There’s something about America that engenders that loyalty, that E Pluribus Unum.
Wishing we had all of us here as one (the tyranny of distance, new babies too young to travel, and busy lives prevented all of us from being together) — only a portion of our family was able to gather for the Independence Day holiday.
We said a family prayer at supper on the second day of July that we borrowed specifically for this holiday, a prayer from which we could all benefit I think, as we ponder the birth of our nation and “E Pluribus Unum,” our nation’s unofficial motto meaning, “Out of many, One.”
“Out of many, One” fits us well, the kaleidoscope of a nation that we are. It’s appropriate to think about this motto on our Independence Day. Our montage makes us different, the fact that so many nationalities and religions can live peacefully together. E Pluribus Unum is applicable to our many states and unincorporated territories (like Puerto Rico) and smaller political jurisdictions (like counties, cities and towns), just as it is to our 300-plus million citizens. America’s mosaic is one of our greatest strengths. Few, if any, countries can match our success at weaving so many different cultures and political entities together.
Lately though, the vitriolic and ill-mannered disagreements we’re having about everything from politics to immigration to religion cause me, and I would hope many others of my fellow citizens, to consider E Pluribus Unum and how we honor and maintain that noble foundation of our nation.
That family prayer we offered for our Independence Day gathering was as follows: “We thank You, O GOD, for our family and for what we mean and bring to one another. We are grateful for the bonds of loyalty and affection that sustain us, and that keep us close to one another no matter how far apart we may be. We thank You for implanting within us a deep need for each other, and for giving us the capacity to love and to care. Help us to be modest in our demands of one another, but generous in our giving to each other. May we never measure how much love or encouragement we offer; may we never count the times we forgive. Rather, may we always be grateful that we have one another and that we are able to express our love in acts of kindness. Keep us gentle in our speech. When we offer words of criticism, may they be chosen with care and spoken softly. May we waste no opportunity to speak words of sympathy, of appreciation, of praise. Bless our family with health, happiness, and contentment. Above all, grant us the wisdom to build a joyous and peaceful home in which Your spirit will always abide. Amen.”
I like this prayer both for its hope for our oneness, but also for its wish for tolerance, acceptance and polite criticism. Interestingly this Stahl family prayer (Stahl being the maiden name of my maternal great-grandmother) has a strong E Pluribus Unum connection for our family too.
Mari Stahl, the mother of my maternal grandfather, had several brothers, including Emil Stahl, who immigrated to the United States during the post-World War I hyper-inflation in Germany. Mari Stahl visited her brother Emil during this time and planned to remain in the U.S. but returned to Germany to tie up loose ends. While back home, she met and married my maternal great-grandfather, never to return to the U.S. But Mari’s brothers, including Emil, made a life here as citizens and farmers near Peoria, Illinois.
Mari’s sons remained in Germany and served in the German army during World War II, two of them being killed.
Mari’s nephew, her brother Emil’s son George Stahl, served in the U.S. Army during WWII. He was killed in action in Europe, too, but under a different flag than his uncles. His service and death, just as did the family’s split loyalties, tore at the family’s fabric.
At one time angrily venting our spleens was reserved for the fringes of our society. Today, if not the norm, it’s far too common. Our caustic rhetoric and choice of harsh, definitive words and picking uncompromising sides also tears at the fabric of our families as well as that of our country. Our biting, impolite language demonstrates our weaknesses and the vulnerabilities to remaining a nation of one.
Perhaps, though, America’s E Pluribus Unum — “Out of many, One” — is no better exemplified than by a willingness to fight and die for one’s adopted nation against uncles of the country of one’s blood — the country of one’s heritage.
There’s something about America that engenders that loyalty, that E Pluribus Unum. Still, we should be careful — and with Divine help “gentle in our speech” — not to rudely argue it away.
Barry Fetzer is a columnist for the Havelock News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.