The Slow Dissolution of our National Unity

The United States was founded upon one basic principle; the freedom of the individual attained by limited government. It’s a simple doctrine supported by the Bill of Rights which guarantee our individual liberties such as what’s contained in the First Amendment as well as the specific verbiage contained in the 9th and 10th Amendments.

In the pursuit of those interests, individuals are free to create, act upon their own will, and do what they think is best for themselves and their families. It is precisely why, over the past two hundred plus years, so many people have come here from across the world. It is that opportunity that fuels their risk, that provides the impetus for their often perilous journey from wherever they’re from on this big blue marble. Individualism is the key.

Overlayed on top of that individualism rests a blanket of unity, best expressed in the phrase “E Pluribus Unam” or “out of many, one”. The phrase itself dates back to 1782 when the Continental Congress adopted it as part of the Great Seal. The founders inherently knew the nation they were creating was not only unique in the annals of history, but could serve as a haven for those pursuing their own interests be they religious or otherwise, free from the shackles of what bound them, namely, the power of the monarchy in the old world.

They also knew that in order for this nation to succeed there would need to be a unifying force, something to bind the people who came here. E Pluribus Unam became a philosophy woven into the very fabric of their creation. Hear the words of Thomas Jefferson: “Born in other countries, yet believing you could be happy in this, our laws acknowledge, as they should do, your right to join us in society, conforming, as I doubt not you will do, to our established rules. That these rules shall be as equal as prudential considerations will admit, will certainly be the aim of our legislatures, general and particular.”

There have been many nations and empires throughout history which have embraced people of different cultures existing within their borders. The Roman Empire was populated with so many different people it was almost hard to keep track. Everyone from barbarians (Germanic peoples outside the borders of Rome) to North Africans to Arabic peoples. Even some slaves were able to find a modicum of success inside Roman borders, some becoming important citizens of the Republic (and its subsequent iterations), leaders in the Roman military, and property owners (Cicero’s slave, Tiro was one such example).

Individuality was prized with one caveat; in the end, it was Roman law which was to be paramount. Pursue what one wished to pursue; exploit the talents one has for the benefit of the Empire, even keep one’s cultural habits, whatever they may be, but in the end it is Rome that binds, Rome that provides, and Rome that demands your loyalty so as to safeguard all that live inside its borders.

Rome was only one example, there are many others. The Inca in South America adopted the Roman model as well, encouraging individual cultural development while promoting unity under the Incan banner. The same might be said for the Zulu of South Africa as well as the Mongol Khanates. The fact is people of differing cultures can live together quite well with the understanding and recognition of the “tie that binds”. 

This “tie” is unraveling in these United States. What we once took for granted, individuality under one banner is now under assault from all quarters. The more people shout inclusion the more they segregate themselves, their calls for inclusion a siren for separation. Where once immigrants to our nation created “Little Italy” and “Chinatown” as symbols of their cultural heritage along with being a bastion of familiarity in a strange land, they strove to become part of the American fabric. Now, there are calls for separation on the basis of race. 

Where as a nation we once fought for integration and the end of segregation, we now have collegiate campuses having segregated graduation ceremonies, segregated dorms, and “safe spaces” which exclude rather than include. In high schools there are “clubs” based on ethnicity and race. While inviting others to join, they are little more than segregation promotions which highlight the differences between people rather than bringing them together. Collegiate dorms based on race or ethnicity do little more than promote segregation, the very notion Dr. Martin Luther King fought against. 

This does not mean to say poor policy such as the forced busing fiasco of the early 1970’s should be repeated, nor does it mean to suggest people should be forced to integrate. Humans, by our very nature, will segregate themselves, choosing to associate with those sharing the same interests daily. One look at a high school lunchroom will demonstrate this notion as people congregate with those they are most comfortable, such congregation being by choice rather than by policy. 

The danger lies in administrative policy, be it on the local level or the national level, that encourages segregation and separation on the basis of the innumerable ways humans sequester themselves. Such policies only serve to exacerbate the cracks naturally existing in a multi-cultural society, eventually those cracks leading to fissures which cannot be repaired.

The emphasis should be a celebration of our multiculturalism, something baked into our national character, while understanding there is a distinct American culture and promoting a desire to preserve the American way of life.  Rather than a patchwork of individual squares held together by thread which is easily turn asunder, we should strive to be a multi-colored blanket, our differences melded into the whole unable to be separated. Let us be reminded of our motto: E Pluribus Unam