Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, April 28, 2006

They Just Don't Get It

So the news today is that a Spanish-language version of the US National Anthem called "Nuestro Himno" was recorded by a bunch of Latin pop stars and will be released today. Conservative bloggers are calling it the "Illegal Alien National Anthem." When I saw the headline about the Spanish-language anthem, I gagged. Fear of bilingualizing America is a massive part of the politics of illegal immigration. I am 100% opposed to it. America speaks English. Period. English is our language. It's great to speak other languages too, but we must not destroy what we have in common. We share nothing in common as a people but the fact that we live together and that we speak a common language. I know I'm going to start a shitstorm here, but I don't care. The activists who think that America should be bilingual are out of their minds. Do they want to be Quebec or Belgium? Or Nigeria? Do they want a permanent minority that can't transact business outside Spanish speaking areas? This is the sort of thing that fuels the English-only campaigns with their nasty racist edge. Stop it, stop it! It's just no bueno. Go ahead and chant "Si, se puede!" I'll join you if I can. This is even dumber than waiving around the Mexican flag all over the place. Don't attack precious symbols of national unity and expect anything but a massive political backlash. I'm a good liberal but I love my country and consider this "Nuestro Himno" a secular blasphemy. It's pure political suicide. What's next, flag burning? This plays into the hands of the right wing like you can't believe.


Anonymous said...

Well, you were right about the shitstorm. Three things:

1. Chill! No one is trying to pass a law to get this officialized. No one will make our kids learn this in school. I fail to see what the big deal is.

2. There is NO equivalence between this and waving Mexican flags. Nuestro Himno is a way for Spanish-speaking people to be (American) patriotic in their own language! How can that possibly be a problem? Maybe they don't understand the words in English so well, and this will help them.

3. You cannot make decisions on what to do based on how the right wing will react. That's cowardly politics. So what if a bunch of jingoist xenophobes are opposed to this? They're opposed to the idea of immigrants in this country anyway! Sheesh. 

// posted by Bell Curve

Anonymous said...

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// posted by Naye

Dr. Strangelove said...

I agree with LTG that English is America's lingua franca (I just love saying it that way...) and should be treated in practice (though NOT by law) as our official language.

But I'm with Bell Curve: I don't see the harm in translating the American national anthem into another language. I actually think it's a nifty way of showing pride in their country of birth and pride in their country of choice at the same time.

And if it rubs in the face of the right-wingers the fact that a lot of Americans are immigrants with a Hispanic culture, those conservatives just need to get over it. Or maybe they should just go down to their kitchens, visit their gardens, stop by the back door of a restaurant, talk to a janitor, stand on the streetcorner, or ride a bus... and listen to the language spoken there.

Because that is America in 2006--and I, for one, am pleased that immigrants are speaking up for themselves... and singing our song too.

Anonymous said...

When I first heard it, I was put off, too. SO I understand LTG's frustration. But then I realized that it doesn't hurt me. The ideas that the national anthem contains are the important part, not the language. This is why we do not have any official law about English as an official language. We don't need one. Eventually, people adopt English because it becomes necessary.

I disagree with LTG that it is only language and the fact that we live together that joins us as a nation. It is the values that we have come to accept and cherish as a nation that join us. A common language is practical and useful for the smooth conduct of affairs, but it isn't necessary for a nation to be unified. Patriotism has no official language. I grew up in a multilingual community where the Mass schedule was broken up into Spanish, Portuguese, and English. Mid-night Mass was tri-lingual with various parts being done in different languages. Why? Because God speaks all tongues. It's the same idea.

Now is it a political miscalculation by the activists? Probably. On this I would agree with LTG. But that is a different issue.

Because of my work and my interest in language, I have been reading into Language Policy. This is a fairly new and understudied field within the social sciences. The underlying idea is that language is a key part of human rights codified clearly in international law. I just finished a rather interesting book on the EU Charter on Language Rights, which perhaps I will post in in the future.

Language, the and the types policies adopted arguably have the greatest impact on integration. If people feel they are part of a community, then they will come naturally to the language. If they feel inferior or isolated, they will cling more to their home traditions, rejecting those of the dominate group. At the moment, there is a huge social divide between Spanish speakers who clean our houses and pick our vegetables and us Anglos. But if we start speaking or at least accepting each other's language and understanding each other more, that divide will break down as it has in Europe, the Middle East, and yes, even Canada. The result will be that English will be learned. Belitting a language, or making it unacceptable will only breed resentment and rejection among its speaker, slowing the process of integration.

English is becoming the main language now in the EU, supplanting French, because it is practical and useful in global business and affairs. It is also the language of the current Superpower. It represents (or it did before 2003) a positive image. People in former communist countries rush to English, French, and German in part because these languages represent democracy, culture, and intellect to learners. They were gateways into modernity and prosperity. This is why so many in the Arab world learn English. These languages see their status enhanced because they were forbidden in many Eastern Bloc nations. Russian was required, and many resented that, which is partly why it is on the decline among learners.

We should, as a socitey, adopt policies that create the proper linguistic environment so that people are given the capacity, the opportunity, and the desire to learn and use English. Was we do this, we can use Spanish to plant the seeds of our national values.

So I really am not worried about the fate of English in this country. Let them sing the national anthem loud and clear in Spanish, I don't care.

It is, as Dr. S. pointed out, America in 2006. And if anything, maybe the immigrants, and what they sacrifice to get here, will remind us not to take anything we enjoy for granted.

// posted by Uswest

Anonymous said...

Since this morning, after a nice lunch, I have calmed down. I heard the song. It's not going anywhere. It's not what I thought it was. My reaction was visceral, as if they were burning the flag. It felt like a desecration of our National Anthem, sort of the Latin Grammy equivalent of Roseanne Barr grabbing her crotch.

But my visceral reaction is a political problem writ large. I'm calming down. Fox News is stoking the flames. I bet that millions of middle class white Americans who were somewhat sympathetic to the plight of illegal aliens are now totally cheesed off. As I said, political suicide.


// posted by LTG

The Law Talking Guy said...

Bell Curve, my point is in part that I don't consider myself a jingoist xenophobe, and I was offended. I'm not worrried about how the right wing will react. I'm worried about the middle.

Anonymous said...

I'm coming to this a little late in the thread but I too was worried about this translation of the anthem. I think that it is a way to allow Latinos to "be American" without learning English. And that's a problem.

Now, I'm not exactly one of these types that wants to ban Spanish or some such silliness. I believe that if left alone English will win over the Latinos if for no other reason than they'll need it to talk to all the Korean and Chinese immigrants.

But this anthem thing goes beyond leaving the situation alone to be decided by the market as it were. This is a concious effort by knee jerk leftists to be provocative for not good reason.  

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

>America speaks English. Period. English is our

>We share nothing in common as a people
>but the fact that we live together and that we
>speak a common language.

I think these statements are totally wrong. If, after having calmed down, you still believe them, then we still have a serious disagreement.

This sounds as if speaking English is what identifies "us", the Americans, as distinct from "them", the foreigners.

This vision of singing the National Anthem in Spanish as being a "desecration", a "secular blasphemy", seems to ignore the dismantling of language barriers in your own religious tradition. Martin Luther translated the Bible (having a Bible in the vernacular became a critical component of Protestantism), and the Catholic Church moved away from the Latin Liturgy in the '60s.

I think those talismanic letters that are the symbols of America -- our anthem, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, our Gettysburg Address -- should be translated into every language, and sung and spoken across every land, for ours is a great country, conceived in the daring and irrational idea that there can be justice, there can be freedom, and that we can make of ourselves a better people and a better nation by pursuing those ideals.

And everyone everywhere should know about _this_ American Dream, and not just the one about the imperialism of McDonalds and getting rich off the backs of Guatemalan sweatshop children. 

// posted by Bob

Anonymous said...

Here's my beef with mister lawyer man and everyone like him. First he shoots off this innane claptrap about a non-divisive, NON-issue that was so emotionally guided that it was rendered almost incomprehensible to the casual reader, a.k.a., me, with regards to which stance he was actually taking. I had to read it twice just to be able to discern that he was even against the Spanish-language version of the national anthem! Granted, lawyer dude, this is your soap box so spew as you will, so be it.

Nevertheless, I feel the need to inform you that I am utterly offended by your audacity(and the audacity of your ilk) that you would have anything to say what so ever about singing the national anthem in Spanish. The fact that the very existence of this rendition is enough to ripple your pond speaks volumes to the reality of your own xenophobia.

Then you dare rebuke that characterization in defence of your initial, "visceral," reaction with an attempt to appear benevolent and altruistic, claiming that you fear for cause of the political minority for they may be alienating the middle class. Well, judging from the current political climate, your fear may be well founded, but you need to spend more time articulating the overarching problem that is driving the rampant American xenophobia that has brought this NON-issue to the forefront of the consciousness of the polity today.

It is this: America does not belong to you. YOU do not exist here. WE THE PEOPLE are America. All of us. Petty emotional attachments to idollic calls to arms only betray your patriotism; and it should signal you to get thee to a civics class. Your understanding of the American Experiment is lacking, to put it lightly. But you are not alone. You share your ignorance with oh so many other citizens, the so-called, "real Americans," if you must. You guys have gotten so used to being the hegemonic denomination in this country that you actually get physically ill at the mere notion of diversity.

Make no mistake about it, sir, the sort of visceral stress you experienced this morning is a malady. Does it not disturb you that it is purely psychological in nature? It should . . . Multiply that several million-fold and you might begin to comprehend the enormity of this country's affliction.

This song is but a butterfly's breath of a dint compared to what lays in store for your ego, and those of the other good ol' boys and girls. I just hope you are able to find enlightenment through true and realistic reflections on what it means to be an American before too long, because in your words, lawyer guy, "[The song's] not going anywhere." And you can rest assured (or uneasily, as the case may be) that there are a galaxy's worth more glints of true Americana on the horizon. Andale! 

// posted by Cecil J. Dunhower III

Anonymous said...

I'm disappointed in Mr. Dunhower's uncollegial tone, but I realize that is the tone of the blogosphere in most places. Here we often get emotional about issues, but try not to attack each other with the same, er, verve.

I confessed already that when I re-read my initial post, it came off as far harsher than I had realized it would. I had just had my morning cup of coffee that I had nearly spat on my laptop when I read about that song. I was not signalling a change of view, however. I was both horrified personally and politically.

Mr. Dunhower and Bob fail to understand how I can call think of myself pro-immigrant and pro-diversity, yet mightily offended by the desecration of our national anthem. For me, immigration is about the ability of everyone to come to America, become American, and add their own stuff to our American culture. The word "assimilation" implies losing one's identity, and I don't like that. But it's wrong to come here, refuse to learn the language and customs of this place, and just insist that America cater to you. For me, respecting the flag and the national anthem are part of that necessary nod to one's adopted country.

I disagree with Bell Curve that this song is unlike waving Mexican flags in the streets. To me, it's worse. Waving Mexican flags is showing one's heritage. In my orthodox Jewish neighborhood, Israeli flags are out all the time. I like to believe this does not mean that they (1) are more loyal to Israel than America, or (2) that they believe that Israel should take over America [the claims made about Mexican-Americans waving their flag here]. But don't take the US flag and put red-white-green stripes on it, or take the US seal and replace the bald eagle with the Mexican eagle perched on a cactus.

I appreciate Bob's interesting comparison between translating the national anthem and translating the bible. Translating the constitution and other documents is fine. As an Episcopalian in the Anglican tradition, I believe strongly that God did not speak any particular language, and that the word of God is not sacred to any language. A song is different. A national anthem is meant to be sung together. Singing it together with one's fellow Americans is a tremendous symbol of national unity. If everyone sing in their own key or their own language it would be cacophony and dissonance, not unity. To close the thread on that point: our choir will sing Bach's mass in B minor in German, and traditional songs in Latin. At Easter, we sing Kyrie Eleison (in Greek). At an ordination, the congregation chants "veni sancte spiritus." Texts are translated, not art.

USWest and Bob take the position that the ability to speak English is not, as I see it, a prerequisite and defining characteristic to full citizenship in our national community. I disagree 100%. I totally support translators in courts and ballots, etc., and mulitlingual masses and so forth, because people need to be served in their native language for really important things to make sure they understand every word. There's nothing threatening about that! But I want them to try to learn English. More importantly than that, I want immigrants to honor  English as the national language. I want immigrants to strive to learn English and teach it to their children. The bottom line is that translating the national anthem is a statement that one can be fully American and never even desire to learn a word of English.

Imagine millions of Americans going to live in Mexico, waving the US flag in huge marches in the streets, and insisting that speaking English is good enough to be a Mexican, and you should never have to learn Spanish. Imagine if some of radical ones also did a reverse on this 'Aztlan' bit, and claimed that large swaths of Mexico ought to be an Anglo republic. A bit disturbing, huh? That's how translating the national anthem means(It's also the history of Texas).

As a political matter, that view on English puts me in line with the vast majority of the public, so you can mock me but you must contend with those who agree with me. Do you really want to push Americans into voting Republican by pushing such obvious emotional buttons. Bush immediately came out and condemned the song. Democrats said nothing. Bush will get a popularity bump out of this. Makes me ill.


// posted by Anonymous

The Law Talking Guy said...

I made the last comment. Blogger missed that.

Anonymous said...

I too find Mr. Dunhower's comments far more emotionally guided and incomprehensible. I would also suggest that Mr. Dunhower misses his own point about the collective nature of American identity. LTG and people far more bigotted than he is even being accused of being (I am confident that he is not) are part of that collective as well.

Finally, I'll say that while I'm sympathetic to the assertion that this is a non-issue, I'm not 100% convinced it doesn't matter.

If we put this in historical context we have to contemplate the possibility that Spanish is only the new language of this moment. If we bend over backwards to include a Spanish lanaguage component to our national symbols etc then 10 years from now we'll be doing the same thing for Chinese. Even now there are large neighborhoods of LA where lanaguages like Quecha or Tagalog are more important than Spanish. What about them? And while we're at it what about the 40% percent of Americans who are of German heritage? Why didn't we accomodate German more 100 years ago? Italian?

Like I said, I think if we leave this alone (that is not go out of way to either encourage or discourage the transition to English), English will be the center of cultural gravity here if for no other reason than economic neccesity. For example: My Danish ancestors learned English because half the town spoke German and they sure as Hell weren't going to speak German!

But this national anthem thing is a hint of efforts to establish special accomodations for Spanish - accomodations not granted to any previous or contemporary immigrant language. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

Having spent a couple of weekends recently with my proto-facist relatives, both middle- aged and elderly, I have some thoughts about how middle class, conservative red-staters view the immigration issue.

Number one, they seem convinced there is an impending occupation of Latinos that is out to get them, someway, somehow. Fox News (yes, I had to watch several hours of its very repetitive coverage) seems to support this conclusion vigorously, in between Natalee Holloway footage and some pastor's wife who shot the pastor.

Number two, they seem to think this Mexican-flag-waving stuff ought to be punished by some sort of vicious torture. When I said, "But Mom, what about St. Patrick's Day parades or those every-other-week festivals in Little Italy with the statues and the flags," well, that's different. To my relatives, waving the Mexican flag is positively un-American.

Number three, they will praise some groups of Latinos for general industriousness and conservative social values. For instance, the ones who live near Delaware speak with some admiration about the fellows that work in the chicken houses (a shitty job if there ever was one), or the furniture refinishers at the antique shop who work two jobs and send their kids to Catholic school.

As for myself, I don't have an especially nuanced view of the current events. I don't think these protests play well in Middle America, and I'm not sure which way the winds will blow as to immigration laws.

However, the whole thing reminds me of the folks at the beginning of the 20th century who were terrified that the Slavs, the Germans, and all those other non-WASPs were going to take over America. I'm still waiting to be forced to speak Hungarian.

-Seventh Sister  

// posted by Anonymous

Anonymous said...

I have a friend from LA who is progressive, like LTG, who views the whole issue as Mexican "colonization". I didn't even bother to try and argue. I understand LTG's point, but don't feel compelled by it. The only reason the anthem hasn't been done in other languages is no one decided to do it. Who is accommodating people here? To me, you accommodate someone when you do something for them or make some small sacrifice for them. Here, a group of Latinos took it upon themselves to translate the national anthem. It isn't as if the National Archives or the Library of Congress ordered up a translation and had it sung. This was an independent, grass roots, sort of thing.

I think the real complaint is that people aren't learning English, not that the anthem was translated. I see a stark contradiction in the logic that says everyone has to learn to speak English, yet everything "important" can be translated. But this "unimportant" stuff, oh say like the anthem getting translated really tick me off. Why sweat the small stuff? If you want them to learn English, translate nothing, period. No comprende, no service. But we know we can't do that. So this is no more than a tempest in a teapot. I agree with RBR.

I just point out that the Catholic Church had a much easier time manipulating people once they gave up Latin. 

// posted by USwest

Dr. Strangelove said...

Mr. Dunhower: your unwarranted assumptions about LTG offend me and my sense of justice. Contrary to what you imply, LTG is a staunch liberal, an active Democrat, a defender of diversity, of tolerance, and of WE THE PEOPLE. He is most certainly NOT one of the "good ol' boys" types that you BOTH despise, and if you had bothered to read any other message or comment LTG had posted, you would have realized you were attacking a friend.

Yes, I strongly disagree with LTG about "Nuestro Himno" (he mistakes a celebration of our national anthem for sacrilege!)... but LTG is the proof of his own point. The fact that a committed left-winger like LTG finds himself so viscerally upset by the song is strong evidence that the song will not play well with most folks. And that's a crying shame.

Anonymous said...

Your subconscious mind is a powerful force. It can be an un-defeatable ally or a dangerous foe! It is a powerful force of nature that can be harnessed and made to work for us or it can be a wild beast that runs riot with our lives.
How powerful is 'powerful'?
Take the first Atomic Bomb - it could lay waste to an entire city in seconds. Or the gravitational pull of the Sun which stops our tiny planet from hurtling into space. Imagine the power of a black hole - that region of spacetime from which nothing can escape not even light travelling at 186 thousand miles a second. The Universe is full of powerful forces. Yet, all these wondrous things pale into insignificance when compared to the power of the subconscious mind.
The subconscious part of your mind is that part which regulates your heartbeat, lungs, digestive system and everything else in your body. It directs the inner workings of your body and such things as (what biologists call) 'machines' - tiny living cells that are composed of motors, drive-shafts and propellers - seriously!!! There is mounting evidence that the cells in our bodies have memory and that our very DNA is coded with memories of our ancestors. As well as having full control of all these functions and more your subconscious also retains all the thoughts, experiences and emotions you have ever felt. It regulates the most complicated mechanism in the unknown Universe - your body - and it can calculate the trajectory of multiple moving objects while supplying you with the words necessary to debate an issue while controlling a complex task of activities such as driving a car!
These tasks alone show how powerful the subconscious mind is. But it is much more powerful than that!
The truth is: No-one knows the limits of the subconscious mind's power!
Tell yourself that you will wake up at 6 a.m. and chances are you will awake. Go to a crowed party and through a mass of voices you will hear someone at the other side of the room mention your name! Set a problem aside and miraculously, out of nowhere, the answer comes while you are involved in another task. It recreates situations in your life that correspond to your beliefs. Time and time again you find yourself in the same situations, with similar partners, in almost identical jobs. Like a wheel your subconscious mind creates situations that bring your life back to the same spot.
Likewise it can totally transform your life - even overnight! It can bring you new situations, life experiences, luxuries and even people.
However, it is like a na�ve child or a better analogy is that of a computer. It believes everything that you tell it. Your conscious mind is the gatekeeper. Anything you think with complete faith is immediately past to the subconscious mind - which it then takes as literal fact. There will be no arguments because it has no discriminating capabilities.
Although your subconscious mind is more powerful than you can possibly imagine it is a mere servant. It is at your disposal. YOU are in charge. It acts just like a computer and like every computer it needs software to run. So if you do not program it then someone else will! You are constantly being bombarded with software programs for the mind every minute of everyday. Buy this product and you will look slim, drive this car and you will seem sexy, drink this potion and you will feel more vibrant about life. You are told what to buy and when to buy it, when you are too young to do a thing and when you are too old. You are told what is possible and what is not. Snap out of it!
Take back your control over mind and body. You were born with the most powerful computer system known to man - a bio-computer that regulates a sophisticated, highly flexible, changeable, self repairing vehicle. You are amazing, a true miracle. If you bought a new top of the range diesel Mercedes would you let Joe or Sue down the road fill it up with petrol?
Begin to think for yourself. Who told you that you could not achieve your dreams? Do you believe it? Who told you that you were too fat, too skinny, too stupid, too smart, too young or too old?
Does it matter?
No! Because you are and always have been in total control. Change your thinking and you will change your subconscious beliefs. Change your subconscious beliefs and you will change your life.