Friday, April 28, 2006

Inalienable Anthem

There's lots of talk this morning about a Spanish version of the national anthem. This version was recorded for use at these immigration rallies that are taking place all over the country. Conservatives are calling it the "Illegal Alien Anthem."

But what, exactly, is the problem here?

First, I'll give the opponents' their moment in the spotlight (courtesy WP):
I'm really appalled. . . . We are not a bilingual nation," said George Taplin, director of the Virginia Chapter of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, part of a national countermovement that emphasizes border control and tougher enforcement, and objects to public funding for day-laborer sites. "When people are talking about becoming a part of this country, they should assimilate to the norm that's already here," Taplin said. "What we're talking about here is a sovereign nation with our ideals and our national identity, and that [anthem] is one of the icons of our nation's identity. I believe it should be in English as it was penned."
First, let's get the obvious out of the way. We are a multilingual nation, regardless of what this guy thinks. Contrary to what a lot of people think, English is not the official language of the United States. In fact, there is no official language of the United States. Look it up. Or you could just go to Target and see for yourself.

But let's think about this for a minute. For those who still think we're in Iraq to spread the democratic ideal (which I don't), I have a hypothesis: If they were to see a group of Iraqis in the street singing, and discovered that it was an Iraqi translation of our national anthem, it would be hailed as a triumph. We'd be winning the hearts and minds.

Now say a group of Iraqi immigrants came to the United States and sang the same song. I have a feeling we'd be hailing it as a sign that our values have worth in all cultures. Same hypothesis.

But now, here we have an extreme reaction to a Spanish language version of the anthem, and I don't get it. I do get it in that I understand what xenophobia is, and the frustration with people violating our laws to come to the United States illegally. I also understand how the former ugly emotion and the latter justified indignation mix in some very bad ways in some people.

But I have a question for all you people freaking out about a Spanish language version of the anthem: what would be different if you woke up tomorrow and found that, for common use, the Constitution had been rewritten in Spanish, along with the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and the English language versions were all just documents in a museum. What would be different?

If we adopted Spanish as our first ever official language, what changes?

If we really mean what we say in quoting "The New Colossus" on the Statue of Liberty, if we really believe that freedom is God's gift to mankind, if we really, really believe that all men are created equal and that the ideals of America are inalienable, then nothing changes. Nothing. We are all still Americans.

I don't have a problem with that, and I'm a gringo. What about you?


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