E Pluribus Unum

Someone, or some force, is doing a very good job of making us not like each other very much these days. We are divided by gender, age, culture, nationality, religion, sexuality, color, and by our economic and geographical place in this world.

Think of the members of entire professions that we are asked, by someone or other, to distrust: Teachers, Cops, Doctors, Scientists, Clergy, Lawyers, and, of course, Politicians.

People go into these fields out of a desire to make the world a better place. Some of them fail – spectacularly – and because of their positions of authority they can cause tremendous damage and even ruin other people’s lives. But most of them don’t. Most of them succeed in helping, and even saving, other people’s lives. I can easily think of at least one person in each of those jobs who has made my life better.

E Pluribus Unum is on of my country’s mottos. It comes from the Latin, meaning “out of many, one.” I would roughly translate it as “we are all in this together” but there are some people don’t like to think of themselves as part of a communal or global effort. They prefer to think of each of us as individuals, with our own choices and responsibilities. That is a very Western philosophy. Maybe it’s just that I’m a Westerner, but I think it’s a great philosophy, and one that has borne tremendous fruit, in fields as varied as art and politics. Eastern philosophy often emphasizes the needs of the society over the individual, which is also a great philosophy, no better or worse than its Western counterpart. What I have learned from Eastern philosophy has also made my life better.

Today, a totalitarian regime in Europe invaded a sovereign democratic nation for the first time since World War II. Let this invasion of Ukraine be the last gasp of the era of the strongman. Let Putin fall at the hands of the Russian people, and take with him Bolsonaro, Orbán, Xi, Duterte, Erdoğan, Kim, and all autocrats and kleptocrats. Let us use this opportunity to stand up for freedom and democracy against actual tyrants, not just politicians with whom we disagree. Let today be the day we tell our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, and Russia, and all over the world, that we recognize our common cause against any who would divide us or subjugate us, and make, out of our many, one.  

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