America: Beautiful in any language

I recently posted about my experience watching two of my friends become American citizens. Now comes the Superbowl with its spate of commercials, one of which has generated some sentiment that absolutely should not exist in this country.

It’s a simple concept. People of various nationalities singing “America the Beautiful” in their own language. But for sheer ignorance, have a look at some of the Twitter comments recently posted about this commercial:

  • The Coca-Cola Co. Should apologize for the ridiculous #SuperBowl commercial #AmericaTheBeautiful should ONLY be in one language #English
  • Heres List Of ALL #Coke Products-BOYCOTT! Our Language Is #English Not Turkish! http://www.coca-colacompany.com/brands/all/ #SuperBowl #Broncos #SeaHawks #sports
  • Really glad I drink @Pepsi and not @CocaCola because that commercial was just AWFUL next time #ENGLISH please! #SB48 #SuperBowl
  • If you want to come to this country fine we welcome you BUT your going to sing America The Beautiful in #ENGLISH & drink #PEPSI #SUPERBOWL
  • I don’t think a commercial that sings in other than #English is a good idea #SuperBowl am not gonna buy ur product anymore
  • WTF?  @CocaCola has America the Beautiful being sung in different languages in a #SuperBowl commercial? We speak ENGLISH here, IDIOTS.”

The xenophobia and ignorant racist vitriol being spewed out onto the Internet breaks my heart. Yet these people seem to have no problem driving down Via Verde Avenue in their Prius to go eat Pizza with their Swedish girlfriend… the intellectual and spiritual disconnect is very difficult for me to get my head around.

Some statistics would probably not be amiss here. The 2010 census reports:

Americans 308,745,538 100.0 %
White 223,553,265 72.4 %
African American 38,929,319 12.6 %
Asian American 14,674,252 4.8 %
Native Americans or Alaska Native 2,932,248 0.9 %
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander 540,013 0.2 %
Some other race 19,107,368 6.2 %
Two or more races 9,009,073 2.9 %

Of that total, 16.4% are of hispanic or latino ancestry. That’s close to two out of every 10. Moreover, have a look at the 15 largest ancestries of these oh-s0-proud Americans:

531px-Census-2000-Data-Top-US-Ancestries

It wouldn’t be surprising if the real names of some of these uneducated and small-spirited bloggers were Jorgensen, DeSalvo, O’Shaunessy, Kang, or Graumann. If they’re taking pride in being called Jones, they may well have forgotten their Welsh ancestry.

Kris Kristofferson has Swedish ancestry. The Governator is from Austria. Rocky Marciano was Italian. Bruce Willis was born in Idar-Oberstein, West Germany. Walter Cronkite had Dutch ancestry. Robert Zemeckis had Lithuanian ancestors. Gene Simmons was born in Israel. My own grandparents came from Tuscany and Calabria. America the beautiful, the open, the welcoming, the free – it has always been and will always be a melting pot of cultures, races, languages and ideologies. We must never forget the words of Emma Lazarus:

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Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

“The New Colossus,” 1883

As our nation grows in population and we deal with issues of unemployment and the social well-being of our citizens, the issue of immigration must of necessity be dealt with in a rational and humane way, giving priority to those who enter our country through legal and approved channels – but we must never become a nation where ugly and brutal nationalism is allowed to become a vehicle for the demonization of any race, creed or culture. Our national language is English, and those immigrants who have been most successful are the ones who have assimilated rapidly, learned the language and the culture of their adopted home, and mainstreamed themselves and their children. But remembering and honoring their cultural heritage is also a big part of who they are, and how they interact with and contribute to the nation.

If you’re going to insist on English only, you must by rights exclude yourself from ever eating at Acquerello in San Francisco (in fact, you must refer to it as Saint Francis, and no one will know what the hqiz you are talking about) or Piccolo Angolo in New York; you are prohibited from ever driving a Porsche or a Mercedes-Benz; you may never refer to a shiatsu massage or a reiki treatment; you can’t drink vodka; taboo is taboo; you can never again use ketchup; and heaven help you if you want to eat fondue.

For the love of whatever you hold sacred, fight racism, exclusionism, nationalism and xenophobia with every fiber of your being. Every American citizen in this country is entitled to the same respect and status – remember, in the end, – with the exception of Native Americans who were here long before the Mayflower – we all got here on a boat one way or another.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

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8 responses to “America: Beautiful in any language

  1. No hamburgers or frankfurters either! No cole slaw! No salsa! No pizza or pasta! And no triage when you drag your starved self to the ER!

  2. At least one of my ancestors came over on the Mayflower. Others were here when the Mayflower landed. I’m with you, Christ—darned if I see what the problem is with celebrating the tossed salad that is America.

  3. Pingback: The defense and the illustration of the English Language. | Playing in the World Game

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