Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Out of Many, Too Many


I might have done this research in the heat of my anti-SOPA rage, but as Wikipedia was in the middle of a protest/blackout, I’ve given myself a few days to think about how to best approach this topic.

I’ve noticed recently that on the original seal of the United States, you will not find our current slogan, “In God We Trust,” but our first motto, “E Pluribus Unum.” I’ve been thinking about the difference between these two mottos and the significance each carries.

The original was never signed into law as our official motto, because in 1776, Congress had a lot more important things to do. No, the motto was de facto - or more colloquially, officially unofficial. The Latin phrase means, “out of many, one” and I think carries a heavy promise of truly united strength and faith in this once-great nation.

The later-adopted English motto was signed into law in 1956, undoubtedly because no one had anything better to do in Congress than change things with deeper meaning into crappier things with less meaning for fewer people.

I do not mean to poo-poo “In God We Trust,” particularly as a God-fearing individual. However, while E Plurbis Unim has an immediate and strong sense of unification built-in, In God leaves out Americans who had been included previously. Atheism represents a small portion of today’s US population, less than 2% according to one poll, but a full 16.1% of Americans claim no religion. What better way to segregate than to leave out over 34 million Americans from the motto that is supposed to represent and unite us?

Today Americans come in all shapes and sizes, races and creeds, the same as in days gone by. Why shouldn't we have a motto that unites us when and where it matters most?

Which brings me to my next point. The GOP candidates are largely doing nothing to unite us as a country. I myself would love to see Ron Paul in office, because I honestly believe that he is the best man for the job right now. But Romney, the occasional/probable front-runner, literally falls into the 1% demographic the Occupy movement has so recently fought against. Not to mention he stands alongside Obama in almost every major issue. Gingrich can relate to a lot of people (as he is on his 3rd wife... oooo! burn!) but claims to adhere to traditional family values while in his personal life may he as well beat them. Santorum. Who is Santorum anyway?

I've made some efforts to acquaint myself with these candidates and find myself languishing over what will happen to our government. I already know it’s in the crapper, but maybe, just maybe if the Executive branch could pull its head out for a moment, we might have a chance.

Vote Ron Paul 2012! He’s (surprisingly!) not a war-monger or a politician. He’s your friendly neighborhood OB. He actually understands that each life, and this country as a whole, still has value.


  1. Love the thoughts on E Plubis Unim. Definitely would be nice to have a little more unim to go with our plurbis. But if In God we don't Trust, how are we gonna beat them godless commies!? Also pretty much agree on your comments about the GOP primaries.

    I go back and forth on Ron Paul - I basically like his foreign policy non-adventurism - if it tips into isolationism it's still a positive direction. I also like his take on civil liberties and the ending of government power to detain people without trial. The nice thing is those are the two areas where the president happens to have a lot of authority in making rapid changes. No other GOP candidate will do that and Obama...well, unless he's prepared to make an about-face after reelection he's shown his hand.

    Now, what I don't like about Paul is that he wants to,burn down, spit on, and walk over the grave of the welfare state, Despite its many warts, I happen to think a social safety net and healthcare and all that is basically a good idea. We've tried not having those (see: human history, most of) and without exception it leads to a lot of poor people suffering while the rich kick it back until violence erupts. No thanks. I also think that Paul's positions on immigration and abortion call into question his libertarianism. Having said all that, those are areas where the president requires a lot of Congressional help, so were he elected he's not gonna get his way too much (except for appointing judges, which is a pretty big deal).

    I would disagree on Paul not being a politician. He's not a typical one, but being in office since '79 has taught him some shady tricks. For example, the whole shebang over the newsletters with racist content published under his name in the 80s-90s - he claims that he never read them at the time and didn't know about their content. That just doesn't pass my laugh test. Maybe an odd comment or two could slip by without close supervision, but systematic courting of racists? Umm no. Even if he doesn't believe that garbage (and I think he doesn't) he allowed it to be published, he profited from it, and he's responsible for it. Imagine if Obama once published a newsletter called the Obama Report that repeatedly advocated the Black Panthers and racial violence. Heck, Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers caused a storm and they were passing associations at most! So all the newsletter stuff is ancient history and Paul doesn't like talking about it, but his defense of it shows he's not above insulting his supporters' intelligence to avoid embarrassment. Just like a politician :)

    I also think his worldview is too conspiratorial, with FEMA and the Trilateral Commission and the Rockefellers and big bankers actively seeking to destroy liberty and enslave us all. To me that's spy movie stuff.

    Okay, end Ron Paul rant. As you can see, I don't care for some of his positions, and I though I give him credit for sincerity I don't trust him personally. Despite all that, he's spot-on about enough really important things that I'm glad he's in the race. We need awareness about some of the things most politicians take for granted. So: would never want him as my president, but as a professional gadfly I'll take him :)

  2. Four years ago, Senator Obama ran for the office of the President on a "reach across the aisle" rhetoric, among other campaign talking points. Republicans accuse him of tearing the country apart; each candidate seems to have touted how he or she would unite America. I don't know to what extent President Obama's reelection campaign will emphasize uniting America, but I can't imagine it won't get some play along the trail. Unfortunately I was on a plane last night and missed the State of the Union, so I did not get a glimpse into the tenor of the next year from his administration's side of things.

    Here's what I'm left wondering: to what extent can a principle like "out of many, one" thrive in a two-party system born out of majoritarian politics? It's not like it isn't impossible. The only reason President Monroe was not unanimously reelected back in the day was because the electoral college was set up so only George Washington would hold that honor. At least that's what I think I remember hearing one time. The 1984 reelection of Ronald Reagan over Walter Mondale sure did its part to paint the image of a significant mandate from the people. Even Obama garnered some of that energy and enthusiasm for a while at the beginning.

    I don't have much of a point other than I just really don't like majoritarian politics. Recently, somebody raised some interesting points to me: suggesting that James Madison favored it as part of his whole "contain the conflagration argument" in Federalist 10 ... or 51. It's been a while since I read either. But anyway, there's at least one institutional voice who seemed aware that majoritarian elections rather than plurality democracy has immediate results: the creation of a two party system and the delimiting of marginal voices. The person I was talking to was excited because this meant that American Nazis would not hold public office; I could only think about other voices which have been silenced as a result. So yeah, I'm just wondering how well a two party system facilitates a government or political culture that values "out of one, many." Does it help, hinder, or shape in way which is within our power to impact?

  3. Good points to both of you - Casey, Paul is a bit strong-handed on the welfare system, and I personally think welfare is sort of one of those necessary evils, in that I really wish we didn't need it, but how on earth do you even begin to take away such a system? Having served in South Carolina, I think you understand the need for welfare better than I do. But having served in Argentina, I think I've seen how well people can do without it. Of course, here in the US you can't just start building a crappy concrete house with the materials you can steal or barely afford on land you don't necessarily own. Oh, Argentina.

    Allan, frankly, we avoided the State of the Union address, mainly because it should be held off til later when we can add a laugh track. I see the value in a two party system, but the point is so that each can come up with someone the other party might vote for too. As I see it, it should be more about unification than division. Unfortunately, I haven't got around to finishing the confirmation bias post I've had swimming in my head for about a month and a half which highlights the reasons our increased intelligence only further divides us. As an idealist (because I know there's one in me somewhere), I just want to see everyone agree on something for once. Is that too much to ask?

  4. Found this quote on the internets today:

    "Dogmatic ideological parties tend to splinter the political and social fabric of a nation, lead to governmental crises and deadlocks, and stymie the compromises so often necessary to preserve freedom and achieve progress"

    The speaker was George Romney - his son's been in the news lately; you might have heard of him.

  5. Oh, Brookeness. I knew there was a reason we're friends. I agree with allllmost all of your post. [I will leave it to you to figure out which part(s) I dissent on].

    Let's not forget, as was pointed out in an earlier comment, that the "in god" was put into our currency and our pledge during a time when America was afraid of the big, bad, godless commie. We had to create a dichotomy: Soviets bad. America good. And unfortunately we do the same with our politics today. It is not very often these days to hear one side concede that the other may just have a point. And both sides do have good [and bad] points. The whole nomination system is helping to polarize the nation: the contenders must go out to each primary or caucus state and appeal to those in the party who are ultra-conservative or liberal to even get the nomination.

    I think the two-party system is a mess, but what are the alternatives? I've heard of multi-party systems in places like Holland, but I am not familiar with how well they work.

    PS. Brooke, you are my favorite Mormon. Shhh...don't tell.