll decide to until Monday to throw the garbage out. Its a pragmatic view, not a winner takes all marketplace or one size fits all rule-based view, of the world.
    Moreover, pragmatism is not morally relative (what Bannon hates), nor nihilistic, but an American tradition and ethical framework for working through issues based on the situation. Pragmatism is the basis for many of our common laws because it “makes sense.” It allows for nuance which “fits” the moment and considers the future.
    Historically, the American pragmatic ethical framework is part of the country’s culture of innovation and exploration.
    So, instead of applying a “winner take all” (Trump’s market-based ethic) or a “one size fits all” (Bannon’s deterministic ethic) which sets various factors – consequences, facts, duties and obligations, rights and virtues – in opposition to one another, lets consider an alternative. Good old American Pragmatism.

    1. In as much as the group is an informal democratic group, its initial purposes and goals are based on a shared perspective re: the current political situation and the forging of a new way forward.
      There are members of the group in varying areas of the United States as well as outside the United States.
      Our purpose and goals include
      1) Mutual support in the pursuit of liberal democratic values, including the basics: equality, liberty, plurality for all peoples and specifically LGBT, Women’s rights, immigrant rights,
      2) Safe haven for any impacted by the attack on values by the current US administration.
      3) An organizing platform for actions in support of these values.
      4) The muting, resisting, and ultimately replacement of the current administration and its attack on values.
      5) The furtherance of a “cosmopolitan ethic” promoting liberal democratic values, institutional policy, messaging, and political action.
      Any thoughts are welcome….

  2. Granted my concept of “America” is mostly based on 5th Grade Civics class of 1976.
    The bi-centennial was in full swing and anyone alive at that time, I believe, got an extra dose of patriotism, and a dunking in all of the American values.
    Fast forward 40-years and the primary American value is ‘security” as in the politician’s applause line: “The number one job of the President/Congress/Senate is…. the security of the American people.” Not true. What? Radical idea right?
    A counter argument is the number one job of a politician is that there “IS an America.” Which means acting first as a trustee (not imposing) of the fundamental rights and values of “the people.”
    That is what a democracy looks like. While security is part of the mix, it does not take priority over freedom, equality, and plurality. Without those values there is no “America” to secure.
    Historical facts in the name of “security” like the Patriot Act, FISA courts, NSA mass surveillance, Muslim bans are not normal. They each are incrementally chipping away at the American values noted in Civics class circa. 1976.
    Its our job as “oldsters” to remind the young’uns that the bohemian values of freedom, equality, and “live and let live” trump a security first view of America.
    The term for a movement where a right to “security” trumps all other rights is “absolutism.” It was coined by American philosopher Ronald Dworkin who warned a creeping “security-first” posture on American rights undermined America as a whole.
    The progression looks like this…..authoritarianism sneaks in behind absolutism based on “security-rights” which are based ultimately on fear.

  3. “The only weapon of power…is to convince us of the reality of the social, of the gravity of the economy…For this purpose power prefers the discourse of crisis…and the discourse of desire.” – Jean Baudrillard.

    Trump uses “scandal” to feed the Left a constant diet of “Crisis,”

    and sells jobs to those who voted for him to feed their Desire.

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