Money Talks

I’ve been under the weather today, so I’ve had some time to think on things while I lie around on the couch and occasionally check the internets for interesting and distracting things.

And the thing that I’ve been thinking about today is money. No, not how I can get more of it so that I can be closer to a 1%-er, but the stuff that’s written on it. Last week, the House of Representatives took time away from what ought to be its busy schedule of working on the country’s legislation to nearly unanimously pass a resolution reaffirming the nation’s motto as “In God We Trust”. Which is interesting because it really isn’t under attack and had been re-reaffirmed by the Senate as recently as 2006.

In Got We Trust

The folly of political grandstanding aside, the act got me thinking. Did you know that it was officially passed as the nation’s motto in 1956 during the Red Scare days? I wonder if perhaps the house was just practicing for when we have another Scare in which the Chinese replace the Russians?

So, previous to “I Love Lucy” were we a mottoless nation? Well, not really. In 1782, the pre-Constitution Continental Congress adopted E Pluribus Unum (From Many, One) and that motto was used on the nation’s currency and many of its seals for nearly two centuries.

E Pluribus Unum

I’ve always liked “Unum”. It was originally conceived to represent the coming together of the colonies to form a nation, but in the intervening time has come to encapsulate the “melting pot” theory of the U.S. That the promise of America is one in which our diversity makes us a better nation, a stronger people. You know, like what we learn in school and are taught by Schoolhouse Rock.

Of course, if you look at our public discourse of the past 15 years, I don’t think we’re practicing what we’ve preached very well. I see self-interest groups turning on one another in uncivil ways and with previously unprecedented vehemence – and much of it coming from an entrenched white, “Christian” part of the population. Because apparently diversity in America is great as long as we don’t get too brown, or Spanish-speaking, or gay, or abortion-allowing, or non-Christian, or gun-regulating – take your pick – and begin to displace the long held majority.

In fact, I argue that maybe it IS time to re-examine our national motto, because it seems to me that there’s been a little too much focus on “God” in our policy discussions and not enough respect for the “Pluribus”.

What do you think? Sound off and take the poll!

29 thoughts on “Money Talks

  1. Nice post. I think you probably know how I voted after my Twitter rage last week. ;)

    When things like this happen, I start to feel very alienated in this country where I happily pay taxes and serve the public.

    • I know Bookish — sometimes I wish there was a “do-over” for the last couple of decades. Though I don’t know if anyone would bring themselves to act differently.

  2. A coin collector friend told me about the “In God We Trust” vs. the “E Pluribus Unum” controversy. He thought the reason why later legislators voted for the “God…Trust” motto was because none of them was smart enough to know what the Latin meant.

    Myself, I think they should print on our money Jean Shepherd’s motto, “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash.”

  3. Excellent post. I went to a Catholic school, and my house motto was “In God we Trust”, we had to make the sign of cross (“In the name of the Father and of the Son etc. etc.”). Most of us weren’t even Christians! Your post reminds me of school.
    Our school motto was “Charity in Truth”(Caritas in Veritate).
    I would like THAT to be the motto of the world.

  4. Excellent! I voted for “Unum”. Love that for sure. I also like “Liberty and Justice for ALL”.

    You are sooooo right about everything’s fine until it gets too brown or too gay or too abortion-y or not God-y enough! Phoooey.

    I just drove behind someone who’s bumper sticker read “2013- End of an Error”….and all I could think was “You would have preferred to have McCain/Palin in there these last three years??? Oh my dog!!!”

    • Lauri — I like “And Liberty and Justice for All” — that would work too.

      There is a real fear among too many whites that too much diversity is going to ruin the nation, but this is nothing new. Every time a new group came to America, they were demonized: Irish, Italians, eastern Europeans, etc. And for someone that doesn’t “look” like you, I think it’s even harder. My only resource of hope is that in the past it’s always sort of worked itself out.

  5. I’m not sure what I think… I can’t get Neil Diamond’s ‘Forever in blue jeans’ out of my head. That, and Schoolhouse Rock’s ‘Great American melting pot … great American melting pot…”

  6. Very much agreed, Steve. However I think a new motto follows a change in attitude, not the other way around. We have a long way to go.

  7. As a Christian, I probably should have voted for “In God we Trust” but I am not sure that this is the key thing about the US that we want to put out there on money etc. I rather prefer the “Out of Many, One” idea. It is more inclusive. I don’t expect everyone to share my Christian beliefs, though I admit, sometimes i sure wish they did!

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