My online journal.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Heavy for a Friday!

I'm getting a lot of forwarded emails these days with this quote appended at the bottom:

"If you can read this, thank a teacher! If you are reading it in English, Thank a Veteran"

I totally agree with the first part.

But.

Countless thousands of U.S. Veterans have given their lives so that us Americans can enjoy Freedom: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. All rights, which were self-evident to Thomas Jefferson 230 years ago and remain so today.

Notice that "The English Language" doesn't appear in the Declaration of Independence, nor the Constitution, nor the Bill of Rights. And last time I checked, English is not the official language of the USA (I'm not even sure it's the official language of England, but that's another Wikipedia search, for another day). It's pure happenstance that English is the language that Americans speak today. There's no reason to believe that the American version of Democracy (which I believe, is what our military is defending), could not have sprung from people who speak French. Or Mandarin Chinese.

English is not, in and of itself, superior to other languages. It so happens that in the world today, English is a "common language" that many people around the world learn as a second (or third, or fourth) language -- this is mostly due to American culture permeating the entire globe. So what if American culture spoke Arabic instead?

I guess the reason the little quote bothers me so much is, it sounds like xenophobia. Which leads to racism, stereotyping, misunderstanding, and fear of people different from "us." Which leads to problems. More war. More bigotry. More senseless hurt.

Maybe this is more appropriate: "If you're reading this without fear, thank a Veteran." But maybe that's too esoteric of a concept for an email forward.

7 comments:

Lisa Anderson said...
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Lisa Anderson said...

I see your point, but I never thought it was about the language. If Germany would have won, we would all be speaking German by now. The problem is not that German would be the superior language, but rather that Nazis would be ruling the world. It is more about having the freedom to speak the English language. Language diversity is good, but our country would not exist without the veterans who fought for the privilege to live in our country and keep the English language. That's just my 2 cents.

Suds said...

Right on Meg!!!! Couldn't agree more~~~~~~~

Anonymous said...

Personally I think we should thank the Iroquois Confederation for fighting amongst themselves too much to put up a united front against the British when fighting the French and Indian War in 1756. If you want to be historically accurate. Too long for a bumper sticker? ~Ellen

Alison Strobel Morrow said...

I don't know, Ellen, I'm sure we could do something to get that on a bumper sticker. I mean, given the size of some bumpers these days. We may have to market it exclusively to Hummer owners, but hey, it's a start....

I agree with Lisa, I always thought it was referring to the fact that those seeking world domination haven't attained it. ('Course, one might argue that WE are the ones slowly attaining world domination, but that's another argument for another day.) But it DOES come off sounding a bit...I don't know...ethno-centric. Meaning I also see your point, Meg. I guess it's one of those perception things.

-Alison
blog.alisonstrobel.com

Meg said...

Good points one and all. I should, of course, have mentioned that I both understand the meaning and echo the sentiment behind the saying. Because I do! And I know that you all know that I do. And YOU know that I know ... okay, just kidding.

Sometimes, you know, I just feel like overanalyzing something. It's part of my charm! Really!

Julia said...

The United States actually cannot have an official language, however, many states have set up official languages in their State Constitutions. For example, in Louisiana the official languages are English and French. In New Mexico, the languages are Spanish and English.

In my view, leaving language to the States and not the Fed's is a good idea. It's already so hard to become a legal citizen of the USA, so why would you make it even harder? And I'd know; my father works with two men from India who are still trying to become legal citizens, and they've been here for five years. Mind you, both of them speak perfect English (thanks British Colonial rule!)