I don't mean to offend. It's probably going to happen anyway.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Talk the Talk

I hold views that many find objectionable. I know this. It's part of my existence at this point. I am frequently surprised at which views become sources of contention though. I am frequently surprised by the reactions I get to my stance on language in this country.

The language of this country is english.

I know that it's not officially the national language, and by no means is it the only language spoken in this country. All the same, if someone intends to live in this country, it should go without saying that that person should learn to speak english. Realistically, basic english literacy should be a qualification for citizenship.

The reasons for this are, as in pretty much every bit of social policy, multifold. The biggest and most rational reason for this is that government runs on english. Bills are written in english, reports are written in english, and campaigns are carried out in english. In order to get information about the running of this country in a different language, that information must be secondhand. As such, it is realistically next to impossible to get accurate, good information about the running of this country, and good citizenship is impossible without being well-informed.

The assorted voter fraud issues with ACORN seen in the last election, with members guiding the votes of non-english speakers towards their candidates, reinforces this. Those voters did not represent themselves, they represented ACORN. The language barrier left them open to exploitation, and prevented them from adequately fulfilling their duty as citizen.

On a similar note, providing multilingual services is problematic. I assume that most of my readers have heard the "Para espanol, oprima dos" message that plays on most automatic phone systems nowadays. First off, this is expensive on the organization putting together the system. Second, it doesn't apply to everyone. Getting an option for spanish in is, while not nothing, relatively easy. Offering options for portuguese, malay, polish, russian, swahili, chinese, or any of the other languages spoken in this country is significantly more difficult. Adding the spanish option does not change this country having a language. It merely expands the options by one.

This last point is highly important, but by far the most abstract. Citizenship is buying into the social government contract, by which you become eligible for the benefits of citizenship in return for paying the costs. These costs are, in a concrete sense, paying taxes, fulfilling jury duty, and obeying the laws of the land. In an abstract sense though, by becoming an American citizen, you are agreeing to become an American. National identity comes with the territory, so accordingly does a degree of assimilation.

By no means is this meant to suggest that becoming an American citizen requires the complete abandonment of your home culture. The blending of different cultures and lives is part of what makes this country as great as it is. However, that blending is dependent on communication. All too often this country sees its cities divided up into culturally independent regions. Coming from Chicago, Pilsen was the hispanic neighborhood, and Devon Avenue was the locus of Indian culture. Visiting those places felt almost like visiting another country. Many of the people living there have failed to integrate into this country.

This problem can be as harmless as failing to integrate, and as dangerous as La Raza. I have referenced Kevin Baker's posts about Balkanization* and the Raza Studies program in Arizona before. These students are not being raised as Americans, but as hispanics living in America. This fundamental difference is critical, especially as these students are being taught that their people are being oppressed by Americans. These students then grow up to become La Raza, a supposedly civil rights organization that focuses on victimization and engages in hostile activity occasionally to the point of domestic terrorism.

Language of course is not the only aspect of failure to integrate. Culture, family, and other things will still have sway. However, learning the language of the land** is the first crucial step to integrating. Everything else depends on it.

*further sub-links in the post linked. All are worth reading.

**I have heard this argument countered by people claiming Cherokee or other native tongues as the language of the land to illustrate hypocrisy, a la XKCD. The difference is that at that point, it was a case of conquest, not immigration. The pilgrims and other settlers had no intention of joining another nation, unlike the immigrants of today.

1 comment:

  1. You write very well. Particularly for a US educated student!

    It is distressing beyond measure that you (accurately) describe your views as "objectionable." Views which, IMHO, can only be (accurately) described as Patriotic.

    We may be beyond the point where restoration of America is possible. As much as I envy youth, perhaps it's better to be an old man than a college student.

    I apologize for what has happened to my country under our watch. Perhaps your generation can do better.


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