Saturday, May 13, 2006

A Truly Obnoxious Immigration Op Ed in the Washington Post

The Washington Post has published an opinion piece on immigration that precisely defines the phase “adding insult to injury.” The piece entitled Waving the Star-Spanglish Banner is a full-throated defense of translating our national anthem into and singing it Spanish, but that is not its major offense.

Like many defenses of the Spanish translation of the American national anthem this one too, overlooks some facts to reach its conclusions. It calls the Spanish translation “a loving rendition,” but fails to mention that the translated lyrics add some lines ("My people fight on..the march toward liberty..The time has come to break the chains”) that are more pointedly critical of the United States than loving. It also fails to mention that another version due out soon is even depriciating, with lyrics like:” Let's not start a war. With all these hard workers..They can't help where they were born.” The author, Mr. Dorfman, himself an immigrant enjoying the fruits of this country , apparently believes that it is perfectly appropriate to use the iconic American national anthem to trash the concerns of a large majority of the people in the country in which he now lives.

But the author’s sin is not ingratitude, it is rude arrogance. His view is that,” “Spanish is a language that has come to stay,” and the United States had just better get used to it. His theory is that Americans were upset with the Spanish translation of the anthem because, “It has inadvertently announced something many Americans have dreaded for years: that their country is on its way to becoming a bilingual nation.”

Americans, he lectures us, must embrace this fact. Otherwise, “the democratic ideals at the heart of American identity are truly in danger of being sacrificed on the altar of false security.” The alternative to this “tolerance” and “diversity” is "a nativist backlash, with more vigilante Minutemen swilling beer in the Arizona sun, more calls for deporting all illegal workers, more demands that an impenetrable wall be built against the foreign hordes, more attempts to dismantle bilingual education in U.S. schools.” How smug.

As it happens Mr. Dorfman is a Professor at Duke and an accomplished playwright, but when it comes to understanding his new home, his civic ignorance is profound. He doesn’t consider that one of the most important means that has helped America integrate hundreds of millions of immigrants over the years expecting and helping immigrants learn our language and culture, not insist that they impose theirs on us. One wonders what people like Mr. Dorfman would do if an large group of immigrants in his home country, Chile, demanded that its citizens learn another language to converse with each other or carry on public life. Perhaps, being an “intellectual cosmopolitan” he would welcome it; but I doubt it.