For the most part, I’ve avoided commentary on the recent immigration uproar. Unlike conservatives, I don’t agree with the let’s-close-the-borders mentality. Immigration has fueled and reviitalized America throughout its history. Albert Einstein was an immigrant. So are many of the most popular players in baseball today. And all of us are the descendents of immigrants…….some of whom arrived here by less than legal means.
For me, the issue isn’t immigrantion, legal or illegal, as much as it is the idea of a single American culture. History has demonstrated quite effectively that the idea of a nation comprised of two separate, disparate cultures, is a farce. And the definitive earmark of a “national” culture is language. If we don’t all speak the same language, then how can we really be part of the same country ?
Proposals for an “English only” USA have been the subject of debate for years, and the subject is being revived today as the immigration issue rushes to the forefront of political debate. In today’s Washington Post, George Will asks some very simple questions that make the idea of America becomng a bi-lingual nation seem ridiculous.
What makes Americans generally welcoming of immigrants, and what makes immigrants generally assimilable, is that this is a creedal nation, one dedicated to certain propositions, not one whose origins and identity are bound up with ethnicity. But if you are to be welcomed to the enjoyment of American liberty, then America has a few expectations of you. One is that you can read the nation’s founding documents and laws and can comprehend the political discourse that precedes the casting of ballots.
Is this unreasonable? Of course not.
And I agree. There is much to disagree with in the midst of the anti-immigrant backlash currently sweeping the country. The demand that people who want to live in this country learn to speak the native language is not one of them.