Friday, August 03, 2012

Craziest Republican of the Day: Steve King


Rep. Steve King of Iowa may or may not be the craziest Republican -- it's undeniable that he's up at the top of the list, but obviously the competition is stiff -- but he leads the pack in our ongoing CRD series.

By my count, it's his seventh appearance as CRD. The previous for were for:

-- Introducing legislation recognizing the "importance of Christmas and the Christian faith";
-- Saying that same-sex marriage is part of "a push for a socialist society" in America;
-- Saying that he "empathized" with the suicide bomber who attacked an IRS office in Texas;
-- Saying that Obama "favors the black person";
-- Saying that there are babies "in garbage cans around this country" that don't receive health care; and
-- Saying that it would be okay to ask people in hospital about their immigration status.

And then there was the time we noted his bigoted idiocy.

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So what is it today? Here's HuffPo:

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said Thursday that diversity has never been America's strong suit, so lawmakers should pass his bill to make English the official U.S. language in the name of unifying the nation.

"One of the great things about America is we've been unified by a common language. That common language, of course, is English," King said during a press conference on his bill. "Our language is getting subdivided by some forces of the federal government. It is time to speak with a common voice."

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The bill has no chance of becoming law, but it has come under fire from immigration activists who say it would isolate immigrant populations. Others have charged that groups pushing for the bill are racist.

King pushed back on both charges and said his bill is aimed at bringing the country together. After all, he said, diversity has never been America's strong point.

"The argument that diversity is our strength has really never been backed up by logic," King told The Huffington Post. "It's unity is where our strength is. Our Founding Fathers understood that. Modern-day multiculturalists are defying that."

I'm not sure what "logic" has to do with it, but it certainly seems reasonable that a community is stronger when it builds upon the strengths of multiple groups. The right views multiculturalism as divisive, but actually it can be the source of a powerfully inclusive unity, with different "cultures" maintaining their distinctiveness while contributing to a broader understanding of "the nation." The alternative is exclusiveness and bigotry.

Furthermore, how can he say that diversity is not a strength of America. America may not have been terribly diverse at the outset, but its history is essentially a history of the immigration of diverse groups from around the world. Really, what if America had remained purely English? What if it had never benefitted from influxes of Irish and Italians, Chinese and Eastern Europeans? And what of the many contributions of those brought over in chains, the Africans slaves who finally found freedom? If you want to see what America is like without an appreciation for diversity, just consider the treatment of the indigenous peoples at the hands of the white conquerors. Doesn't all this seem... logical?

King and his may or may not be motivated by bigotry, but he is certainly motivated by ignorance and fear. As for me, I happen to believe in America as something other than, as something greater than, a culturally exclusive, and narrow, community. I happen to think that its greatness lies in its expansive ideals, and in the wonderful diversity of Americans who call themselves American, love America, and contribute to America's brilliantly multifaceted identity while also retaining their cultural particularities.

And that includes language. King may want everyone to speak English, and I am not denying that the members of any community need to be able to communicate with one other, but the fact is, English is already the country's de facto official language. There is no need to legislate it. And I would like to think, contra King's cultural narrowness, that America is a large enough nation, and a great enough one, to accept people who speak many different languages, and to expect that its citizens speak not just English but another language or two as well. 

That's the way the world is heading, towards greater integration, distances shortened with travel and technology. You can either accept that and see America as part of a larger international community or you can stick your head up your ass. Steve King, ignorantly longing for the unicultural glory days of the 18th century, has made his choice clear.

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