“American” Is Not A Language!
By Fred Mittag
Truly, some right-wingers must have a large skull several inches thick in order to protect a brain the size of a pea. Predictably, Rush Limbaugh became upset and paranoid that Coca Cola produced an ad for the Super Bowl in which “America the Beautiful” was sung in different languages. Republican Allen West found the ad “frightening.” Todd Starnes, of Fox News, said, “Coca Cola is the official soft drink of illegals crossing the border.” Glenn Beck also became excitable over the ad. Some complained that it was an insult to our National Anthem, because it should be sung in “American.” Oh, my. “America the Beautiful” is not the National Anthem and we don’t speak American – we speak English.
If the words to “America the Beautiful” are so sacred in English, then the far-right is by inference paying great tribute to a lesbian, a demographic usually condemned by them, and therein lies more hypocrisy. The lyrics to “America the Beautiful” were written by an English professor named Katharine Bates during a trip out West, after her lesbian eyes had admired the view from Pike’s Peak in Colorado.
My head spins when I contemplate this issue. Some of the biggest whiners that the song should only have been sung in English show themselves to be very poor practitioners of spoken English. I want to say, “If English is so important to you, why don’t you learn to speak it better?”
They forget that the only Americans are indigenous people. The rest of us, for whatever reason, came from other continents. Yiddish is spoken in New York, Polish is spoken in Chicago. Polish-Americans are 31% of the population of West Seneca, New York. French is spoken in Louisiana, German is spoken in Central Texas, and Spanish is spoken everywhere. There are double cash registers in Texas border towns, so that customers may pay in either pesos or dollars.
Conservatives also had a hissy-fit when a ten-year-old Mexican-American boy brilliantly and beautifully sang the National Anthem to open a San Antonio Spurs game in a mariachi costume. Some said such things as “Send that boy back to Mexico, where he came from.” He was born in San Antonio and his father served four years in the United States Navy. What should concern right-wing conservatives is not that a Mexican-American kid sang it in a mariachi costume, but that our National Anthem is a British drinking song. It became our official National Anthem in 1931, but only after vigorous protests by the Women’s Temperance Union. Right-wing rage apparently does not extend to Latin. E Pluribus Unum appears on the Great Seal of the United States and on coins.
English is not an American language. Navajo is an American language. The uproar about the foreign languages used in the Coca Cola ad ignore the fact that English itself is an imported language and Great Britain is a foreign country. The conservative bubble, impermeable to logic and reason, and resistant to cultural development, would be helpless to know what to do with another patriotic song called “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” It was originally a German folk song and then was borrowed by England to become their national anthem, “God Save the Queen.” It was borrowed by the Americans and given new lyrics and sometimes just called by the name “America.”
To great conservative consternation and befuddlement, it’s a big and nuanced world out there. Conservatives need to get out more and stop being so provincial.