On this Fourth of July 2006 I remained at home to avoid the annual lunacy: the drunkenness, the noise on the streets as kids explode firecrackers, the suicidal madness on the roads. Watching a tv program about the American Revolution, I thought of the slogan "united we stand-divided we fall" and the ideal which emanated from some of the Founding Fathers: that America would become "the great melting pot where all the races of Europe are melting and reforming" (summarized by Israel Zangwill in The Melting Pot).
Note that the ideal was confined to the Europeans who populated the country. The aborigines ("Indians"), the Chinese brought here to work slavelike on railroad construction, and the "Negroes" shipped from Africa to provide low-cost or no-cost labor for the northern industries and southern plantations, were not part of the plan. Hence, it was doomed from the beginning. "The point about the melting pot...is that it did not happen" (Daniel Patrick Moynihan in Beyond the Melting Pot, quoting Nathan Glazer).
At least the "Negroes" and most of the early Chinese eventually learned English. Today, however, there are millions of men and women living in the U.S. who decline to learn English and must be accommodated with translations for all of their activities, at a cost to the taxpayers of billions of dollars and an increasing loss of communication and the fading of any hope for standing united on any ground except the quest for more money.
The millions of newcomers who do not know English and will not learn it not only has them separated from those who do speak English, but also has caused a bitter division in what ought to be done about this Tower of Babel story come to life 2,000 years or so after it was written. There are those who think it is delightful, as reflected in a recent San Francisco newspaper writer's boasting and reveling, in a column titled "Celebrating 50 Years of Diversity," that the residents of Fremont, California "speak 137 languages." Opposite of that delight in "diversity" are Americans individually and organized into groups demanding national law and/or an amendment to the U.S. Constitution mandating fluency in English as the basic requirement for residency and citizenship in the U.S. That side is steadily growing in numbers.
Are you standing neutral on the matter? Then forfeit your right to decide the matter to those of us taking sides. As for me, though Emma Lazarus's famous welcome to immigrants of all kinds moved me for a long time, I am now on the side of those demanding that everybody living in the U.S. must be fluent in English. There are far too many men and women living in this country who not only want to speak only the language of the country of their birth, but also who do not even want to participate in national affairs. They just want to grab whatever money, property, and benefits that the rest of us are willing to provide for them. That outrages me even more than their refusal to learn English.
It is time to destroy the Tower of Babel in the U.S.