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Official Motto of the United States

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Message Dan Cooper

There is a move afoot to change the official motto of this country. Since 1956, the official motto has been In God We Trust. This motto has been emblazoned across our money ever since. Prior to that time, there was an unofficial but de facto motto that had stood the test of time. It was E Pluribus Unum, Out of Many, One, signifying the single unified nation formed from a collection of individual and separate States. It had been the de facto motto of the nation since approved as such in 1776. It served us admirably, and it still appears on the Great Seal of the United States.

Some have argued that it is time to consider changing the currently accepted motto. The argument goes like this. We are a nation that promotes the separation of church and state as a guiding principle. Therefore, putting a reference to God as our official motto flies in the face of that tradition and the values it represents. Furthermore, we recognize no official religion according to the First Amendment to the Constitution. So a reference to the one God that is recognized in Judaism and Christianity excludes the religions that honor another god, more than one god, and atheists who recognize no god or gods. The motto therefore stands as a patent violation of the first amendment and should be changed.

That argument has merit. However, the current motto has been in place so long now that it is rather baked in. Not that it couldn't be changed, but it wouldn't be easy. It is not likely to happen, considering all the religious fervor that has erupted in recent years due to political pressures, conspiracy theories, and false perceptions about supposed "attacks" on Christianity. As good as the original motto was, it is not likely to return, despite its superior value as uncontroversial. Besides, in 2011, the House of Representatives voted 396 to 9 to reaffirm In God We Trust as our official motto. So there's that.

Changing the motto would probably do nothing to heal the troubling political divide in this country right now. In fact, any serious attempt to alter the motto would likely fuel an enormous eruption of further political polarization, giving the radical right wing a badly needed talking point with which to attack the left as "socialist," or "un-American," or some other poorly applied label. No, we are probably stuck with In God We Trust, despite its lack of inclusiveness and constitutional cohesion.

But considering the lack of cohesiveness in our approach to defeating an identified pandemic, there may be some other alternative mottos worth consideration. Until just recently, the right has demonstrated little willingness to concede that there is even a threat from the virus that exceeds the risks associated with the single greatest tool we have to fight it with, vaccines. Until quite recently, by virtue of vaccine refusal they became the ones most obviously targeted by the Delta variant of this disease. Before then, many refused to even admit the virus existed. It was a hoax, after all. It was not real. But now that they are dying and watching their ranks shrink, they have started getting vaccinated in far greater numbers. It is almost as if the disease does exist, after all. Who would have thunk it? Even Republicans appear to be able to learn.

This leads me to the conclusion that another potential motto for our nation has begun to slip into obsolescence. Up until this renaissance of actual thought demonstrated by the right, it would have been worth submitting as our motto, "stupid is as stupid does." Excluding a few of the most egregious of them (Boebert, Gaetz, Taylor Green, and Jim Jordan, for example), it appears that many in the GOP can, indeed, still form logical deductions. Not that this change of heart is coming at the most opportune time, but perhaps better late than never. Unfortunately (for them, anyway), many will die because of their late start in this race against time with the virus. Maybe if they didn't have such a love affair with In God We Trust, they might have considered Carpe Diem. But considering the fact that many of them now have fewer days left to "seize," that motto won't work either.
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Dan Cooper is an award winning freelance writer/editor living in the Texas Hill Country. He has worked in news and sports journalism and is currently working on several projects, including an autobiography and the editing of a California Gold (more...)

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