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Since 1865, how has the United States not always been a nation that exemplified E...

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daphne00 | Salutatorian

Posted November 9, 2013 at 1:50 PM via web

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Since 1865, how has the United States not always been a nation that exemplified E pluribus unum?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 9, 2013 at 2:35 PM (Answer #1)

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The driving force of "E Pluribus Unum" is that divergence in American voice can always find a point of unity. The stress is that from difference, common ground and consensus emerges.  This might not always have been in the case in American History.  Since the time period of industrialization after the Civil War, the United States' movement from farms to factories has helped to construct a "two America" reality.  Industrialization brought with it a time period of massive wealth for some.  The Carnegies, Rockefellers, and J.P. Morgans experienced unprecedented levels of wealth accumulation.  Yet, individuals who economically struggled under the heel of unregulated capitalism were not really brought into any unifying principle.  They lived a life of poverty and destitution in the face of massive wealth accumulation.  It could be said that these individuals did not benefit from being brought into the American dynamic.  The very poor, the net result of capitalist expansion, remained separate and marginalized from being integrated into an American vision.

One could argue that during times of war, the United States has not always been a nation that exemplified E Pluribus Unum.  During the Red Scares that followed both World Wars, the United States did not seek to bring into one elements of difference.  Targeting, witch- hunts, and scapegoating defined American identity in these periods.  Japanese internment was another period in which the United States did not exemplify E Pluribus Unum.  The targeting of specific individuals and essentially imprisoning them because of ethnic and racial differences does not uphold the motto of "from many, one."  One can even see this same social attitude expressed towards those who were homosexual and transgendered throughout the second half of the 20th Century as well as the attitudes expressed those who were deemed as "enemies" in a post- September 11 climate.  The reality is that while much of American History has sought to aspire to the ideals of E Pluribus Unum, there have been distinct moments in which American actions have fell short of such a standard.

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