If you’re someone who still pays for things with cash, reach into your pocket and pull out some change. Look closely at the inscriptions and you will find the phrase “E Pluribus Unum”: Out Of Many, One. This phrase was suggested as an American motto all the way back in 1776.
For most of my adult life I felt that, for all our nation’s flaws and checkered histories with people, it was an appropriate motto. One that we all seemed to agree was a goal worth pursuing. When the chips were down, Americans were Americans and we helped one another.
I got to see this shortly after the attacks of 9/11. The entire nation stopped to help. We didn’t care about politics. An attack on one of us was an attack on all of us. The darkness of that day was tempered by the light we all brought to the response. Somewhere in that chaos, with bodies still buried in the rubble, a future American president would take the opportunity to point out that he now had the tallest building in New York.
Over the past few months, we have gotten to see an American tragedy in the form of some of the worst wildfires the west has ever seen. In response, I got to see actual “leaders” pretty much say that it’s a California problem and not ours. Social media was filled with chants of “burn, baby, burn!” and the like. As Americans lost their homes, communities, and lives, a large portion of conservative commentators took actual glee at the suffering of others in large part because of the state’s political persuasion.
How did we get here? Would anyone actually call it a ‘United’ States of America? E Pluribus Unum?
American politics has certainly gotten more and more antagonistic over the past 30 or so years. The chummy club days of Republican and Democratic senators having lunch together before a policy battle on the floor are long gone. This antagonistic behavior has spilled into our communities. The comment sections of social media have allowed us to semi-anonymously tell our neighbors some pretty awful things that sound more like a middle school bullying session.
I read about families that don’t have Sunday dinner anymore, best friends that haven’t spoken since 2016, and a general anxiety about meeting new people – what if their politics don’t align with my own? For many of us, our personal politics aren’t aspects of our personality as much as they are exclusive clubs. Agreement is paramount for acceptance – you are either in or out. E Pluribus Unum, but only if you agree with me.
We can talk in circles forever about what the most pressing issues in our nation are, and call each other names like schoolchildren all day. Meanwhile, nothing of substance gets done exactly because of that.
We have effectively isolated ourselves into jail cells of our own strong beliefs. I believe that a repeat of the previous four years certainly won’t begin to solve what I have come to believe is an issue of paramount importance. This administration has thrived on the culture of political antagonism that only serves to further divide us on political lines.
I don’t pretend to think a Biden administration can solve this in four years. But I do believe that he would do a better job of working with those who disagree with him – and that’s a start, a start we desperately need if we have any interest in pulling together as a nation to tackle the giant problems that we and our children are facing.
We need to begin to remember that phrase on our coins – E Pluribus Unum. And I believe Joe Biden is the better man for this task. And that is why I voted for him.
Finally, no matter your politics, I wish you a free and fair election. Let every voice be heard.