Ray Hanania’s Column
The motto of the United States is printed on American coins, a tradition started long ago by the Roman Caesar’s who saw this as a way of declaring their sovereignty as they slowly conquered foreign lands.
“e pluribus unum” in Latin, another link to this Roman view of World domination, translates to “Out of many, one.”
Americans like to “spin” the meaning of this phrase into something that is intended as innocent. America is a “melting pot” consisting of people from many countries around the world. They boost that their society is a fine “stew” consisting of the best these “many” ethnic and nationalities offer to this Democracy.
But the real meaning of this motto is a harsher critique of the principle of ethnic identity and individual freedom. “Out of many, one” essentially means that while you may come in with your own identity, what you were is no longer. In other words, leave your ethnicity at the door. And if you don’t like it, leave.
It is much more xenophobic than most people realize.
I have been told that despite being born in this country of Palestinian parents from Jerusalem and Bethlehem, that I should leave this country.
I have been called “unpatriotic” even though I served during the Vietnam War and a decade in the National Guard. My father, George, served in the U.S. 5th Army, and his brother, Moussa, served in the United States Navy, both battling to free Europe from Nazi slavery.
Some have threatened my life, which is not as unusual as one might think for an ethnic living in this so-called melting pot.” The fact is that anti-Arab and xenophobic hysteria has been a staple of American culture, taking a form in unbridled racism and bigotry.
Why? Because many Americans may feel pride in the motto “Out of many, one,” but they don’t believe it’s full meaning, only the narrow perspective that says that your ethnicity is not wanted here, especially if you ethnicity is Arab.
Racial profiling of Arabs and Muslims began long before the simultaneous September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center or the Pentagon. It has happened many times, nearly every time I traveled through an airport going back to the 1970s.
Some point to the fact that Palestinian Arabs were involved in many airplane hijackings at that time, but I blame it on the hatred that Hollywood films have nurtured in audiences against Arabs, who are nearly always portrayed as terrorists.
Ethnicity is a “bad” word in American society. Americans seem to like ethnics when they are patting themselves on their own backs and hailing the powerful symbolism of the Statue of Liberty.
But when ethnics have something to say, suddenly, we’re unpatriotic, or unAmerican. We should “go back to where we came from.”
Well, I have a very American attitude to all this racism. My feeling is funded on the U.S. Constitution which says I have a right to disagree and that I can use that disagreement as a foundation to change this very society. Yes, change American society.
In fact, many Americans despise the so-called “hyphen” — you know the “hyphenated Americans. Yet, I didn’t put the hyphen in my identity, Americans who refuse to accept me as a real part of this ethnic melting pot of a nation put the hyphen there in their racism and acts of anti-Arab bigotry.
I think that we should change our American motto to something more appropriate, reversing the existing motto. “e Unum, pluribus.” That is, it should read, “Many, out of one!”
That puts the emphasis where it really belongs, on the many!. You see, American ethnic diversity is more important than the end result, the so-called “melting pot” or the “stew.”
My origins as an American make me more important than to assimilate into a society that essentially hates itself. Don’t get me wrong, though. I love America. I just want to make it better and fair.
Every American who denounces me and tells me to go back to where I came from, really is insulting him or herself. They like to forget that they are descendants of immigrants themselves.
I guess it is easy to forget something so fundamental about this country, when we all recall that it was stolen from the only real Americans, the native Americans.
(Ray Hanania is a Palestinian American writer based in Chicago and a regular contributor to MMN. His columns are archived on the web at www.hanania.com)