Saturday, April 08, 2006

Americans? WHAT Americans??

In a bizarre example of Senate showboating, Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Cuba, er, Florida) exposits:

In a moment heavy with symbolism, Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., who fled Cuba at age 15 and was a prime broker of the agreement with Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., stood in the Senate press gallery to repeat the deal in Spanish.

“Now that everyone has had a chance to hear this in English, I think an awful lot of Americans that only speak Spanish would like to hear what we’re talking about,” Martinez said. Martinez worked closely on the deal with the administration, where he formerly served as a cabinet secretary.

Un momento, por favor.

With all due respect to a very few people who may have recently (or very late in life) come over as genuinely legitimate refugees from political persecution or from the clandestine world, in general, Americans speak American English. By definition.

Any adult who has been here for more than a few years that cannot speak English, is not an American at all. They are foreigners who choose to live here. In some cases that may be well and fine, but let's not pretend they have any serious "dog in the fight" that is the American nation.

Nations are defined by language and by culture, and usually by geneaology-or to use the word in its proper context, race-as well. Iraq is a nation on a map, but it is not a nation in any real sense, which is why the current American effort is as apparently doomed as it is. Canada is two nations-Quebec and the ROC, in this case, the Rest of Canada.

For years, we have heard "the exception proves the rule". No, it doesn't: the exception tests the rule. Switzerland is one nation, with four languages. How can that be? Because Switzerland is actually, formally, the Helvetic Confederation, a grouping of cantons who have established a federal governance and appear to the outside world as one body. But within each canton, one language is spoken on an official basis, and only one. Students are taught in that language. Ballots are printed in that language. Occasionally-rarely, really, as the Swiss are smart-a person becomes a Swiss citizen who was not born so. When that happens, on qualifying, the matter is put to a cantonal election. That's right: the people of your canton, in which you are applying to become a citizen of, vote on you. You, personally. If accepted, you first become a citizen of that canton, and through the canton, a Swiss. If male, and between 18 and 55, you then go to boot camp, since you are now also in the Swiss army.

Mexico understands nationhood, ironically, a lot better than does the United States. Maybe hecause so many wealthy Mexicans spend so much time in Switzerland.

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