The apocalypse is nearing

Because for the first time in Dubya’s presidency, I agree with him on something:

Bush Opposes Singing Anthem in Spanish.

I’ve chosen to stay quiet on the immigration issue because I just don’t know what the right course of action is. I don’t want to take away anybody’s right to want to make a better life for him or herself. I don’t think it’s fair that some immigrants can just quickly marry someone for a green card while others genuinely want to work hard and contribute to our economy like the citizens they want to become. I especially am not on board with claiming to want to be a full citizen of this country yet not wanting to take the responsibilities along with the benefits.

But when it comes to cultural assimilation, I’m reminded of old friends from Italy and India. They were required to speak their native language at home and respect their country’s customs within the parameters of their own personal property. But their parents expected them to assimilate to America, through language and education and maybe even fashion, to some extent. To retain their Old World values when presented with opportunities here they would never have had abroad.

I respect that in a way I cannot convey. We can all say “I’m half-Italian” or “I’m half-Irish” (or something to that effect) but the shreds of the cultures that are within me are limited to drinking amarone and beer. 😉 Eventually our culture is going to become homogenized — not in my lifetime, of course, but I don’t doubt that “diversity” is going the way of “segregation” — into the annals of history that our great-great grandchildren will have to look up in the dictionary because it’s such a foreign concept to them.

When the recent rash of immigration rallies began, I remember reading about high school students who ran the Mexico flag up the flagpole and then put the U.S. flag below it — and the U.S. flag was upside-down. UPSIDE-DOWN.

Look, while I don’t do shit to celebrate my Western European heritage, I am not inclined to mess with the nation’s symbol of freedom as such. Sure, I laugh at everybody who got pissed off at the Prophet Mohammed cartoon — there was no reason for civil war over the depiction of him with a bomb in his turban. (I think it’s quite funny, in the free world.)

But that’s my point — in the free world, where we are not REQUIRED to revere anything, we DO have symbols that mean something to us. Our flag and all its customs is one — our pledge to it is not up for negotiation. Our national anthem is another. And perhaps those are it.

I cannot fathom why we don’t revere the English language the same way.

From the article:

“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,” Bush said.

It’s a tired argument, but were I to move to France or Italy, I would expect that I should be (or become) fluent in the language and at least aware of the culture so that I can immerse myself in it. Hell, there are natural-born citizens here who have no clue about how to be a responsible, respectable member of society — they live in their own little microcosms and long for the days when civil rights didn’t exist and women were tethered to their kitchens. There’s no excuse for that — it’s like their grasp on reality needs to be addressed before you can pound respect for their fellow humans into them. But alas, they do love this country, and that my friends is their only saving grace … but a powerful one nonetheless.

But where Bush is right (*choke* — yes I just typed that. Madness!) is that if you want to be an American, then pledge your allegiance to our country in its language. Sing the fucking songs the way they were written. It won’t KILL you, and I’m certain it wouldn’t hurt to get familiar with the language if you’re not already.

Don’t give me any bullshit that X culture used to run the show or that whitey stole the land or whatever the fuck historical hoopla you feel like spouting. You want to be a member of the country as it stands today? Then be proactive about it — you’re not going to get hired at a job because you need work; you get hired because you prove you are WORTHY of the opportunity. You can be a change agent in this country when you are granted the freedoms and the RIGHTS to do so.

I have a story to tell. (One of many, given the melting pot that is D.C.) I was in fucking Fuddrucker’s — an American, burger-joint restaurant — and I was making an order. (Incidentally, Fudd’s has gone the way of ordering by combo number — god forbid your a la carte order will confuse the workers. I weep for this country.) While I waited, the girl behind the counter said something to me in Spanish. I didn’t understand her so I just smiled. I wasn’t apologetic — I didn’t understand her and I assumed she couldn’t communicate with me.

But then she looked all perturbed and said, “You don’t speak Spanish?” Like it was a fucking CRIME or something.

I said, “No I don’t.” I didn’t add that it isn’t required of me to speak Spanish. I’m not opposed to learning it, but I have spent my entire life and my CAREER learning the intricacies of the English language. I am a writer/editor because I am good at it — sadly, it IS a special talent to speak and write well in this country.

I share my talents and skills because I think it’s crucial for people to be exposed to perfect prose because that’s how they learn it. The meaning I have found in my work throughout the years is that somebody, somewhere is getting something educational out of it. Yes, it’s a stretch more often than not, but that’s my contribution to society at this juncture.

So when you work in an American restaurant and you’re talking to a clearly non-ethnic-looking customer, who the fuck do you think YOU are to look down YOUR nose because I don’t understand YOU?

I look at a friend of mine who became baptized recently — on Easter Sunday. And while I’m not the person who can make even a half-assed debate about the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, I am proud of him for embracing his new faith and learning the intricacies of it. And, hello, he chose his entry into the faith on the holiest of holidays — that, my loves, is a genuine commitment to embracing something and wanting to be embraced BY it.

I would imagine that learning a new faith is quite comparable to learning a foreign language — the premises and applications have some parallels, but the devil truly is in the details.

In any event, while learning the Bible makes you a better Christian, learning to love and respect the American flag, pledge, national anthem, language and culture makes you a better American. Both the faith and the country welcome anyone who wants to make the commitment. You have a grand opportunity to set the example — and not be the asshole who ruins it for everybody else.

In the meantime, yes we’re going to encounter oceans of growing pains in the attempt to come up with a streamlined and fair immigration process. And showing us right from the start that you don’t believe in the few things we hold sacred, well, I’m not going to feel bad that you keep hurting your own cause with a sense of entitlement to outright diss the culture you claim to want to call your own.

6 Responses to The apocalypse is nearing

  1. Katherine :

    This is the first time I have visited your blog, and I chose the right day to do it. This entry was the first one I read. I haven’t read your profile and I know nothing about you, and yet, I know that I love you! Absolutely beautifully written. Not only are your points valid, the actual language chosen gets them across wonderfully. I love words. I love language and its nuance. I hate poor grammar and I hate the obvious lack of a well chosen word in most of today’s publications. Thank you for giving me something to read that is not only compelling in subject matter, but in language and rhythm as well!

  2. The Goddess :

    Welcome Katherine! I blush at your kind words. 😉 Now you’ve made me need to keep writing coherently instead of the emotion-fueled drivel that typically fills a day’s posts. But thank you, thank you for making my day and for taking a moment to share such kind words with me. *mwah*!

  3. Pisco Sours :

    Wow. I never thought of making the parallel between my baptism and immigration. Which is a good first argument, but there’s more to the story than that. 🙂

    I was discussing my prior spiritual life with Mother A., and let her know that I was raised Orthodox Jewish. And you know what, she actually encouraged me throughout the day, if it made me feel better and the Spirit moved me, to go ahead and say my prayers in Hebrew. Nothing theologically objectionable about that.

    But on the third hand, I don’t go in to services expecting to pray in Hebrew. (Interestingly, though, we do have Spanish services on Sundays, and Father F. has let me know I’m welcome there anytime even though my Spanish is touristy at best.) (And I’m also dying to go to services in Israel—yes, there’s a diocese there too—to find out what services there are like.)

    Bottom line is, there’s nothing wrong with being syncretic in one’s own life, but if you’re going to make yourself part of a community, there’s a communal core you can reasonably be expected to be part of. As an Anglican, the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer are part of that communal core, and it just makes me an asshole to use a Jewish prayerbook even though technically there’s nothing there that’s theologically objectionable. Similarly, the national anthem is part and parcel of the shared U.S. experience. I don’t think I’d even mind a word-for-word translation into Spanish, but to change the fuqn words?! “Now is the time to break the chains”?!

    It may be an admirable sentiment (and for that matter, I think anyone who wants to become an American should be able to, to the point that I would allow any country who wanted to join the union to do so), but it is not the national anthem and is not part of the shared experience. Can you imagine the furor is U.S. expatriates wanted to sing the Mexican anthem in English, and end it with “Hail Bush!”?

    No. Just… no.

  4. Erica :

    I’m not sure where exactly I am on the whole immigration issue, either. But I agree that singing our national anthem as it was written, in the language it was written in is not something that’s really up for discussion. It seems to me like translating it into another language and changing some of the words makes it a whole new thing with a whole new meaning, and I don’t think I like that meaning.

    If the reality is that the makeup of our population is largely Latino, then of course some things are going to shift to incorporate that accordingly. But you don’t get to just usurp a national symbol like that.

  5. Chris :

    Well, I’m not sure about this whole national anthem in Spanish thing … I plead ignorance as I was out of the country when this whole thing came up. And the fact that GWB is against it, immediately makes me want argue for it. So I will.

    I don’t admit to being the most patriotic person. I sing God Bless America at ballgames (it makes my girlfriend laugh) but rarely do I sing the anthem — I leave that to the professional singer on the field. But one thing that hits home with me is when people put a limit on free speech. You can say anything you want, as long as it doesn’t go against what it means to be an American, or any symbol of America. Does that make any sense? Saying the president is a flipping idiot who seems mildly retarded and very incompetent is something you can say freely — and I do. Yet, isn’t his office and his place in the country and world a symbol of America and our democratic process (the 2000 election notwithstanding, or course).

    We can’t pick and choose what we censor, can we? If all speech isn’t free, than none of it is. If it means singing the anthem in Espanol, then whoever wants to should be allowed to, without any repercussion. Yes, it’s a symbol of our freedom — but that very freedom allows us to speak our mind, and sing songs in any way we want.

  6. Neil Morse :

    Well, y’know, sing it all you want. But it’s not the National Anthem.