Politicians, pundits, and pollsters have diced us to bits. These bits become our demographic profiles that are used for analyzing data, making distinctions and noting differences based on them. They analyze the pieces, determine our demographic attitudes, define leverage points, and then plan political strategy.
We have been sliced and diced to the point that E Pluribus Unum, along with the Common Good – the commonweal — have disappeared. We have fractured and divided ourselves based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, incomer, religion, age, geographical location, political orientation, educational level, marital status, disability, income, work affiliation, and others.
When fleshed out by demographic category, I am a male-Caucasian-German-Polish-Scotch-Irish-heterosexual-married-once divorced-middleclass-over 65-semi-retired-graduate degreed-professional-Northeastern resident-suburban household-politically moderate-religiously unaffiliated-American. Can I really be defined by these demographics?
We seem to categorize issues and challenges our country and communities face by demographic groups. Minority issues, Women’s issues. Senior Citizen issues. Urban issues. Union issues. Middle Class issues. Religious issues. Farmer’s issues. Gay issues. Social issues, ad infinitum.
Carving us and labeling us separates us from collective concerns and responsibility. In America, an issue is not a concern of just one gender, race, age-group or whatever. If any group is affected, it affects us all.
As a white male, if there’s an injustice affecting women, minorities, children or other demographics, then it is my issue too. If our principles are compromised in any way, for anyone, then it affects me too.
I want my grandchildren – all children, all citizens — to have every opportunity under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. There are no exceptions to “all people are created equal”. They are part of the many that becomes one — E Pluribus Unum. No fine print, conditions, asterisks, or footnotes exist.
The issues of rights, justice, equality, and freedom are not solitary issues affecting a ‘demographic”. They are universals and affect us all. If one “group” is restricted, then all are threatened. There are plenty of historical examples to prove that.
A poem by a German minister, Martin Niemolle, about fragmentation and indifference describes what happened in Germany under the Nazi government in the 1930’s. The lesson is about the courage to stand up when injustice occurs.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.
E Pluribus Unum, not self-interest or privilege, is the value our country was founded on when it comes to rights and liberties. Out of many — one. We are not fragments. No hyphens, please. None needed. We are Americans – that’s all that matters.