A Spanish Lesson for America

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Defend
our liberties and fashion into one united people the multitudes
brought hither out of many kindred and tongues.

~ from a prayer by Thomas Jefferson

I
love Article 3 of Spain's constitution, ratified in December 1978:

El
castellano es la lengua española oficial del Estado. Todos
los españoles tienen el deber de conocerla y el derecho a
usarla.

That
is, "Castilian is the official Spanish language of the State.
All Spaniards have the duty to know it and the right to use it."

Spaniards
strike me as cosmopolitan folk, yet their organic law ordains uniformity
with regard to language. What's up with that?

Perhaps
the architects of Article 3 were devotees of the great anti-totalitarian
thinker Ludwig von Mises, who observes in Nation,
State, and Economy
that "the essence of nationality
lies in language." (I doubt they even heard of Mises, but Spain
still has a liberal tradition going back to the 1500s with scholars
like Father Juan
de Mariana
.)

Mises
— whose languages included German, French, English, Latin, and Greek
— makes this observation in the chapter "The Nation as a Speech
Community," where he adds:

Community
of language binds and difference of language separates persons
and peoples. If someone finds the explanation of the nation
as a speech community perhaps too paltry, let him just consider
what immense significance language has for thinking and for
the expression of thought, for social relations, and for all
activities of life.

These
points seem elementary, even superfluous. The former is true but
hardly the latter given the extent to which an American language
is considered objectionable — indeed, indictable.

Take
the case of R.D.'s Drive-In
restaurant
, owned and operated by Richard, Shauna, and Steven
Kidman in Page, Arizona.

Located
near the Navajo Reservation, Navajo are the bulk of R.D.'s patrons
and employees. In May 2000, a female Navajo employee complained
about insulting sexual remarks by employees in Navajo. Navajo patrons
complained about similar conduct.

In
response, the Kidmans made the following policy: "While the
owner is paying you as an employee, you are required to use English
at all times. The only exception is when the customer cannot understand
English. If you feel unable to comply with this requirement, you
may find another job."

Four
employees complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
On September 27, 2002, the EEOC sued the Kidmans for violating the
employees' "civil rights."

A
"right" to speak a foreign language on someone else's
property? What's next, a "right" to hold an Islamist rally
in a church? (From a proprietary point of view, the Kidmans have
the right to require Dutch-only or Gaelic-only as much as English-only.
R.D.'s belongs to them, after all, or so justice would require.)

A
federal agency persecuting a family restaurant for promoting etiquette
— I doubt James Madison contemplated this when he wrote in Federalist
No. 45, "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution
to the Federal Government, are few and defined."

The
cost of legal defense alone will crush the Kidmans, who have owned
R.D.'s for almost a quarter of a century. "Fight it or don’t
fight it, either way I’m broke," Richard Kidman remarks.

What's
happening to this family is an atrocity and exemplifies Paul Gottfried's
description of multiculturalism as a "secular theocracy"
in Multiculturalism
and the Politics of Guilt
. The EEOC's inquisitors will sacrifice
the transgressors on the federal altar to satisfy the Gods of Diversity.

I
generally scoff at prescriptions to emulate Europe, but in this
case I think Spain's Misesian Article 3 is instructive. The Declaration
of Independence and Constitution aren't in the language of Pancho
Villa, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, etc., and American nationhood doesn't
exist if English is an option instead of an expectation. (Of course,
preservation of nationhood shouldn't exclude study of foreign languages.
Only a schmuck boasts about being monolingual.)

"A
German is one who thinks and speaks German." Mises' words are
just as germane (pun intended) to the role of English in American
identity.

I
await indictment by the EEOC for Heresy against Diversity.

February
3, 2003

Myles
Kantor [send him mail]
is a columnist for FrontPageMagazine.com and president of the
Center for Free Emigration,
which agrees with Frederick Douglass that “It is a fundamental truth
that every man is the rightful owner of his own body.”

Myles
Kantor Archives


     

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