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Editorial Comment

While I am Gulping Down a Coke.


(SNN)Trending earlier this week was the fallout over Coke's Super Bowl #AmericaIsBeautiful commercial, in which "America the Beautiful" was sung in several different languages--reflecting the diversity and unity of America. Watch it here.

Some were concerned about allowing one of our most sacred National songs to be sung in languages other than English, as if that somehow debased the message. Also voiced were these sentiments: English is the first language of America, and the official language of America is, and should remain, English (to sum them up).

What did these commenters forget? The first language of America was not English. It was the Algonquian language and several other Native American languages.

Native Americans, to their detriment, welcomed the first immigrants to these shores--the Vikings, the Spaniards, the French, and the English. And since the Spanish, the French, and the English settled here, people of other cultures have been welcomed, sometimes grudgingly, with the exception of Africans who were ungrudgingly brought here against their will to be slaves.

Immigrants have always been assimilated. Really. Americans are the Borg. Even conquered Native Americans were forced to learn the English language, and to adopt American dress and cultural customs.

Americans, intentionally or not, have always assimilated new cultures, expecting them to conform to the dominant culture, while blending aspects of them into the dominant cultural "organism," just as the Borg did in the Star Trek Next Generation series. And yes, I'm generalizing. In this aspect, America is no different from dominant cultures of other countries. What sets us apart is that we began with a diversity of cultures making up our country. Where do you think the term "melting-pot" came from?

What kind of English are we speaking? An English derived from many other languages that continues to evolve with each new culture we assimilate. In other words, while there may be a dominant culture in America, most exemplified by white Anglo-Saxon protestants (WASP's), even it has continued to evolve and change as a result of contact with non-dominant American cultures.

Some fear they won't be able to function if our national language is replaced with another. I, also, am only fluent in English. But what, in reality, is the likelihood of that happening? More likely, signs and forms will become multi-lingual, a process already begun, at least as far as forms and canned messages are concerned. As a friend pointed out to me, many other countries make bi-lingual street and highway signs, one example being France. Would it be so terrible if we did? Think of the extra jobs it might create--remaking all those signs. Given the enormity of that task, is it really such a big deal to have to punch a button to hear a message in one's own language?

This controversy is really about one cultural group feeling entitled to make others conform to its personal way of living, of doing things, of speaking, and of thinking. And who are the most vociferous of these? The very ones most entitled in American culture. No surprise there.

Behind the desire to make English the only language spoken and written--and sung--in America is the desire to maintain the entitled status of one cultural group. It's a refusal to accept the very real diversity of American cultures, and the equality of citizenship in which each wants to share . Yet it is this very diversity that makes America unique, strong, and gives us an edge in leadership.

We are the Borg.

Maye Ralston is an opinion columnist for The Sage and contributor to Writing Heartland blog. She is also a blog contributor and member of the Midwest Writers Workshop Planning Committee.

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DISCLAIMER: The above article is OPINION.The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the authors of The Sage Opinion and forum participants on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the The Sage News Network or the official policies of the The Sage News.



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