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Speaking out: The myth of national unity

Speaking out: The myth of national unity


The call for national unity is fake. Right now, we don’t want to be united, we want the other side to admit they were wrong. We want our side to win on a permanent basis. It has been this way for a long time. Catholic versus Protestant, Democrat versus Republican, labor versus management, white people against everybody else.

“One nation under God” was added to the pledge of allegiance in 1954, and “In God We Trust” was added to currency in 1956. There has not been agreement about a theological God before or since. The real American God in whom many people trust is money. President Clinton said “It’s the economy stupid.” Trump supporters bragged about the country’s economic growth before the pandemic. They claim economic growth outweighs any other measure of the president’s performance.

Thomas Friedman had a bestseller “The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization” in 1999. Friedman believed the overriding value, worldwide, was material plenty. Having enough food, clothing, shelter and consumable goods for the people was the overarching goal of every nation on Earth. He believed in free trade and noted that nations with McDonald's had never gone to war with each other. Friedman believed that global trade would bring the world together.

The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack dispelled the myth that global trade would bring world peace. The Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol dispelled the notion of national unity through material plenty.

If declaring a common God, or material plenty, doesn’t bring national unity, what does?

What the world knows about achieving national unity has been learned from those who suffered to teach us. The lessons were taught by Mandela, King, Gandhi, Jesus, Bonhoeffer, Parks, Tubman, Owens, Ali, Robinson, Chief Seattle, Thorpe, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Susan Anthony and many more. They taught us that truth precedes unity. They lived their truth and became the light illuminating the dark world of inequality.

North Dakota must learn the truth about ethnic cleansing of indigenous people by Europeans, the cruel treatment of Native people by colonizing churches, and the massive theft of land by colonizers under the cover of government and military action.

Our political system doesn’t have the moral character to lead a truth and unification effort. It will have to be someone else. Organizers are calling people together to tell the truth. The truth about suppressing the right to vote. The truth about stigmatizing transgender people. The truth about buying political power with money. The truth about who won the 2020 presidential election. The truth about degradation of the environment for economic gain. The truth about the healthcare system. The truth about colonizing genocide.

North Dakota citizens, we must rise above our organizations. Rise above political parties, and the faith groups to which we belong. Clear our minds and our eyes and see and learn. Learn what it is like to be a minority in the dominant culture. Learn what it is like to suffer historic trauma. Feel what life is like to be “undocumented.”

The great seal of the United States, adopted in 1882, proclaims “E Pluribus Unum” printed under the image of a bald eagle, the national bird, clutching 13 arrows in one talon and an olive branch in the other. Out of many, one, is the true American struggle for unity. Not one in conformity, rather, many people united as one in the quest for the self-evident truth.

The eagle on the Great Seal is perched on E Pluribus Unum. The eagle of national unity flies on the wings of human equality.

Bill Patrie has been recognized for his work as a cooperative developer by the National Farmers Union, the Association of Cooperative Educators and the National Cooperative Business Association.


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