Sunday, April 30, 2006

A Spanish Anthem?

I try to avoid ‘political’ topics, not because I don’t have political views, but because I find they trigger to many emotional, not rational, discussions. Today however, I feel the need to talk about a situation that’s become very political, but that I feel is really societal in nature.

I was doing a bit of blog surfing this morning, and came across a post that dealt with the recent controversy about a version of the National Anthem recorded in Spanish.

He said, exactly what I’ve been saying for over a week now when ever I’m asked about it. Read what he had to say here.

I have a couple of thoughts about that specific issue…

First, if it were a book being translated into another language, the author would be delighted that a wider audience would be able to read their work.

Second, why on earth are we so troubled by the fact that a song, words put to music, will now have those words in another language? Are we Americans that insecure, that fragile, that this simple thing sets us off?This country we have, and you all know I love this country, has many strengths, and weaknesses.

Our greatest strength, in my opinion, comes from the fact that we are, for lack of a better term, a ‘melting pot’. People from every corner of the planet have come here, in hopes of building a better life for them, and their families. These same immigrants have built our country. Our roads, our skyscrapers, our industries,

They got up every morning, went to work, did their jobs, and in doing so, literally built this country. Their children, grandchildren, great and great-great grandchildren continue that process today. I know, I’m a great-grandchild of immigrants.

No group of immigrants has ever been ‘welcomed’ by those already here. You can look back through history and see the stories of outrage against the Irish, the Germans, Asians, Polish, Russians or the Italians… pick a country and you’ll find when they arrived here in numbers, there was ‘national outrage’ from those already here.

They all stayed though, despite feeling unwanted in many cases, because they believed, in their hearts that they, and their families would ultimately have a better life. In the vast majority of cases, they were right.

I know it’s popular to be concerned about ‘illegal immigration’, and I am concerned about it. Concerned not because the majority of folks illegally here are from Mexico, but, because we’re doing such a poor job of managing the borders!

I’m of the opinion, that if someone wants to come here to build a better life we should let them do so. Grant them access, require that they meet a set of standards we apply to all Americans (essentially obey the law), become citizens (pass the tests and get ‘sworn in’) and build their own dream life.

If, on the other hand, they don’t meet the standard, commit crimes etc… they should be deported… The border patrols should be sufficient to keep out those who don’t make the proper application for entry and pass a standard background check (as in let’s not give immediate access to criminals and terrorist type individuals).

We’ve got this big sign, at the statue of liberty…

“Give me your tired your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free”

Hell we’re so proud of it we put it on the back of the 1986 silver dollar!

That sentiment is one of the reasons I love, and am so proud to live in, this country.

We’re a nation of misfits, and adventurers. Our ancestry is filled with people who had a dream, and went after their dream, people who often arrived here with nothing, or next to nothing.

They spent their only savings on that one-way ‘ticket to America’; sometimes entire families pooled their money to send just that one person here. All of this risk in the hope that they, eventually, could build a better life and send for the rest of the family.

Is it all that hard to understand, that we, one of the richest nations on the planet, would be a desired place to live for those in less fortunate circumstances? I for one am proud of the folks who risk giving up what they know, move to a country where they can’t speak the language, risk failure, losing what little they had to begin with, all to live in a country I was fortunate enough to be born in. I’m frankly flattered they’d do that. We have people in this country who are afraid of moving to another town, or state, to get a better job.

Of course I had that good fortune (to be born here), because, my great-grandparents took that very same risk! Yes they struggled, they were hated by some, and they worked for low wages, but despite it all, they believed they were better off here, than from where they came. I was only the third person on my Dad’s side of the family to get a four year college degree, but all seven of my siblings did so as well… We, like our parents went one step further up the educational ladder. It’s what they raised us to believe we not only could do, but, should do!

One last thought… Do you know how difficult it is to legally immigrate to America? It’s incredibly difficult. I had the opportunity to work with two young men, both from Russia, who were educated here in the states, one was valedictorian of his class at Elon University, and each of them faced a long, expensive and protracted legal process to get a ‘green card’. They both did so however, and both are citizens today.

I remember thinking at the time that the process had to be flawed. Here there were two, college degreed young folks, both with bright professional futures, who would be good ‘earners’, pay taxes and contribute positively to society and they were all but being told, “go home”.

If the laws were changed, made it easier for folks to come here legally, our ‘illegal’ problem would go away, and fairly quickly. We could then turn our attention to where it belongs, keeping those folks who want to come here to cause trouble, out.

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Lorna said...

Strange, in Canada, we think our strength comes from being a multicultual community, not a melting pot. Not that one is right, one wrong---just different takes on the issue of how we think of ourselves. We don't, thouogh, think of Québec or other francphone areas of the country as part of the multicultural issue, but the bilingual issue. We have two official langueages, and therefore our national anthem must be in two langueages, usually sung in the official language of your choice, no matter what language the person next to you is singing. It's easy, it's hokey, and it works.

Ricardo said...

Great post. And I totally agree. I think the current system for getting here legally is all but closed off hence the high level of people here illegally. The fact that the 2 students you helped get in here was so difficult is crazy to me. Thank you for your link and positive remarks on my blog.

Bill said...

Lorna - You're exactly right... and to me melting pot is really the wrong term... I think of us more as a 'stew', all of the ingredients add to the overall flavor, yet each retains it's own, individual, taste...

I love cultural diversity... The best Chinese food I've ever had (on this continent) was in a little place in Toronto, I believe it was caled the Bamboo Curtain, or maybe the Bamboo door... just incredible food..

Anyway.. I think that the diversity that's available, should not be minimized, but rather embraced and enjoyed!!

Your thoughts on the anthem, pretty much mirror mine... the language isn't what's important, it's the feeling, the unity we feel with our compatriots.

Ricardo - It was your post that motivated me to write mine. The current process *is* crazy... If our ancestors had to go through all of the 'red tape' now in place, most of us would not be living here.

You're welcome for the link, and the comments... stop back anytime!

Firehawk said...


Very good points. It's too bad that we're not using a simple meritocracy system. That way, people that prove they're here to take part in the great experiment of being an American can do so, and those who are here to in some way harm us find it much more difficult.

Hitting the balance between freedom and restriction, between authoritarianism and humanism...these are tough concepts, and I don't think there's any easy route.

For many of us, I think we're just disappointed that the laws that are already "on the books" are not being enforced. We don't dislike newcomers or wish them ill, we just want them to, as you said, play by the same rules we all agreed to. Perhaps I'm asking too much, but I feel that, if a person wishes to become a citizen of any country, it's his or her responsibility to learn the laws, values, and dominant language of that country. If I moved to, say China, I would feel the need to learn how to speak Mandarin or Cantonese, and I'd study up on the way people were expected to behave. As a tourist, there's some flex room there, but if you wanted to move there...

That's my feeling about it. I had no problem with the Anthem in Spanish. The more, the merrier. Just so long as I still get to sing it in English. I didn't like the picture I saw of the Mexican flag flying above an upside-down American flag outside a California school, however. Freedom is part and parcel of what we're about, but this IS still America, not Mexico. If people move here, it's on them to integrate with the culture. If you live here as a citizen, you're an American, not a Mexican or an Irishman or whatever. That's the contract. That's the melting pot.

In the end, people are a lot more similar than they are different. It's up to us, if we want to be a nation, to work on those commonalities, and not let the differences get in the way.

Greg said...

I am not terribly fond of the national anthem in any language...I agree with those commie bastards that wanted to make Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" the anthem....sadly they forgot the oil industry owned the "This Land" part much for that good idea.
And since the "official" language of the country nearly was German I suspect there was a German version of the anthem somewhere?...perhaps we should look?
Though all things considered Spanglish is a very poetic compromise if a choice of conquest languages is required.
Then we too should consider that a vast portion of this country has been Spanish since the 1500's and only relatively recently been controlled by Washington. Whether here in Alaska (like Valdez) or the Straights of San Juan or Florida, Texas, California, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, if we don't include the Sapnish "part" in the Louisiana deal.
AND the most important part.
All the great Mexican beers are German recipes done by real German brewmeisters.
'sides some of my best friends are "immigrants".

Bill said...

Firehawk - you said: It's up to us, if we want to be a nation, to work on those commonalities, and not let the differences get in the way

That, my friend, is, as I see it, the crux of the matter. I like the differences, feel we should celebrate them, yet at the same time fully embrace our commonalities!! Thaks for your thoughtful comment!

Greg - Exactly on the beer!! Of course you knew, that I knew, that... being the descendant of a Master German Brewmeister that I am!!

Now, all of you know that I came by my love of beer honestly, and genetically as well!

Well... the fact is, every person here, except the native Americans, each and every one of us is the descendant of an immigrant...

I however, am not a French/Irish/German American... but simply, an American.