Saturday, May 20, 2006

English as the official language? (Llama)

I suppose the typical "liberal" position is to oppose having English as the official language because it is "racist" and could further marginalize hispanics, while the "conservative" one is to support it because, well, it's our country, damn it, and if you want to live here you should learn to speak like us.

I have always argued that we should promote English proficiency as a requirement for US citizenship. The US is a highly diverse country without a common religion or heritage. If we do not even speak the same language, then what bonds are there to hold these many different ethnicities together? Especially at a time when people seem to be identifying themselves first as part of some other group than their country... whether it be religion or ethnicity, if a person's first loyalty is not to his country then divide is created within the country, and that divide can lead to social unrest, violence, and injustice.

However, I also think that this new found passion for promoting the English language is completely disengenious. Time and again the GOP has motivated its base by getting them angry over some issue. Gay marriage, abortion, flag burning, infedility and now nationalism; these are emotional issues that get voters fired up and to the polls, ready to vote for the politician that has righteousness on his side, usually the Republican candidate. Poor democrats, with their relative morality and talk of vague warnings about complicated "social consequences", play right into the GOP's hands. I believe with every fiber of my being that if this were not an election year then this issue of a national language would never have made it to the Senate floor.

What's frustrating for me is when I see people with good solid conservative ideas... small government, fiscally responsible, cautious in foreign affairs, pro-military; get fooled into supporting an agenda that is diametrically opposed to those ideas. The GOP has been taken over the Moral Conservatives; people who are less concerned with balancing the budget than doing what they feel is morally just. In many ways it's like Jimmy Carter all over again; Carter was a pious man who made, for the first time in American history, morality and human rights a central plank in foreign policy. Bush II, for all his clumsiness, seems to really believe that invading Iraq and "liberating" its people was the moral thing to do - to help foster the spread of democracy in a region ruled by dictators. The result of Carter's approach? An sputtering economy and an anemic foreign policy in which the US, despite all its milatry muscle, was made to look impotent. Carter to this day is pilloried, especially by Conservatives, for these failures. But Bush and the current GOP agenda is suffering the same fate; rising oil prices and rampant spending leading to inflation (just like Carter) and an ineffective military engagement that has lead to increased tensions in the middle east (like Carter, but at a much greater level). Unlike Carter, however, Bush's morality doesn't seem to includer respect for the rights of non-Americans (re: torture).

Morality certainly has a role to play in government, but an effective government must first look at what is effective and efficient, and what best promote's our nation's interests in the long run. That means restrained spending on lean, effective social programs; it means a decisive foreign policy of achievable goals backed up by a strong, well equipped military; it means fostering good will with other nations of the world; and it means promoting unity with the borders of the US.

Here's the irony; The benefit of having English as an official language is to unifies the country, but instead it is being used by the GOP as an election year tactic to enrage passions and divide it.

1 comment:

naughtyloki said...

I support English as an official language, and support requirements for English proficiency as part of the citizenship process. I am quite in favor of citizens being multi-lingual, and wish that the teaching of other languages was stressed more in our school system, especially in elementary, where it might actually help. My main reason for wanting an official language and basic English proficiency requirements is to try to head off some of the problems we will, or already are, experiencing with govt. paperwork, roadsigns, and the like. Not only do multi-language signs and documents cost more money, but the very act of having official documents translated can lead to loopholes and interpretation issues. I would think, but don't know, that translated documents would have a clause deeming the English version to be "official or controlling." This really doesn't help a person who does not understand English, however.