E pluribus unum

“Out of many, one.”

This phrase originates from Heraclitus’s tenth fragment: “The one is made up of all things, and all things issue from the one.”

E. pluribus unum was the traditional motto of the United States from the time of its founding. It meant that people of different origins, values and sensitivities had come together to form the thirteen original colonies which in turn came together as one nation. In 1956, the US Congress passed a resolution that replaced as the national motto E. pluribus unum with “In God We Trust.” This new motto was a counterpoint to communist countries that disavowed the existence of God; implying the US didn’t trust them. The traditional motto envisioned a future of unity; the new motto envisioned a future of distrust and conflict.

However, more importantly, the new motto informed what would ultimately cause the decline of the US as a nation: people’s distrust of others and the government. “In God We Trust” because we don’t trust anyone else; rightfully so as the nation rewards whistleblowers, cancels agreements when they no longer suit it and is extremely punitive to others, including its own citizens. When there is no trust, commercial and social relationships fray and conflicts abound, compromising a nation which is then a monolith no more.