"You simply melt right in,
no matter what your skin,
doesn't matter where you're from,
or your religion, you jump right in
to the Great American Melting Pot."
-- Schoolhouse Rock episode, released in the bicentennial year 1976.
Anyone who grew up in the 1970s and beyond can probably sing from memory some portion of a "Schoolhouse Rock!" tune, whether it's about being "just a bill" on Capitol Hill or how "and," "but" and "or" can get you pretty far at "Conjunction Junction."
I recently thought of the one quoted above that described the United States as the Great American Melting Pot, borrowing a popular term used to describe how varied ingredients (people) blend together into a robust dish (nation) with a flavor better than any of its individual components.
It was undoubtedly a romanticized historical observation and earnest aspiration rooted in hope. The nation has never been free of tumult or challenges, but its foundations are freedom and self-governance by civic-minded "We the people of the United States."
The question that comes to mind today is whether Americans still believe enough in the concept of "We the people." When murderous fanatics from a different land attacked our nation on Sept. 11, 2001, it seemed to revive the American community as we faced an enemy that hated our way of life. On Jan. 6, 2021, our own fellow citizens oddly viewed themselves as patriots as they attacked the U.S. Capitol trying to stop the transition of one democratically elected administration to another.
Is it "we" or just "us" and "them?"
Our own governor -- at least in her social media presence -- likes to classify people into two categories: The real Americans who embrace her ideas and liberal elites who question her policies and would prefer to destroy the nation. With such simplicity, it's so easy to choose sides, right?
I want to ignore people like Georgia's U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene because they aren't serious individuals, but these days one can't ignore that the actions and comments of such individuals, amplified not by the worthiness of their views but the volume they can achieve through social media and narrowly focused communication channels.
It's Greene who has suggested the United States should go through a "national divorce" -- dividing the United States into two nations, one made up of red Republican states and another consisting of "blue" Democratic states. A split, according to her, is the only way to avoid the next civil war.
Does that sound like freedom to anyone? States organized by political ideology? Citizenship based on adherence to a particular way of thinking rather than freedom of thought?
Does Green envision a national "trail of fears" in which people who think differently than the majority of each state are forced to migrate to another state, a land of the like-minded? What then, a border test before anyone enters a state to make sure they hold the correct views for residency?
What could sound more unAmerican than that?
Michael J. Lee, a professor of communication at the College of Charleston, recently suggested on the website The Conversation that examples of "soft secession" are already happening, i.e., communities that refuse to enforce certain federal laws, such as gun restrictions. Perhaps he could add legislative changes allowing people to separate themselves from the public education system but not its funding (sound familiar?).
Wise old Ben Franklin might have been more right than we know when he advised that the Constitutional Convention had created a republic as he added a warning for future generations: "... if you can keep it."
Men and women have died in service to this nation, giving their last breath in order that we should keep it. To suggest We the People are incapable of remaining united as a nation is a sorry reflection of a modern, self-centered American mindset.