Friday, April 28, 2006

Oh Say, Can You See An English-Spanish Dictionary?

The immigration issue that's been spreading like VD over the past couple months has finally, inexplicably, landed on the nation's airwaves as well. Apparently, in an effort to spread the influence and presence of hispanic presence -- illegal or otherwise -- in the United States, the people organizing all the immigration marches have also commissioned a bunch of popular latino singers to record a spanish version of the Star Spangled Banner in the hopes that it will encourage a larger following of support.


I first heard about this earlier in the week, and I actually thought it was a joke. Recording a country's national anthem -- in another language -- in the hope that you will positively influence the nation to accept you into the fold -- is moronic. This is a group of illegal immigrants -- people whose first action in the country was to violate its immigration laws -- and who now demand citizenship. Um, sorry, can't help you there.

I've been buying basic housewares in NYC for the past five or six years, including tissues, toilet paper, dish soap, cleaning products, etc. All of them are packaged and labeled in both English and Spanish. For the most part, I buy these and other household staples at a deli near my apartment which is owned and quasi-operated by Koreans. They yabber back and forth at one another in korean -- or a language I suspect thereas -- but they have three or four employees who speak Spanish. All of them -- a half-dozen spanish-speakers and a few koreans -- have one thing in common -- they all can communicate in English. If the Koreans spoke only Korean and the Spanish guys only spoke spanish, and no one spoke English, I doubt very highly I'd be returning to their store, knowing I would be unable to ask them where they keep their Captain Crunch and their Cheez Doodles in either Spanish or Korean. Put another way, if I want Captain Crunch and Cheez Doodles and I'm in the middle of Korea, I'm fucked. In my travels to Mexico, if I'm looking for the above-listed munchies, I'll be sure and cross the Rio Grande into Texas and ask one o' them good-old boys for Doodles and Crunch, but 'til then, I'll be SOL. And if I am walking down the street in NYC and want the aforementioned munchies, I expect to be able to ask, in English, where they are.

The variety of Asian people in this city are either immigrants or born to families thereof. And while the large majority of Asians here are hard-working people who speak some English, some have negative impact on the City and its people -- triads/gangs, prostitution, drugs and other forms of extortion come with Asians just as with other ethnic groups. Ditto on the hispanics in Spanish Harlem and Washington Heights. But it has nothing to do with language and all to do with culture -- meaning that if someone, whether they speak Japanese, Spanish, French or Swahili, intends to live in this country, they need to assimilate into the country rather than live in a sub-culture therein. I'm sure there are hundreds of thousands of people who live here who can barely communicate in English, whether as a result of a lack of intelligence or education -- or a combination of both. But the simple fact is that there is far more to a nation's culture than merely where it is geographically within the world -- its political framework, its laws and its moires are integral parts of what it means to be American. So if a person can't be bothered to learn the English words for toilet paper, how likely is it that he or she will bother to understand the concepts behind our political process, ie about the electoral college, the significance of checks and balances, and how to participate in the political process? Put another way, if a person cares so little about the country he/she calls home, then what will happen when he/she has children and populates the country with another apathetic, ignorant non-English speaker?

It's possible that my opinions come across as somewhat nasty and harsh. Good. I'm not anti-immigrant. I'm not suggesting that the majority of foreigners on American soil are criminals or bad people or bad for this country. I do, however, detest the fact that the immigration problem has gotten so far out of hand that the US has been implementing spanish-language driver's tests and other government-provided documentation for taxes, etc. Except the illegals that are being paid low-end minimum wage aren't filing documentation. And they're driving on roads that have signs that are distinctly-colored and -shaped so they don't need to know what the word "Yield" means.

Now that the cat's out of the bag -- the immigration marches requesting the US to toss out the whole legal immigration requirement and grant a bunch of illegals citizenship -- this "Nuestro Himno" seems like yet another attempt by a sub-culture more interested in simply occupying space here rather than becoming a part of the nation.

40 years ago, Jimi Hendrix ascended the stage at Woodstock and ripped through a feedback-drenched version of The Star Spangled Banner. It was largely considered as a subversive, artistic political statement. He was taking something that was dinstinctly American and turning it on its ear; at the same time, he was celebrating America and his place therein. The song still appears on every collection of Jimi Hendrix's music, and is a staple of classic rock collections and on radio.

Today's "Nuestro Himno" is not something I consider similar to Hendrix's Star-Spangled Banner. I think it's actually sort of repugnant that people who are requesting citizenship in this nation permitted, if not encouraged, this version to be released now. Instead of requesting to be permitted legal assimilation into American culture, the message -- unsaid, and unsung -- is that we're here illegally and you might as well just let us have some sort of legal status even though you don't want us here and we don't want to be here except to make better money.

That's one hell of a message to put on a picket sign or in a stanza of a radio-friendly "Nuestro Himno." At least they got the Nuestro -- "Our" -- part right.

1 comment:

Kaia said...

I think what these illegal immigrants are forgetting in all their protests about their rights is that they are here - ILLEGALLY.

I am so sick of this shit - come to this country legally - gain citizenship - learn the language - assimilate - become an AMERICAN. Don't jump our borders and then rally against the laws of the country you just illegally entered because they don't suit you.

My grandparents came from poland/russia - not knowing a word of english - they gained citizenship - it was a honor to become an american citizen - they opened a business - put their children through college - they became the american dream.

Where is the respect of that dream with these people? Where is the respect for our country?

We need to tighten our borders and send them back. Either become a proper citizen and earn the rights awarded to us all - or don't. But if you don't - don't expect open arms welcoming you here.