Calling attention to America's identity crisis

The babel syndrome!
A common language is a key to national unity and the perpetuation of a viable America. Language is perhaps the primary element of a society and the primary method of communication among people in the society. It is a very powerful tool that can unite or divide to the same degree. The starting point or foundation for social integration is perhaps a common language. Without it, the process would be like making bread, bricks, or concrete with little or no water. In a sense, language is equivalent to the arteries and veins (perhaps, in another sense, like the blood) in the human body, through which the essential elements are distributed, the essence sustained, and the body maintained.

In the book Tribalizing America, I noted that, there is nothing to suggest that anything—not a nation of many years of democratic existence such as America, not even an idea or principle such as democracy—is beyond erosion and destruction. To that end, no one should be under any illusion as to take for granted the threats posed by the issues of many competing common national languages. After all, just a few years ago, Canada was faced with a crisis that threatened her existence (and almost split her in two). The primary cause of that crisis was perhaps her dual national languages (and the attendant problems thereof), which inevitably created similar barriers as we have seen in less developed and less democratic countries.

In fact, in the minds of many Canadians and people outside Canada, there is a tacit assumption that there are two distinct national entities within Canada: the “English Canada” and the “French Canada.” Perhaps some day America will have a similar situation, where there will be a tacit assumption that two national entities (for example, the “English America” and the “Spanish America”) exist within the United States of America.

Many other countries faced with similar situations have not been as successful as Canada in dealing with and resolving the situation, at least so far. Countries such as Afghanistan, Indonesia, Burma, Bosnia, Turkey, Macedonia, Kosovo, Iraq, and most countries in Africa are all dogged by the problems engendered by multiple and competing languages, among other problems. In fact, the absence of a common language is the most prevalent way to create and preserve division, thereby perpetuating cultural polarization, which in turn leads to fragmentation and disunity in a nation.”

A news series by the San Diego Union Tribune, published on August 22, 1999, noted that California alone is now home to recent immigrants from nearly 200 nations. This number is most likely higher for the United States as a whole. Why aren’t the democrats calling for their ancestral languages to also become official languages of the United States? I tell you why; it is because in the emerging perverted paradigm of democracy in America – the political numbers game, where politicians would go where they perceive there is money or votes and would sacrifice the essence of their country in the process. The author of Tribalizing America identified the political numbers game and politics of ethnicity that is at play in America as “enemies within”.

Language is perhaps the primary element of a society and the primary method of communication among people in the society. It is a very powerful tool that can unite or divide to the same degree. The starting point or foundation for social integration is perhaps a common language. Without it, the process would be like making bread, bricks, or concrete with little or no water. In a sense, language is equivalent to the arteries and veins (perhaps, in another sense, like the blood) in the human body, through which the essential elements are distributed, the essence sustained, and the body maintained.

Building a society on multiple languages, indeed any form of social engineering that does not emphasize a single common language in a particular society, is imprudent. The former is a recipe for disaster; the latter is an exercise in futility. Language is the most basic and common way to exclude or alienate people (or to be excluded or alienated). It is also the most basic and common way to include and integrate people. A common language establishes the first element of trust between people; it is the first sign of acceptance amongst people. Language is indeed the true passport to any country or society.

As a recent immigrant with English as second language, I am not by any means suggesting that people should not speak their secondary languages where and when it is appropriate, notes that language can as easily arouse suspicion or misperception when it is not spoken or understood by all, just as it arouses comradeship when spoken or understood by all. Having or promoting multiple common or official languages in a society is counterproductive. Not only is it very limiting and wasteful, it is redundant and divisive. It is like running in different directions at the same time. It encourages or creates unnecessary differences among people and undermines social integration and unity in diversity. The United States spends $300 million every year in bilingual education, in spite of clear evidence that children learn better when thought in English.

Whether we like it or not, the English language is more or less a transactional language and has become the official language of global commerce, science, technology and art. All over the world, people are recognizing this fact and seeking education in the English language. Studies also show that the demand for American-style education and television programming is increasing rapidly around the world. This is in part due to the realization that the English language is fast becoming the world’s language of choice by necessity. Hence, it is puzzling that America, which is largely responsible for this emerging global consciousness, by virtue of her economic dominance, seems to fail to see what the rest of the world ironically sees in her.

It must be recognized that the preexisting condition of lack of a common language undermines democracy in many countries of the world. Perhaps the greatest challenge facing the effort to build a united Europe (in the likeness of the United States of America) is lack of a common language. It must also be recognized that the preexisting condition of a common language in America at her birth (at least among the founders) or the willingness to embrace it as the common language was critical in successfully establishing the nation and the principles upon which she was founded. It remained that way, as immigrants came from all over the world, where English was not spoken: Sweden, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Denmark, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, etc., and likewise all became fully integrated into the American society by virtue of the common language - English, until recently when unprincipled politicians for the sake of political and personal gains, and capitalist raiders pushing rabid capitalism for personal gains pushed the adoption of Spanish as a second language in a deal of quid pro quo for votes and profits. Now, a problem exists where there ought not and adds to the distractions from legitimate issues that beg for the nation’s attention.


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