02 May 2006

you may soon know me as a published writer

Sort of. I just wrote a Letter to the Editor of my local paper, the Democrat and Chronicle. I'll let you know if it's published, though I only read it online, so if it's in the print edition I'll miss it.

My letter was kind of a response to this little gem:

'Nuestro Himno' is a terrible idea

Count me among those who are infuriated at the thought of "The Star-Spangled Banner" sung in a language other than English. The next thing these people will want to have is a separate Bill of Rights, Constitution and flag. The suggestion from the record label Urban Box Office urging Hispanic stations to play this at the same time to show solidarity is a farce.

If this succeeds, then next will be all of the above in French, German or the language of any other group not satisfied with what they have been given by this country. Then throw in a few lines in English condemning U.S. immigration laws.

What UBO should do is to start a fundraiser so that they can buy property in another country, move there and establish their own anthem, constitution and flag. Then open its borders to all without any restrictions.

Huh? So, because Hispanics are singing an American song in Spanish, they no longer want to follow our laws? The anthem is a song. Translating a song into a different language is not analagous to re-writing the Constitution. I see it as a way to further an expression of patriotism, because, you see, many of the Spanish speakers in America are citizens, and most of them have chosen to live in America because they think it's a great country. And if other immigrants follow suit? Good for them! We can welcome culture and languages without handing our country over to foreign dictators. I expect that any group of immigrants demanding a new Constitution or American flag would be laughed right out the door. Does this man have the slightest idea how our government works? That's hardly a legitimate concern.

What is the big deal about the national anthem being translated into Spanish? Hispanics are not trying to take over the country. They are singing a song that proclaims the greatness of the nation they live in, and they are singing it in their native language. I think it's scary for some people that "Nuestro Himno" is being released in the midst of the debate about immigration. But I can't understand why either of those is a bad thing. Immigrants are vital to our nation -- they founded our nation! And they shouldn't be required to leave their native language and customs at the door.

But I'm a big proponent of multiculturalism, and multilingualism. I may be biased, living in such a diverse neighborhood, full of educated, multilingual people, but I think these things are really important. You've heard this joke, right? What do you call a person who speaks three languages? Trilingual. What do you call a person who speaks two languages? Bilingual. What do you call a person who speaks one language? American. I know English is the dominant language here; I know it's one of the dominant languages on the planet. But I can't see anything but benefits when it comes to everyone learning other languages. What's so bad about understanding? About communication?

Well, the D&C has word-count limits, so I couldn't say everything I wanted to say as eloquently as I might have said it had I been given unlimited space, but I think I did pretty well getting my point across. Here's my letter:

The controversy over “Nuestro Himno” is silly. What are its opponents afraid of?Dozens of countries around the world have two or more official languages – America has no official language! Surely the national anthems of those countries are sung in multiple languages without inciting revolution or anarchy.

About 30 million Americans speak Spanish – and most of them also speak English to a proficient degree. Insisting on the superiority of the English language, and refusing to accommodate those who speak other languages as well makes Americans look ignorant and rigidly nationalistic while denying the cultural diversity inherent in this country’s history. Multiculturalism enhances our shared American culture, builds bridges between neighbors, and strengthens communities. If Spanish-speakers want to celebrate our country in their native language, more power to them! In fact,
let’s translate the national anthem into French, Polish, Chinese, Hindi, Afrikaans… Let’s sing the praises of our nation in every language we know! “The Star-Spangled Banner” honors America no matter what language it’s sung in.

Comments?

3 comments:

Bob Merkin said...

for god's sake, heide -- stop writing letters to the editor! it's addictive! i just tried one little LTE in 1975. i thought i could stop. but i was just fooling myself. i've written HUNDREDS since then! and SCORES have been published! i can't stop!

get help while you still can!

ren said...

Feministe has a bunch of posts about the hypocrisy around this. Here's one:

http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2006/05/02/the-hypocrisy-it-burns/

kim said...

Ren, you beat me to it - I was also going to comment on how politicians have no problem with singing the anthem in Spanish when it's politically expedient. Good letter, Heidi - hope it's published.