All this faunching about danged furriners taking over until "we" become a minority in our own country might get me upset, except for the fact that it's been going on for the past 200 years. Franklin worried about too many Germans in Pennsylvania. Then a few years later it was "No Irish need apply." The Chinese who built the Central Pacific were despised as heathens because they drank tea instead of whiskey. All those dreadful Catholics from southern Europe had nativists of the 1870's ranting about "rum, Romanism, and rebellion". And all through those 200 years people have bitched about how "they don't want to learn English". Well cool down and think about this: 1. The number of grandchildren of immigrants whose first language is not English is zero; 2. Junior colleges in California, the state with the largest immigrant population, both legal and otherwise, have long waiting lists of people who want to learn - guess what - English! 3. Spanish language radio and TV are full of commercials for courses to learn English. If sponsors keep advertising these courses, somebody must be buying them. A hundred years ago most major American cities had widely read newspapers in German, Russian, Norwegian, Yiddish, Armenian, etc. Early radio also featured programming in many languages. As the immigrants' kids yearned to fit in, they left the old languages behind and those foreign language media declined and largely disappeared. When we hear people speaking another language, maybe instead of being upset we should admire their willingness to leave the comfort of their native culture behind for the benefit of their children. If you were in Italy with some American friends, would you insist that you all speak Italian among yourselves in order to avoid offending any of the local folks? Yeah, right.
Should the borders be controlled? Sure. Should people have to follow legal procedures to enter the country? You bet. But in the current uproar, some of what I'm hearing isn't just a debate over how to regulate immigration, and the resentment isn't directed just at illegals. Some of what I'm hearing is good old-time nasty xenophobia, usually based on erroneous assumptions, ignorance (willful ignorance?) of history, and widely circulated falsehoods.
In all the overheated rhetoric, some of the "we oughts" get a little silly. "We ought to send them all back!" So a government that couldn't find 200,000 people in new Orleans, who wanted to be found, is now going to find twelve million who don't want to be found? As Duke Wayne said in The Searchers, "That'll be the day." So when you send them all back, how about the ones who joined the military and died in Afghanistan and Iraq? Shall we dig them up and send the bodies back too?
Recently the Senate passed a resolution designating English as the national language. (It wasn't already the national language?) More silliness. The attempts of France to regulate language by law, and keep the pure French language from being polluted by English words, have amply demonstrated the utter futility of such an approach. People will use the words that they want to use, and in this country most people want to use English words. No amount of self-serving posturing by politicians will influence that in the least.
Some relatives of my dad's generation, with their midwestern dislike of things "foreign", are probably spinning in their graves, because now my family includes immigrants from Germany, Brazil, Peru, Cuba, Trinidad, and Texas. My experiences with those immigrant relatives who have joined the family over the past fifty years have been positive. Good people. Ditto for most of the immigrants I've worked with. Good people too.
5-26-06 (Revised 6-25-06)
Here's a related bit of irreverence: SOLID LOGIC