Before you make assumptions about my attitudes beyond the words that I actually write here, please take a look at this post of mine from the ChicagoBoyz, explaining why I fight pretty hard to maintain a bilingual household, especially since I’m a native English speaker.
America has always been a de-facto polyglot nation. It has never been a polyglot political entity. This is an important distinction. Up until this century, the expectation has been that if you have dealings with the Federal Government as a private citizen within this country, that those dealings would be in English. One of my most prized possessions is my great-grandfather’s circa-1880 German / English Dictionary. He emigrated in his mid-twenties, and never expected America to conform to his culture or his language. He adapted, and adapted well.
Of course, my great-grandfather lived in Brooklyn with a lot of other German-speaking immigrants (including, I’m sure, a lot more Jews than he was used to dealing with back home). Many of the Chinese immigrants I know stick to Chinatowns. This is an expected human behavior. But it is not good for the body politic. It separates the immigrant from American society, and re-enforces some of the very negative cultural practices that in part led to the immigration in the first place. No one who is completely satisfied with things back home emigrates, but fear pushes some immigrants back into a cloister that mimics the bad old days in the old country. A good example would be the Tong / Triad control of much of Chinatown. People who live in these areas are more likely to be exploited, and less likely to understand the practical compromises that make the Constitution work on a day-to-day basis. In that respect, they are dangerous voters. In the great melting pot of America, they are the lumps of sugar that did not dissolve.
Even the lumps that do largely dissolve still have a core of foreignness that will never fit in. Sometimes that’s a good thing to bring new perspectives. Usually it’s neutral or negative. My wife has a lot of attitudes left over from growing up in a Taiwan that was still under martial law. Her reading of the Constitution is a bit … interesting. I interviewed once with a German VP at a major company. He was very entrepreneurial, and told me he considered himself 100% American because he differed so much in outlook form the average German. My wife snorted when I told her that. I asked why – I still do believe the old American propaganda of the melting pot to some degree. But my wife brought up some of her more Chinese attitudes, and then noted that the German had emigrated even later in life than she had – so he was bound to be less American than he thought. As a nation we can absorb and Americanize only so much foreignness in each generation – hence the whole concept of immigration quotas in the first place (leaving aside the drain on the social welfare system of immigrants who can’t adjust).
When my wife took a look at the recent immigration protests, she got angry. Her words were something along the lines of “you won’t see any Chinese people at those rallies, they are too busy working, and they know their place in this country”. She is extremely grateful for the amnesty of 1986. Without that, the US would have lost a Ph.D. chemist in trade for a cashier at a Chinese restaurant. What a waste. But there is an element of demanding rather than asking to these recent protests, and it rubs me the wrong way, too, especially since many of these immigrants are positing some bizarre claims.
The big issue for me is the children if illegal immigrants, or those of the proposed “guest worker” class. Those born here are citizens. I know one family with a citizen daughter and illegal immigrant mother. If the mother had been deported when the kid was in high school, what would have happened? The kid would have followed the mother until majority, then come back here sans HS diploma. What a huge waste of resources. Or what of those like my wife who came here in grade school illegally? With a US high school diploma she was unemployable in Taiwan, yet unable to matriculate in a US college until the amnesty. Do we throw such people away? Again, what a waste. But with our open borders we have created an attractive nuisance where such stories abound. It’s time to get serious about border control.
Back to the bi-lingual issue, I don’t consider myself a racist, but I am a culturalist. Some cultures are better than others. Full stop. The more I study and visit some cultures, the more I’m glad I was not born into them. I share the skepticism of the neo-cons about America embracing Spanish culture in a large way, although for different reasons. This quote from Indian book reviewer A.G. Noorani gives you a good idea why:
British rule in India was doomed when the rulers introduced their language in India. You cannot talk a people into slavery in the English language. “An Englishman is the unfittest person on earth to argue another Englishman into slavery,” Burke reminded the House ofCommons on March 22, 1775. The effect is the same if “the natives” are taught English. It brings in its train British history - the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, Parliament versus the Crown, habeas corpus and the rest, as also concepts like the rule of law. Those who framed our Constitution were familiar with all this.
Most former colonies of Britain stand out as significantly better off than their neighbors. I’m not defending colonialism, just noting the strength of English-speaking culture in breaking the bonds of Ralph Peters’ Seven Signs of a non-competing culture:
Restrictions on the free flow of information.
The subjugation of women.
Inability to accept responsibility for individual or collective failure.
The extended family or clan as the basic unit of social organization.
Domination by a restrictive religion.
A low valuation of education.
Low prestige assigned to work.
Most countries colonized by the Spanish are either third-world shitholes or just in the process of dragging themselves out of that state. After visiting Spain, I’m not surprised. The ancient “manana” culture hasn’t done the Mother Country a whole lot of good, and the former colonies aren’t even at the low level of the Mother – that’s why their people are pushing to get into the US. They exhibit most of the signs of a failed culture because Spain itself still exhibits at least four of those signs, and bits of the rest – hence the immigration patterns to English-speaking countries. One of the quickest ways to break those bonds is to start communicating in English, breaking habits of thought that are ingrained in the Spanish language.
Of course, it may sound strange for someone who’s taking a great deal of effort to communicate in a foreign language with his own children to express these ideas. But that’s a personal decision. Families with strong ties to their own heritage will carry on their own traditions for the good of the children, and the rest, who inhabit a lower energy state, will be absorbed into the dominant culture, as have all previous waves of immigrants. I bear a Prussian surname, but speak next to no German. No big loss – I picked the foreign languages I wanted to speak, and I speak them. I’m no big fan of Prussian culture, believe you me.
It is the American ideal itself that drives me to reject the widespread acceptance of Spanish, especially in the form of school curricula. My concern with bi-lingualism is not so much the speaking of a foreign language (my kids’ first language is not English) as it is the concern that this will open the door for Nanny Staters to create another political dependency. The history of bilingual education as advocated by Academic multi-culturalists is a case history in the soft bigotry of low expectations.
I expect, no I demand, as a native of the US, that immigrants who become citizens stand with me as equals. Bi-lingulaism as practiced by the government looks suspiciously to me like “separate but equal” with about the same “equality” of results.
As far as the destruction of American postulated by Lamm- give me a break. True, there have been no largely bilingual or poly-lingual nations that have survived when the demographics were nearly even – Austria-Hungary was constantly at war with itself until it split apart. I did a whole post on the ChicagoBoyz on the linguistic problems of China and how they help drive the splintering and regrouping cyclic history of that sad nation. But in general, when the majority is large, there is no problem. On the other hand, those who have not been in the halls of Academia recently may underestimate the self-hatred of many of the Marxist or other leftist professors in the humanities and socail sciences (and their ex-students now occupying government positions) have for the culture which spawned them. Stupidities such as the Akaka bill have the potential to set precedent for the Southwest. Neo-cons are absolutely correct to fear the self-loathing Academics who see the US as the root of the all the world’s evils.
The Hispanic immigrants of today will become part of the patchwork of America, unless leftist Academics and politicians are allowed to create a permanent underclass of guest workers with citizen children who do not speak the de facto official language of their own. If the Constitution is not changed, and the children of “guest workers” are in fact citizens, this will become a serious issue.