Speak No Evil: The Language of Separation
- Emil Nagengast
- October 1, 2006
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Altoona Mirror
Sometimes I wonder if lawmakers and the citizens they represent are speaking the same language.
The Bush administration loves to brag about its efforts to protect the country from dangerous foreign threats, but Bush and Cheney could learn an important lesson about homeland security by following the example of Pennsylvania lawmakers.
I was out of the country for three months this summer, and when I returned to central Pennsylvania I learned that our commonwealth has been embroiled in difficult anti-immigration struggles. Most importantly, I discovered that the State House had passed legislation to make English the official language of Pennsylvania. This legislation is now in the hands of the State Senate, and if the Senators make this bill into law, we will send a strong message to the whole world: "We speak English here, and we have a law to prove it."
This legislation is now in the hands of the State Senate, and if the Senators make this bill into law, we will send a strong message to the whole world: "We speak English here, and we have a law to prove it."
This bill has the support of 85 percent of Pennsylvanians, but it is far too weak to provide us with the necessary level of language security. We must take this crusade far more seriously. We live in a dangerous world and freedom isn't free. If lawmakers in Harrisburg want to prove their devotion to our language they will support my five point plan:
--First, "Accent free English" must be our official language. Anyone with an accent must be forbidden from having contact with any kids who are still in primary school. Children are extremely impressionable and they are quick to pick up dangerous habits. Having an accent makes anyone a target for deportation.
--Second, we must devote significant resources to strategic language initiatives that will assist the rest of the world to speak properly. The CIA could save billions, and would be far more efficient in finding the bad guys, if Al Qaeda spoke English all the time.
We are blessed to live in a world that is dominated by English, but there are still some pockets of resistance out there. If we can put a man on the moon, surely we can teach everyone to speak English. As a model for the rest of our country, we should devote 10 percent of our commonwealth's budget to the creation of a "language liberation brigade" that can be air dropped into linguistically troublesome regions.
--Three, we must push our allies in the UN to adopt a resolution making English the "Official Language of Earth and the Moon." There might be some opposition in the UN, but the Bush administration has a strong record of building multilateral support for American initiatives. It shouldn't be difficult to marginalize the French on this vote.
--Fourth, it is time that we forced the Amish to speak English all the time. What could be more offensive to our commonwealth than to have so many German speakers amongst us? They teach their children German - even though they have lived here for over 200 years. They call us "English" - as though we are foreigners in our own damn commonwealth!
--Fifth, we must apply the doctrine of pre-emptive strike to the realm of language security. Why is our language under attack here in the beautiful valleys of Pennsylvania? Because some countries are determined to invade, using people who speak bad languages. We must, therefore, strike at the heart of the problem. Our first target will be Mexico. If we send the Pennsylvania National Guard to retake the Halls of Montezuma, they could liberate Mexico from the language that has oppressed the Mexicans for centuries. If we force Mexico to adopt English as its official language, the people pouring across the border will soon all be English speakers. The only problem with this plan is that it will make it much harder for us to spot the illegal immigrants living in our beautiful valleys.
I have traveled to many countries and it is satisfying to know that as long as I still know how to speak English I won't have a problem finding people who can help me get a good burger. Most of the people I encounter in other countries have the decency to speak my language.
But how long will I know how to speak English? I can envision a day in the near future when our commonwealth will be drowning in Spanish, Greek or Italian and there will be no more room in my brain for English. I won't be able to speak to my kids or find a good burger in other parts of the world. I hope our lawmakers will adopt my five-point plan as a last line of defense.
Emil Nagengast is associate professor of politics at Juniata College. He recently spent the summer teaching in The Gambia, Africa.