It seams like one of those contradictory terms that I still cannot fully comprehend. During yesterday’s visit to the U.S. Capitol (The place where Congress meets) we were shown a short film about the history of the building. This is the motto. E pluribus Unum. “Out of many, one”.
As an outsider and European I am sometimes full and sick of this seemingly brainwashing nationalism. Waiting for my Visa, at the American Embassy I was shown the same type of movie as in the Capitol. It starts out with the Bold Eagle (which is almost extinct), then it shows all the amazing and breathtaking landscapes, like the Grand Canyon, the Californian Coasts, the Great Plains and so on. From this it moves on, in the same manner, to presenting the great cities and it ends with a dozen people from all around the world saying that they are proud to be American.
The main idea is always the same. Good life, American dream, hard earned freedom, liberty and so on. Of course I will not try to argue about American democracy, a democracy which did not allow for full rights of black people until the ‘60s and the initial Constitution of which only gave limited rights to slaves.
I was standing there in this theater in the Capitol and I was looking at the faces of the average citizen, of the children, of the people who would like to come or just came to the U.S. Joy, hope, pride emanates from these faces. I feel somewhat of an outsider among these people. Brought up in a nationalist city, this is exactly what I don’t need. Eloquent and uplifting speeches of freedom, prosperity and one nation’s greatness,
But I would be too subjective if I would look at only this side of the story. I honestly was asking myself. How can you keep a nation together, a nation which is made up of hundreds of ethnic groups, where you can find all the people of the world and in many times from parts of the world where they were enemies? I must admit it isn’t an easy job… In many regions of this world the simple fact that you are of a different faith, you come from a different social class or you speak a different language divides regions and nations. Now, honestly how can you keep a nation united where blacks, whites, Indians, Asians, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, atheists, rich and poor should live in relative peace and prosperity?
Probably this indoctrination from an early age is the key. You have to show all these people that besides their deep and sometimes painful differences, they have to believe in one flag, in one motto, in one country and in one nation. Although as a European for me this seams out of plays and I could look at it as a great infringement of the freedom of thought and so on, but for me it seams like this is the only way the American state can keep so many people united. We can call it indoctrination, brainwashing, the everlasting Red White and Blue, the American Dream or the Realms of Freedom but I have yet to see one country in this world which can keep so many people united under one flag. (Even if sometimes seemingly united).
Washington, 25th of March 2009