Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Official English does not mean English Only

English.  When did it become something to be ashamed of?  England was imperial, no doubt about it.  But our founding fathers spoke English (and probably French, Dutch, some Spanish, and very likely German -- King George III, as a Hannoverian, likely spoke German--and perhaps French). 

But History is no comfort to us as we face this issue.  I'm taking the moderate road.  I favor the establishment of English as the official language as a practical matter.  Not as a way of disenfranchising any special group or population, but as a way of warding off future strife.  Make no mistake it's only going to get worse.

At some point in the future, some parts of the United States will see a majority of Spanish speaking residents.  When that happens, will legal forms, documents, descriptions of property, laws, writs, summonses, and the courts, human services, public policy, etc., switch to Spanish?  And if and when that happens, will the presumably white, English only speaking minority reflect on how difficult it has been for those who have spoken only Spanish in this country, living in a society wherein all the rules, laws, et al. are codified in a foreign language?  Will we English speakers pause then, and say, how insensitive we were?

Absolutely not. 

The hue and cry will make the debate now seem like a garden party.  Civil war?  You bet.  Language is power.  And the sooner we recognize that the better.  We are engaged in a cultural war.  One of the battle fronts is the battle over language.  If English speakers lose that battle, then all power and privilege will be lost with it.  And all because we let it happen.  Here's where I part company from my liberal friends.  Call me a xenophobe if you wish.  I hate and fear no one.  But I do think there should be practical standards.  English is the international language of business; so, why isn't it good enough to be the national language of our government?  Why?  Because certain people want to take away the language power of the entrenched, presumably white, English speaking majority.  Nothing wrong with wanting a piece of the pie.  But the best way is to earn it.  And it's historically been the sad problem of immigrants in the US that it often takes a generation or two to fully assimilate.

Official English doesn't mean English only of course.  We can and must communicate.  But when writingour laws, when codifying the public will, describing who owns what, I want that to always be in a language I can understand.

No comments: