Monday, May 28, 2007

Why not Spanish?

Senators Kennedy and Reid were not content to let the Republicans discriminate against foreigners. They also gave their imprimatur to a provision that discriminates against US-Americans, namely Section 765, ENGLISH AS A NATIONAL LANGUAGE, which for the first time would prevent any legal claim by citizens to official information in a language other than English:
"Unless otherwise authorized or provided by law, no person has a right, entitlement, or claim to have the Government of the United States or any of its officials or representatives act, communicate, perform or provide services, or provide materials in any language other than English."

Not only that, the bill has two additional sections on English. Section 767 DECLARATION OF ENGLISH is just one sentence: "English is the common and unifying language of the United States that helps provide unity for the people of the United States." Yes, except when it doesn't, as when non-English speakers are harmed by such a declaration. Section 768 PRESERVING AND ENHANCING THE ROLE OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE requires the government to "preserve and enhance the role of English as the common and unifying language of America." What exactly does this look like? My guess is that after this passes, the nativists will not wait long before clamoring for an official dictionary.

As the purpose of these measures has no bearing on immigration per se, it appears to be another so-called compromise, meaning Senators Kennedy and Reid have traded away the civil rights of their non-English-speaking constituents for the tenuous ability of a group of aliens whose interests the bill fractures (military against civilians, sheep-herders against goat-herders, 911 survivors against gang crime survivors) to remain here . In other words, alien rights per se are not being represented but rather are receiving a pseudo-representation by a Democratic leadership that has no genuine commitment to their well-being, or even the well-being of their own constituents.

The English as a national language provision is a slap in the face to the 19% of the country's population whom, according to a finding in section 722 of S. 1348, do not speak English at home. And why should they? This is not the United States of England, but the United States of America, founded during a period at which the largest portion of the contemporary territory was occupied by Spanish-speakers. The image at the beginning of this post is Mission San Xavier del Bac, Arizona, built in the 18th century. This is what today's country looked like in 1772:

In 1776 the portion left of the Mississippi was not settled by English-speakers but by people who spoke either languages of the Indian nations, or Spanish and French. This is the area that covers the vast majority of our country's current territory and it is to be expected that descendants of this population, as well as those in adjacent territories immigrating after 1776, would not speak English but these other languages.

Frederick Detweiler, in his 1938 article "The Anglo-Saxon Myth in the United States" in the American Sociological Review,

Despite the Mexican-Spanish zone that reaches from Los Angeles to San Antonio and leaps over to Saint Augustine, despite the profound influence of the American Indian on our early development, the pioneering in the Mississippi valley and the northwest by French and French-Canadians, the ten percent contribution to the population made by Negro and mulatto, and all the weight of 39 million Foreign white stock in the country, there are still some who repeat the shibboleth and call us an Anglo-Saxon nation.

Since the USA is no longer a British colony, and in fact fought a war for the right to its own self-determination, there is something especially preposterous in insisting that its national language come from a country whose expatriates occupied the smallest mass of today's national territory at the time of the country's founding. What next, a Queen? map from the Norman B. Leventhal Map Collection; mission image from, Architecture of the United States

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