An Invented People

Posted by By at 22 December, at 14 : 13 PM Print

“The Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side with a valley in between them. And there came out from the camp of the Philistines, a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.”

– 1 Samuel 17:3-4


Somewhere, somehow, PhD history professor Newt Gingrich seems to have never heard of the story of David and Goliath. He seems to have missed it while a Bible believing, born-again Southern Baptist. He seems to have missed it when he repudiated his Baptist faith for the Catholic faith of his second mistress. He seems to have completely missed knowing that that the Philistines or as we pronounce it today, the Palestinians, are an ancient, not invented people.

History PhD professor Gingrich also seems to have missed knowing that that the Palestinians were an advanced society, possessing iron technology long before the Israelites (1 Samuel 13: 19). He seems to have missed that the Palestinians were economically successful in creating small business and capitalist enterprise over 3,000 year ago (1 Samuel 13:20-21). Tis a pity that Professor Gingrich never knew about the advanced weapons technology of these “invented” people. (1 Samuel 13:22).

But that’s not the biggest thing Professor Newt missed.

What the man who thinks he is going to be the next President of the United States of America missed is that the United States of America IS an invented nation, an invented people – that’s what E Pluribus Unum means!

An invented nation is exactly the point of the Declaration of Independence:

All men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness … that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men …

An invented people is entirely the point of the preamble of the Constitution of the United States of America that begins with the words, “We the people, in order to form a more perfect union…”

An invented nation is precisely the point of states that unite, that is to say, “The United States of America.” We have a bi-cameral legislature, a house and a senate, modeled in part on the British House of Lords and House of Commons. We also took some ideas and even the name from the Roman senate. And we also modeled our government on the Iroquois Confederacy.

Americans are an invented people or to use the more common term, a melting pot.  I am Pennsylvania Dutch. We sometimes do and say things a bit differently. As Professor Newt’s sister, Candace Gingrich-Jones notes, ‘round here, the name Gingrich is pronounced Gingrick, the final ch being hardened to ck. It is pronounced the Pennsylvania Dutch way.

We, the United States of America, are an invented people.

I think of this every time I eat Italian pizza at my local pizza parlor owned by Mexican-Americans, every time I eat sushi at my local sushi bar owned by Chinese Americans, and every time I eat Chinese with my Jewish friends. Every time I teach a mathematics course, I remind my students that we are children of the Romans and read everything from left to right. We are also children of the Arabs, we add and subtract by reading right to left.

I thought of this when my wife and I celebrated Thanksgiving at our son’s house in Hawaii. The food included New World corn, squash, sweet potatoes, and Yams, most of it bought from markets in the Chinatown market place. There was Old World eats as well, including rice and pork and chicken. We bought our turkey from a store called Don Quijote. Don kiior means “donkey” in Japanese. A donkey carries lots of things most folks need and so, Don Quijote is the donkey store, it carries most of the stuff folks need including Thanksgiving turkeys, real Christmas trees, papaya, squid, fresh and frozen octopus, and a liquor section the likes of which I have ever seen.  In short, Don Quijote is a Japanese-Hawaiian version of Wal-Mart/Giant/State Store.

On our many trips to Don Quijote, we always passed by the place that Donald Trump’s ace investigators seem clueless to find – Kapiolani Medical Center, the place where President Obama was born. Recently, the hospital officials have had to erect a fence about it because so many people want to see it. We also passed by the small apartment where “Uncle Barry,” as President Obama is affectionately known in Hawaii, was raised by his tutu, which is the Hawaiian word for “grandma.” Uncle Barry’s high score record for basketball still stands at Punahou. And, as we passed by Kapiolani on our way to Don Quijote, we heard the mayor of Honolulu on the radio proclaiming Shane Victorino Day for all the great work he does for kids in Philadelphia, Maui, and the western side of Oahu. Like Uncle Barry, Philadelphia Philly star Shane Victorino holds an athletic record in Hawaii.

Of the 25 or so people who came to American Thanksgiving in the great state of Hawaii, one young man was born on Fiji, grew up in San Francisco, and now lives in Hawaii.  One of my son’s friends is from LA and teaches religion at a Roman Catholic school. His wife is from the jungles of Thailand. They look forward to the birth of their son Damian, named after Father Damien, a Belgium born Roman Catholic priest who ministered to lepers of Molokai when members of my own denomination forced them to be banished and forsaken. Another couple was a lesbian couple who are happy and faithful to each other, something neither Newt nor Rush have been to their various respective wives.  We played Mississippi delta blues, using a Heineken beer bottle glass slide on a Spanish guitar tuned to a slack key, accompanied by a Hawaiian ukulele of Portuguese origin manufactured by a Japanese-American family named Kamaka.

But the time when I most realized we are an invented people, was on a hike atop the Ko’olau Mountain range to see the sun rise over Makapu’u point. There were five of us Coty Gonzalez, Marvin Chandra, Joel Sabugo, my son Andy, and me. We got up about 3:30 in the morning and hiked up the ridge in the dark. A good deal of the trail followed the pali, which is the Hawaiian word for “cliff.” One misstep meant we would be chum in the shark tanks at Sea Life Park about 1,000 feet below. But we made it; we saw the sun rise.

That mountain top experience is what it means to be an American. Marvin Chandra was born on Fiji. His grandfather is a practicing Hindu, Marvin a young man of science. Coty Gonzalez comes from the west side of Oahu. He is also a PhD as well as a bit of an internet sensation. Joel Sabugo is a fine young man and of course, I couldn’t be prouder of my son. All of the young men have PhDs, in fact, the least educated person on the hike was the old guy, yours truly.  Clambering up that mountain with these young men is what it means to be an American. When unite instead of divide, when we see ourselves in others, when we are willing to climb the mountain and trust one another, even in the darkness, we, the invented people, get to see the sunrise together!  E Pluribus Unum.


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The Rev. Timothy Dewald was Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Lebanon Valley College joining the faculty in 1989. He retired in May 2010. In 1993 he won the College's Evelyn J. Knisley award for Inspirational Teaching. In addition to teaching mathematics, Rev. Dewald served the College in 1992 as acting chaplain, taught courses in East Asian religions, a First-Year Seminar on Darwin and evolution, Einstein’s general relativity, and the New Testament, as well as a mathematics and statistics courses. He also served as a parish minister for 23 years. Rev. Dewald graduated from Dickinson College with a degree in political science and religion. He earned a master of divinity degree from Andover Newton Theological School in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1987, he received certification in mathematics from the Pennsylvania State University. - Email Timothy Dewald

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