One of the things that worried me a couple of days ago while watching the immigration debate in the US Senate press conference was a seeming consensus that ALL intending immigrants wishing to benefit from the quasi-amnesty/path-to-citizenship MUST learn to speak English before they can qualify. The discomfiture eventually turned to laughter when the senators making the point at the conference then began to speak in Spanish, in turn, to get the message across to their desired audience across the land. My sense of outrage, being sufficiently neutered by that irony, went away, and I went on Facebook to poke fun at my American friends who promptly defended the country’s one-common-language policy. They had a point: for every country/civilization to survive, and for the sense of unity, it must have a common language. (Never mind that people who already live and work in the country probably already speak the language or a version of it, or would do so eventually, to survive, without having to be compelled by law. And that if they don’t, their children would eventually do as it had been for generations, and the generations after them).
Today, however, I came across another second level of outrage, this time coming from American parents who were riled up that their children were reciting the American Pledge of Allegiance in a different language, this time in Arabic! Also important: the pupils, members of a social club, had already spent previous weeks reciting the same pledge in French and Spanish, with no uproar. The problem: the phrase “under God” is impossible to translate into Arabic without the word “Allah” appearing in it. Outrage! Sound the alarms: the children are now batting for the terrorists!
Watch a “discussion” about it below, via Fox News:
I was beside myself with laughter at the end, this time at the Chyron on the screen that read “Pledge of Allegiance to Allah?”
So instead of this post being about the needlessness of outrage, and the benefits of multilingualism, or even the beauty of childhood innocence and experimentation, or – horror of horrors – the importance of an open mind that assimilates instead of dictating, it shall merely be about the pleasures of sampling the varying shades of American outrage.
To end, here’s a VW ad that has now also spawned a lot of American cable tv outrage for the use of Jamaican accent by a white American dude from Minnesota. Judge for yourself.
These are interesting times for lingua fracas.