The Crisis of American National Identity by Charles Kesler

Kesler, Charles. "The Crisis of American National Identity." Claremont Review of Books 5:4 (Fall 2005): 24-30.

About a decade ago, when he was vice president, Al Gore explained that our national motto, e pluribus unum, means “from one, many.” This was a sad day for knowledge of Latin among our political elite—and after all those expensive private schools that Gore had been packed off to by his paterfamilias. It was the kind of flagrant mistranslation that, had it been committed by a Republican, say George W. Bush or Dan Quayle, would have been a gaffe heard round the world. But the media didn’t play up the slip, perhaps because they had seen Gore’s Harvard grades and figured he’d suffered enough, perhaps because they admired the remark’s impudence. Though literally a mistake, politically the comment expressed and honored the multicultural imperative, then so prominent in the minds of American liberals: “from one,” or to exaggerate slightly, “instead of one culture, many.” As such it was a rather candid example of the literary method known as deconstruction: torture a text until it confesses the exact opposite of what it says in plain English or, in this case, Latin.

– Excerpt

Claremont Review of Books