The state motto of Idaho is 'esto perpetua,' which "" depending on the source "" means either "Let it be perpetual" (source: Encyclopedia) or "enraged buoy" (source: Ned's state facts Web site). Though I know very little about the beloved state of Idaho, I'm going to overlook the infallibility of the Internet and assume that the motto does indeed mean the former; otherwise, the entire premise of this column is, well, sunk.
Of course, considering the relative obscurity of state mottos, I probably could've "motto-morphosed" Idaho's mantra into any number of slogans without drawing the ire of unknowing residents. In the broad and bewildering world of state mottos (case in point: "mottos" or "mottoes"? Does anyone use the word enough for it to matter?), there may be no more relevant question than "Why the crap does my state have one?"
And yet, such questions don't stop the residents of Washington, who pay tribute by proudly having absolutely no clue that their motto is "Al-ki," or "By and by." Likewise, it's doubtful that many Alaskans know that "North to the Future" beat out "Real Damn Cold" to be their state phrase, or that many Michigan residents are aware that they're represented by "si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice," which means "If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look around you." Then again, those who do know probably pretend that they don't.
It's not that all of these residents are neglecting their stately duties; rather, it's just that state mottos are either scarcely used or viciously weird. I've lived in various New York cities for upwards of nine years now, and it wasn't until I researched this article that I discovered that New York's motto is the frighteningly appropriate "Excelsior," or "ever upward." Down here in Manhattan, 'ever upward' is a philosophy that is apparent every day in the size of skyscrapers and of salaries (not mine); in the cost of rent and number of residents. Stress levels and credit card debt for the average New Yorker? They're heading ever upward like a Titan II launch booster and rarely looking back.
Sadly, I am unable to compare this lifestyle to that of an IdaHo (wife of an IdaHim). The closest I've been is Nebraska, and as far as I can tell, the only differences between Midwestern states are the congressmen and license plates. Even so, I'm fairly confident that there are few similarities between Idaho, which manages to shoehorn a population of 1,293,953 into its meager 83,574 square miles, and Manhattan, whose 1,537,195 residents are sprawled comfortably all over the island's 23 square miles. In Idaho, there are 15.5 people per square mile. In Manhattan, there are 15.5 people per Greenwich Village studio apartment, and that's if they got a deal.
That's why Manhattan can almost be too fast-paced and frequently-changing for me. I shouldn't have to use my inhaler while sitting and typing at my desk, nor should my friends be moving into, out of and around the city on an hourly basis. New York simply never stops, and that's why I've become so intrigued by the idea of perpetuity. To me, Idaho's motto suggests a predictable, static culture that, for both better and worse, has maintained a steady course for as long as such a course has existed. Manhattanites in particular may gripe about Idaho's conservative red-state sensibilities, but there's something to be said for steady, all-American homegrown beliefs. If and when Dubz crashes the mighty steamboat that is America into an iceberg, then we can gripe.
Until then, let perpetuity take Idaho where it may. If the lone Idahoan I know "" a fraternity brother named Monty "" is any indication, the perpetual lifestyle is one that serves you well. Certainly we can all agree that the reign of Miss Idaho USA 2004, Kimberly Glyn Weible, should be perpetual and, if at all possible, taking place in New York. Similarly, should the burgeoning Idaho film industry perpetually produce such masterpieces as "Napoleon Dynamite," it would undoubtedly bring an end to all the conflicts around the world, or at least within my apartment.
But that doesn't mean that Idaho need feel obliged to the idea of perpetuity. Other than Shakira's marital status, change is rarely a bad thing, and Idaho may reach a point when its perpetuity has left the state out-of-touch. Should that situation arise, realize that there is no shame in the changing of a state motto. New state mottoes have appeared as recently as 1987, when Tennessee "" following months and months of creative conferences, brainstorming sessions and motto-naming competitions "" imaginatively characterized itself with the immortal slogan "Agriculture and Commerce." So don't forget that, Idaho. There is a limitless supply of archaic and irrelevant phrases that you can adopt to carry you into the non-perpetual future.
Unfortunately, "a pleasant peninsula" isn't one of them.