E pluribus unum in the words of Simon Winchester

We’re all familiar with the statement that diversity is our strength, and also with, E pluribus unum, out of the many comes the one, that which we interpret to mean that out of the hundreds of thousands of refugies and other immigrants (the many) to our shores this country was made, was made strong (the one).

Well Donald Trump and his followers don’t seem to get it.  In fact they would build a wall between us and the other, whereas the other has always been our greatest source of strength. I forget just when but on Fox, also known as Trump TV, Trump spokesperson Tucker  Carlson had this to say:

“How, precisely, is diversity our strength?  Can you think, for example, of other institutions such as, I don’t know, marriage or military units, in which the less people have in common, the more cohesive they are?” Implying that cohesivity is somehow better than the much revered by liberals diversity.

Tucker seems to be saying that strength or at least cohesivity stems from having things in common, from being alike. I’m a sometime potter and that may be true of clays, like clays will bond better than unlike clays. But people?

I wouldn’t have called Tucker stupid, like his boss, but what he is saying is stupid. How, he asks, could diversity be our strength, implying that it couldn’t be? Now that’s just stupid.

Sameness, or as Tucker says having things in common,  is in Tucker’s view a good thing. for married couples, for example, and for divisions of the United States army, let alone the American people. Well it’s not a good thing for either the one or the other. In both it’s rather the differences much more than the likenesses that count, that make the strengths of the one and the other. And even more true of the American people.

Even in a classroom, where your experience might lead you to say, why these kids in front of me are all different how ever will I teach them anything at all? But really who would ever want the kids to be all the same, that which by the way will never happen unless the  molecular biologists begin to make them so by gene manipulations, by what’s the word, Crisp, which I read is a kind of gene editing (and of which I know almost nothing).

Why  would you ever want 25 kids all the same in their interests and talents, not to mention their skin colors, their physical characteristics, ethnic and racial backgrounds, even their languages. For it’s the differences that enable kids to learn from one another, and that’s always where most of the learning that does go on takes place, with kids being teachers themselves, not the teachers teaching the kids.

It is the diversity (don’t build that wall!) that enables a country to grow and prosper by drawing on the different strengths of a thoroughly diverse group of people, such as are the Americans who have been coming here by the millions for hundreds of years. E pluribus unum is bringing diverse peoples together,  and while doing so not at all doing away with the diversity and the differences they bring with them (perhaps through that tunnel dug under the wall!).

I’m a bit apologetic, a bit ashamed at having belabored an obvious truism about the merits of diversity. Other people have done this before me, of course, and much better than I.  I’ll leave you with one of these others, with Simon Winchester who has the following to say in the  PREFACE of his book, The Men Who United the United States.

Early in the crisp small hours of November 7, 2012, a weary but exultant Barack Obama was thanking his countrymen for just handing him a second term as forty-fourth president of the United States. His speech was brief, but it rang with an eloquence that moved well beyond the platitudes of the pitiless election season that had mercifully ended in this culmination just moments before. It was a speech that spelled out President Obama’s unyieldingly optimistic belief in the future of a country that had allowed him, a young black man, to be invested, now for a second term, as the most powerful human being on the planet. He had been given this role, he said, with a new chance to perfect still further the immense entity that is the American union,…

“I believe we can seize this future together,” he said, “because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be”—and here he paused for just a beat, to add solemn emphasis to the adjective—“the United States of America.”…

E pluribus unum, since 1782, the Motto on THE OFFICIAL SEAL OF THE UNITED STATES. America is, after all, a nation founded as a home for the single simple ideal of universal human freedom. The country was established as a grand experiment, with people invited from all over the world to take part, to help build a nation of free souls, each to be given an equal opportunity to seek as each saw best the greatest happiness for themselves. …

Lacking the racial and other commonalities afforded in some other countries—Japan, say, or Norway—…the great experiment that is America has had to make a union of its diverse peoples  for itself,…

It has done so purposefully by the deliberate acts of its own people…. But just how has America’s uniquely stable union been achieved?

What factors have ensured that, say, a Chinese migrant in rain-swept Seattle can find himself locked in some near-mystical concord with a Sephardic Jewish woman in Manhattan or a Cherokee student in Minnesota or a Latina stallholder in a market in Albuquerque—all of them being able to enjoy the same rights and aspirations, encapsulated in their shared ability to declare so simply, I am an American?…

Simon Winchester

And most of the American’s achievements—but not all—remain as vital to the nation’s preservation as they were when first they were created. From the very visible nineteenth-century explorations of the Lewis and Clark expedition, by way of the geological surveying expeditions and the highway-building ventures and waterway excavations, to the less easily describable twenty-first-century mystery makings of the Internet communications backbone—there are fully two centuries of inventive zeal that have left as legacy a nation now as comprehensively interconnected and as practically unified as it is possible to imagine….


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