E PLURIBUS UNUM, what does the US motto really mean to us today?

There is no going back. You cannot remove the cocoa from hot chocolate, the curry from the rice or the jokes from the sitcom nor can we remove diversity from the US. Not without extraordinary pain and suffering at least.

As an immigrant from England 50 years ago this year I was first struck by the pride our new American friends expressed when they first met us. People needed to share origins of their own families, a grandparent from Russia, parent from Germany or great-grandparents from Ireland for example. Each haled from some diverse mix to become the very embodiment of the US motto E Pluribus Unum; Latin for “out of many, one.”

Let’s remember that our motto originated at the formation of our country and was adopted in 1782 as the defacto motto of the United States. According to Wikipedia it dates all the way back to Cicero who said in somewhat of a paraphrase of it, “When each person loves the other as much as himself, it makes one out of many.”

We stumble across this motto everyday it is on our coins and paper bills. Whenever the president speaks he stands behind this motto. So it is a very important ideal that our forefathers hoped we would live by. It seems we have for the most part.

Originally the motto was created to represent the six countries and thirteen independent States of America that came together to expel the British. According to Charles Thompson who created the first design for the United States seal which included the motto it also alluded to the union between the federal government and the states, which was symbolized by a shield on the eagle’s chest.

Today our motto feels profoundly prophetic and relevant. It seems from six countries and thirteen states we have grown to fifty states and counting plus immigrants from all of the countries in the world. I’d like to point out that if we go to war with any other country we go to war with our self. I have close friends and family from all over the world including Muslim countries. My family embraced our German in-laws without a moment’s hesitation even though Germany bombed my parents during the war. I feel excruciating pain at our new administration’s mean and exclusionary policies. What seems to be missing from our US motto today is the most important and hidden ingredient: love.

Let’s put aside the “touchy feely” part of love for now though and look at the real effects of our current administration’s fight to exclude.

We have no arguments with Chinese food, Italian pizza, sushi, and Matzoh balls though we may have in the past rejected these immigrant groups when they were new. Today our lives are richer for the inclusion. Perhaps the only food discriminated against in the USA is English fruitcake. I don’t get it I love fruitcake but I am still English even though I am naturalized. We also seem to universally enjoy and accept diverse music. African drums, Indian chanting, didgeridoos, Sufi Quawalis and other ethnic sounds appear in all kinds of popular music. Protests and complaints are minimal; Sting, Carlos Santana and Robert Plant/Jimmy Page have all produced award winning “e pluribus” type music with diverse sounds creating excellent unified sounds. There have always been intersections of culture where brilliant enhancements to civilization have blossomed. Pasta, flamenco, and jazz grew through cultural fusion. Silk, coffee and law as we know it would not enhance our lives if not for cultural exchange of ideas and knowledge.

Many gifts of diversity are forged together to make this country into the exciting place we enjoy today. For example we are made from English legal precedents dating back to the Magna Carta, Indian spiritual tools like yoga from the Ancient Vedas, French fashion influence, Italian high design, African rhythms and passion, Chinese work ethic, food, and fabrics and it goes on and on. No part of our culture, society or personal lives can be seen to be untouched by the gifts of diversity that make up these US of A.

It is important to remember that all this richness comes from people, from individuals who bring their passion, their work ethic and their resources together to make an offering to everyone’s life here. Great new ideas like Steve Jobs’ technologies to connect us to each other in new ways improve our lives. Adam Neumann’s radical idea to rearrange the work place in his business WeWork create superb opportunities for so many to make their own dreams come true. Hamdi Ulukaya founder of Chobani Yogurt whose explosive start up is built on the peculiar idea of employees sharing in the success of the company reshapes the whole business landscape for a new kind of success. These guys were from Syria, Israel and Turkey. Where would we be without them? In Ellis Island there is a chart that clearly marks a steep decline in national productivity during every constraint on immigration.

“E Pluribus, Unum” is a great motto, a motto that permits us as United States to remake our selves as we incorporate more and more many into the one. “May you live in exciting times” is the old Chinese proverb. Curse or blessing, who knows but here we are, living in exciting times. Diversity creates change and change is exciting when celebrated rather than feared.

One of the best books I’ve ever read, The Bhagavad Gita, speaks of the nature of war and refers to dharmic war as opposed to adharmic war. The dharmic war is the righteous war, not in the Christian sense of a righteousness that is explained or taught but in a sense that is a heartfelt understanding of what we know is good and right in our heart. It comes from a foundation of respect and love. In a dharmic war you see the other as equal to your self. In the best understanding you see the other as your self. In the adharmic war the opponent is seen as inhuman, some kind of animal or devil that is evil. Sound familiar? This is how human beings can be convinced to kill someone else who is exactly like themselves – someone who also strives to live a good life and provide the best for their family.

We, in the United States of America, are already an un-paralleled diverse culture there is no going back. As I said it is impossible to remove the cocoa from the hot chocolate and who makes hot chocolate better than the French or curried rice better than Indians? Where would our TV be today without the influence of Yiddish theatre? I am thrilled to have joined the American experiment so many years ago but I know now that in my birthplace, Yorkshire, diversity is taking over too. So there was no avoiding this world trend of mixing and there is no getting away from it. Nor will we be able to reverse it the thought is terrifying. This world belongs to all of us.

It is critical to remember the gifts we share together, to celebrate our success and help each other in our failures. Let’s dance rather than fight, make art instead of bullets and gardens instead of battlegrounds. Everyday we face choices and I personally resolve to choose actions, thoughts and words that affirm life, the right to happiness as well as to freedom, liberty and justice for all. I resolve to love the other, hating is just too painful and takes far too much energy.

To add one final note: I just googled multicultural celebration looking for images for this post and discovered that Multicultural Celebrations seem to have sprung up all over the country. About a dozen years ago I researched this when presenting the idea of a Multicultural Celebration to a small town in Connecticut and found no such events anywhere. How great it is that they are finally happening now, we are already in the place of harmony together we just don’t notice it enough and point it out enough.

NEW TITLE for E Pluribus Flag project – Please help.

It’s time for an update on the latest and lastest flag in the E Pluribus effort. This large flag will be installed at the World Trade Center later this year. You may have seen the previous post entitled Reconstructing E Pluribus – a few things have changed. Now it looks like 3 World Trade is the destination. The flag will now be 50′ by 30′ but everything else is the same.

Right now I have a third of the flag completed with fabrics that I have along with the many beautiful contributions people have sent. So far the flag includes Indian, Scottish, Balinese, Botswanan, Brazilian, English, Nigerian and more fabrics. I still want and need your culture represented. Please contact me if you would like to send some unique or meaningful cloth.

I’d like to shoot for an opening coinciding with 9/11 but that depends on space, so well wishes on that front are welcome.

Now to the critical question, what should I call this flag? If you scroll down to the last blog about it you can see the cumbersome place holder title – Reconstructing E Pluribus Unum during Political Storm Winds. Now I am looking for something catchy and eloquent. The inference of the old title is just too heavy for me now. I am tired of the political games going on and want to focus on the brightness of amicable relations usually evident between us in our diverse communities at all times normally. Right now I really like the word Simpatico it seems to fit but it is too much of one cultural reference to stand alone. Should I pile a few words like that from different cultures together to make the point? Do you have any recommendations?

So I’m counting on you my friends to help me get this right.

Here are some of the fabrics donated, including a pink pussy hat.

Thank you all.

Equador Fabric from Rosa

Reconstructing E PLURIBUS UNUM During Political Storm Winds

A conversation through community art.

WHAT:

A 60 x 40’ US flag made from fabrics donated by diverse US citizens and immigrants. Large wedge shaped pieces of fabric representing the diversity of people in the US will be loosely laced together in an energetic version of the US flag. It will possibly be the largest flag at Ground Zero when done and will be a flag of great meaning reminding us that we can and do live here together respectfully.

 

WHERE:

4 World Trade Center, 69th floor as part of an art installation including 37 noted street artists including, Ron English, Logan Hicks, Bradley Theodore, WhIsBe, Zimmer, and Rubin 415. The flag will cover almost the entire ceiling of the southern most section of the 38,000 square foot floor.

 

WHO:

The flag is designed and implemented by artist Muriel Stockdale. Sculptor, Jim Hunter will design and construct the stars.

 

WHY:

This flag is an effort to bring awareness to the cultural contributions of Americans who hale from all over the world and live here in this country in harmony together. We need to remind ourselves that our difference of lifestyle, opinion, religion, etc enriches all our lives. In this time of renewed world xenophobia we must remember the founding principles of the United States of America as stated in our motto – E Pluribus Unum meaning Out of Many, One. We want to show how we get it right here.

 

The project is designed to open and continue the conversation about what it means to come to the US and make a life here. People from all cultures live and work together. Many Americans with ancestors from all over the world are the very embodiment of our motto, Out of Many, One. E Pluribus Unum is a prophetic motto that has become so much more meaningful than in the beginning when it referred simply to the initial 13 states and 6 countries that started the United States.

 

HOW:

Muriel invites you to participate in any of these following ways:

  1. Donate fabric – something representative of your culture (nothing precious).
  2. If you donate fabric please include your name or a dedication and a short paragraph about you or your family. We will create a webpage of stories. Tell us something about what living in the US means to you, or who the fabric came from, why it’s meaningful, or what part of your culture to you bring to life in the US.
  3. Help! Muriel will be stitching the panels together beginning in January. Then each of the 132 panels will be tacked to a mesh for hanging. Handy people would be so welcome.
  4. Donate cash or goods. We need sponsors for the various items required – fireproofing, clamps, mesh, cable and more. (Budget still in the works.)

 

WHEN:

We are collecting fabrics now please send to Muriel. We’d like to be done by March so please send soon.

Please contact me here

Clearview Vineyards

I am delighted to be invited to show at Clearview Vineyards by Frank DenDanto for the month of July. I hope you can come by and see the flags on display. On July 10 from 11:30 to 3PM we will be throwing an opening party with wine tastings included so please come by.

Clearview Vineyard
35 Clearview Lane
Warwick, NY 10990
Ph: 845 651-2838
www.clearviewvineyard.com

Thanks to vintners Frank and Karen Graessle for hosting.

Martha Stewart American Made Summit

martha_stewartI am so excited to participate in the 4th annual American Made Summit created and hosted by Martha Stewart in her NYC headquarters in the fabulous Starrett Lehigh building. I have an interesting history with that building because for many years the Costume Collection was there. Too often I had to find my way to that extremely distant edge of Manhattan and into the bowels of that wild outback of a huge, manufacturing building. The view from it was and still is fabulous and often a welcome distraction. I spent many hours browsing through the racks searching for the perfect garment then dragging myself and 17 or more shopping bags back into the civilization of at least 8th avenue before I could find a cab. Now the building is renovated and feels very trendy, upscale and in the center of the hippest part of town, the Highline is right there. It is nice to be back there in the new Starrett Lehigh for such a fabulous event.
I feel like the flags are a perfect match, Martha’s enthusiasm for American made products and her commitment to promote and celebrate them is very timely and needed. There seems to be a resurgence of interest in makers and in local products and that is really the best way to support our own economy, our neighbors, our local government and even artists like me. I hope that the new trend will tip us toward a culture that recognizes and cherishes the value of things and the people that create them more. We have had too many years of throwaway economy. That mind set has plunged us into a world of trouble, so valuing our neighbors and their hard work, their culture, their belief systems and ideas can only enrich our lives and make everything in our own lives more interesting. That is what the flags are about; celebrating the diverse offerings of all the cultures of the world and all the people that come here to offer their hard work and good ideas to the enrichment of life here in the US.

This is the beginning of the pile of flags that will be hanging. I hope you can make it to the American Made Summit.

This is a Throwback Moment

This is a throwback moment. I was looking around for pictures of the flags and stumbled across this PR letter that I wrote to the old Steven Colbert show. I think you might enjoy it:

Dear Mr. Colbert, Honorable Leader of the Colbert Free Nation; or is it Free Colbert Nation, wait, I think it’s just the Colbert Nation,

In deference to your great sense of patriotism and love of country I feel it my duty to inform you of a radical, “IMMIGRANT” artist, Muriel Stockdale, who is defiling Old Glory.

Muriel’s dangerous artistic representations of the U.S.A. flag, which she claims celebrate the diversity of the people here in this country are made of different fabrics from cultures that invade this country every day. Right now impressionable university students at SUNY Stony Brook are being swayed by her radical ideas that all kinds of people of different cultures can contribute to the glory of this country. The flags are exercising their subtle influence at the Wang Asian Art Center until December 5th.
In addition her African American flag is owned and exhibited by the New Britain Museum of American Art in Connecticut – is she thinking Hip Hop artists should be wearing Talbots chino’s with lobster printed belts? This Tuesday she is even infiltrating the Museum of American Finance with her Ghanaian American flag made out of trade beads. What’s next convincing the Fed to sell gold and buy cowry shells and christmas beads instead?

Mr. Colbert we need you to take her radical ideas down, she thinks our culture is enriched by diversity; that different expressions of lifestyle add to the quality of life in this country. She also insists that the idea is only to celebrate the contribution of the world’s cultures to those of us living here in the USA. That it is not a project to promote American Imperialism and not meant to imply that everyone around the world should have an American flag. Now wait, what an idea! That’s actually something you might want to promote: American Flags for every country around the world. Maybe she’s onto something. It could be brilliant, Indian American flags out of Indian silk, Russian American flags out of Russian shawls. Could this bring the world together? Could this idea redefine you as – Leader of the Colbert Free World, Free Colbert World, excuse me again; Leader of the Colbert World?

Either way this artist needs to be exposed for her radical thoughts and dangerous tampering with the sacred US flag, but please don’t make her cry.

Thank you for heeding our warning,
Artist: Muriel Stockdale.

E Pluribus Crystal Flag

I decided to make a fun sparkly and colorful flag just to please my inner child. I have a tendency to get altogether too serious about everything and it was time to inject some fun into the process.
This flag is a departure from my project to honor diverse cultures but I’m happy to just celebrate the flag too on occasion.
crystal_flag

Let’s Invoke Harmony Together

If you like to sing please come and join us March 27th at Charlotte’s Place to sing a new version of our National Anthem.
This anthem is not about “bombs bursting in air” but about “people free with their prayer”. It’s time to shift the consciousness from war to harmony among all of us.
Take time to learn the new words written below before March 27th. Join us between 10:00AM and 12 Noon at Charlotte’s Place, 109 Greenwich Street above Rector Street.
Let us know that you are coming at info@epluribus.us
Oh, say can you see by this day’s brilliant light
How so joyf’lly we’ve made out of many, one dreaming?
Take broad stripes and bright stars and a unified sight
O’er the country we watch all our new neighbors beaming.
And the freedom that’s here, people free with their prayer,
Give proof every year that E Pluribus we share.
Oh, say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and diverse home we’ve made.

Let’s Sing for Harmony

out_of_many_one
If you like to sing please come and join us March 27th at Charlotte’s Place to sing a new version of our National Anthem.
This anthem is not about “bombs bursting in air” but about “people free with their prayer”. It’s time to shift the consciousness from war to harmony among all of us.
Take time to learn the new words of the song before March 27th.
Oh, say can you see by this day’s brilliant light
How so joyf’lly we’ve made out of many, one dreaming?
Take broad stripes and bright stars and a unified sight
O’er the country we watch all our new neighbors beaming.
And the freedom that’s here, people free with their prayer,
Give proof every year that E Pluribus we share.
Oh, say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and diverse home we’ve made.
Join us March 27th from 10:00AM to 12 Noon at Charlotte’s Place, 109 Greenwich Street above Rector Street. Please RSVP info@epluribus.us

Greek/Danish/Venez Commission

Here is a new flag that was a great honor to make. I was asked to create a wedding present for a friend to give and after a bit of back and forth discussion this is the design that we agreed upon. I wanted to make something modern and bright that honored the heritage of the couple which is Greek, Danish and Venezuelan.
It is made with Italian sycamore wood veneer that is made to bend then cut by computer laser, painted by me and finally constructed by a master carpenter. The detail of the laser cutting is so amazing and inspiring to me.
Expect to see more flags with laser cuts.
for-blog

Below is the custom packaging that I made for the flag too:

box

gdv_bag