Saturday, February 29, 2020
And Now, Just a Few Words, "In God We Trust"
In 1776, America's founding fathers proclaimed that the official motto of their freshly minted United States would be "E Pluribus Unum" or 'out of many, one.' Let's not clutter this up with awkward issues such as slavery or the 'white trash' syndrome. It was a noble thought. We're all in this together. We are as of one.
E Pluribus Unum lasted for 180 years, a good run in any country. Then, in 1956, it was retired to make way for "In God We Trust." Gotta get the Great Father in there - white, respectable, mom's apple pie sort of thing. It was all Dwight Eisenhower's idea. He wanted America yoked to religion although it didn't much matter to Dwight which religion that turned out to be. Eisenhower thought that embedding a little more religion in the public consciousness would make for a better, more loyal, less unruly populace. Boom, the pews were full on Sunday morning as they had never been before. And the radical religion of the far right was inducted into the inner circle of power.
Post-war America has been no E Pluribus Unum country. That "all for one, one for all" business didn't fit capitalism on steroids. And in a society so deeply divided across so many fault lines - political, economic, ethnic and cultural - that "unum" business is pure crap. Besides, In God We Trust is at once benign and yet so enduringly flexible. It has that Wehrmacht belt buckle "Gott Mit Uns" quality to it. God is with us, we are God's chosen. Hence, God delivers endless bounty in good times and in bad times there's the "Jesus, take the wheel" flip side.
Will America ever emerge from the current 'Jesus take the wheel' mode? Not as that nation is currently constituted and at some point we'll have to figure out how to live with that.