Monday, May 01, 2006

Foot, meet mouth

I don't want anyone to get the impression that I'm in favor of changing the official language of the national anthem, but this pisses me off:
Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander, Majority Leader Bill Frist, both from Tennessee, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, and Pat Roberts of Kansas submitted a nonbinding resolution on the Senate floor last week that said the national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance "should be recited or sung in English."

The reason, they say, is that what binds Americans together is not race, ancestry or origin, but a common language — English.

God damn it, no. You'd think that Senators, of all people, would be a little more familiar with what binds this country together. Senators occupy a position laid out by the Constitution, they are democratically elected officers of the nation. And ours is a nation (as is so often said) of laws, not of men. What binds this nation together, and what sets its identity clearly, is the Constitution of the United States of America!

My mother's grandmother never really picked up English. She managed after a while, but mostly got by on Yiddish. Ms. TfK's family vary in their comfort with English, but they're still citizens, they vote, and they love this country.

In contrast, we share a language with the Brits, the Indians, many Caribbeans, the Canadians, and people in much of the rest of the world, but that doesn't make them American. Saying that English is what binds America together is like saying that driving on the right side of the road is what binds us together. It isn't false, it just isn't the real issue.

As a nation, we share certain key values. A democratic populism, an love of the common good, a rugged individualism, a frontier mentality, a Jeffersonian idealism, a Protestant work ethic, and a certain optimism. These commonplace expressions represent what binds us together, and it doesn't matter what language you describe them with.

Senators who don't know that don't deserve their office. It's an insult to the nation and to the principles that bind us together.