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In November 2010 President Obama made a presentation at the University of Indonesia where he said the following: “The history of both Indonesia and America should give us hope. It is a story written into our national mottos. In the United States, our motto is E pluribus unum—out of many, one…” He then added, “Our nations [both] show that hundreds of millions who hold different beliefs can be united in freedom under one flag.”
Both nations, so says our president, believe in freedom. Both believe in unity. Both countries stand together with a common motto, in common cause and even, implicitly, under one common flag. Both nations share a story of hope, of reconciliation, of equality and of justice for all.
This all sounds wonderful doesn’t it? But there’s one problem - it’s not true.
First of all the United State’s motto is not E pluribus unum. It is “In God We Trust.”
Second, the differences couldn’t be more stark between the two nations our president seems to think are so similar. Indonesia, for example, subscribes to sharia law—a legal system that in no way encourages people of “different beliefs” to be “united” by any stretch of the imagination but, to the contrary, normalizes religious discrimination and persecution to the point where Christians are threatened with imprisonment and even beheadings.
I can’t for the life of me understand why our president would forget our nation’s motto or why he would conflate the virtues of America with the vices of Indonesia but perhaps he would do well to pick up the nearest dollar bill and remind himself that the inscription on it does not say “out of many, one” but rather we trust in the only One who gives freedom to the many.