The Language of America is Freedom!
The First Amendment to the Constitution states:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."Does Freedom of Speech include the language that it is spoken?
Or what about the Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1:
" Section. 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."Doesn't that mean that every American has rights protected by the Constitution? Equal rights including having government treat him or her equally regardless of the language they speak?
Certainly it is important that we strive to communicate with each other in a common language. And certainly English is the major language of this country. And certainly we need to find ways to teach English in our schools to those who do not speak this language, offer English courses to older non-English speaking immigrants and encourage things that will add to understanding each other and not pursue things that divide us.
As reported yesterday in the New York Times (May 19, 2006):
WASHINGTON, May 18 — The Senate voted on Thursday to designate English as the national language. In a charged debate, Republican backers of the proposal, which was added to the Senate's immigration measure on a 63-to-34 vote, said that it was equivalent to establishing a formal national anthem or motto and that it would simply affirm the pre-eminence of English without overturning laws or rules on bilingualism.But is it that simple?
As the article continues:
Under the Inhofe proposal, the federal government is directed to "preserve and enhance the role of English as the national language of the United States of America." It does not go as far as proposals to designate English the nation's official language, which would require all government publications and business to be in English.Again, the Republicans seek to limit "rights". To limit communication. To limit services. And yes to limit understanding itself.
Instead, it says government services and publications now offered in other languages would be unaffected. But the proposal declares that no one 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."
Instead of a compassionate government, the Republican leadership seeks another wedge issue to promote the "purity" in America. Instead of reaching out to all Americans in understanding, speaking in their own language, this Republican leadership wishes to whip-up the crowds of Xenophobic Americans threatened by those different than themselves.
America is not under attack by foreign-speaking immigrants! America is under attack by right-wing xenophobic extremists who do not understand the very inscription on the Statue of Liberty. They seek to rewrite the very text itself:
"Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,Perhaps adding the line, "give me your English-speaking refugees!"
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
President George W. Bush speaks for the Republicans when he advocated the singing of the National Anthem in English:
When the president was asked at a Rose Garden question-and-answer session whether the anthem should be sung in Spanish, he replied: "I think the national anthem ought to be sung in English, and I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English and they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English."But America is not about English. It is about freedom!
The freedom to be different. To speak freely. To write freely. To vote freely.
And yes, the freedom to speak in any language we choose.
And the government that we elect is sworn to uphold the freedoms so specifically written into the Constitution.
But this President and this Republican party threatens our very freedoms. They exploit our fears of things we don't understand and advocate for the "purity" of our nation. Whether it be our language, our religion, our political views, our foreign policy, or even our sexuality, the very most private of freedoms, Republicans seek to regulate and mandate conformity to their narrowest views of freedom.
America can and must do better! We need to stand tall and protect our freedom from those that seek wedge issues to divide us. To make any American feel second-rate. To place any American under conditions of second-class citizenship is unconscionable.