FYI, if you're a graduate student considering English, don't go to the University of Kansas until the experts have determined Wescoe Hall to be free of carcinogens.
Also, the obituary I mentioned yesterday is online; read away and shudder to your little heart's content.
Now for something a little less light-hearted: The Christian Science Monitor, whose views I normally find to be fairly enlightening, published an editorial that disappointed me today.
The ed board argues that
Common civic values, not ethnicity or race, unite America. And it takes communication of those values through a single language to hold together the diverse cultures that make the US unique and strong. Look no further than Canada and secessionist-minded French-speaking Quebec to see the splits that develop in the absence of language glue.I first take issue with the idea of "common civic values." The phrase creates a false picture of American Unity in the mind of the reader. While this picture may be an effective rhetorical device, it is far from the way things really are.
Case in point: I would not be one with residents of any major inner-city area. I am white, middle class, fairly naive, bookish, and uninitiated into urban culture. Even linguistically, I am ill-equipped to communicate with people in the inner city. They use a variety of English that I am not familiar with. They have different values than I do. Certainly, we may share some core beliefs, but in many ways, to speak of us sharing "common civic values" is misleading.
Let's throw race and class into the mix. How would I interact in the inner city with a poor, black man my own age? Would I be as inclined to engage in conversation with him, for instance, as I would be if he were middle class and white? Moreover, in what ways would our cultural assumptions overlap? I would have a different construction of "prestige" than he would, certainly. He might emphasize performance or attitude as prestige-building, whereas I, as an academic, would tend to focus more on knowledge and intellectual flexibility.
More than that, we would probably have vastly different ways of relating to those around us in our own social environments...
My point is that there is room for us both in America, together with our linguistic, performative, social, and cultural differences. That doesn't mean we need to interact in order to obtain our places.
Why can't Spanish become a national language? I understand the logistical challenges, but it seems to me that the only real reason is fear of the unknown -- a fear that is very similar to that of Americans during earlier waves of immigration from Germany, Eastern Europe, Ireland, and China.
I think many Americans secretly agree with this idiot's column in Newsday:
Advocates of an open border between the U.S. and Mexico do their best to present a mellow American flag-waving image to the public...But offstage, as it were, a different and harsher truth comes out. It's not a "movement," they tell each other when cameras aren't watching, it's a "movimiento" - and that Spanish-language phrasing speaks volumes about the true tilt of pro-immigration activists.The columnist, James Pinkerton, is completely closed to any possibility of Latino activists bringing significant parts of their former cultures to the States. He essentially paints the movimiento as a leftist plot, and then he asks, "Is that what we want to let into the United States?"
I have no more time right now, but consider these things and let me know what you think. Am I misprepresenting the CS Monitor editorial? Reading too much into it? I won't change my mind on Pinkerton; he's a moron, and that's it. :-)