Friday, April 28, 2006

Xenophobia's red glare

By Vivek Krishnamurthy

One of the most distressing aspects of the debate raging in the United States right now over immigration is the mildly xenophobic tone that some of the principals (who should know better) have been starting to take. Such as President George W. Bush. This afternoon, his eminence weighed into the blazing row over the Spanish version of The Star Spangled Banner being recorded by a number of top Latin pop artists, stating in typical monosyllables that he thinks "people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English. And they ought to learn to sing the anthem in English."

Perhaps they should learn English, but what's so wrong about bringing the national anthem to the people, in whatever language they speak? Since when did America become an ethnic nation defined in terms of a dominant linguistic group, rather than a land built on the grand ideas of freedom and liberty? (After all, the Founding Fathers toyed with the idea of making German the official language so that the linguistic memory of English tyranny would be erased from the young nation.)

I think there can be no greater compliment than for the members of the most disadvantaged group in American society, who are denied the benefit of most American laws, and yet strive to achieve the "American Dream" through the sweat of their brow, seek to embrace the ultimate symbol of the American civic community -- even as large swathes of this immigrant nation want to close the door behind them. I urge you all to listen to Nuestro Himno, and indeed to translate the national anthem into whatever language you speak, so that the Star-Spangled Banner can be a standard under which all Americans unite.

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