When the term “national language” was inserted into immigration legislation this week, it both revealed and escalated power attached to English proficiency. On the one hand, the language of the so-called compromise immigration bill already would require English proficiency as a condition of citizenship. Or as one Senator put it: “If you fail to pass the English proficiency exam, you will be deported.”
To this clear and distinct requirement was added another warning: “Unless otherwise offered or provided by law, no person has a right, entitlement, or claim to have the Government of the United States or any of its officials or representatives act, communicate, perform or provide services, or provide materials in any language other than English” (SAMDT4064). The timing and placement of that language says watch out, when it comes to communicating in languages other than English, the USA is fed up trying.
And so another pander-to-fascists week came to an end in Washington, with little remembrance of the fact that the Senate had declared 2005 “The Year of Foreign Language Study” (SR28); or that legislation is pending “to construct a language arts facility at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia, New Mexico” (S2274); or that the 911 Commission said, even according to compromise co-author Sen. Kennedy, “we ought to give emphasis to other languages and that that was in our national security interest.”
When the President announced plans for troop deployment, his so-called target audience was only half satisfied. A “Minuteman” spokesman called it a “stop-gap” measure, which again seemed to help observers take comfort that the President was being only a little fascist. More progressive voices picked up the “stop-gap” language and therefore contributed to the impression that the President was being mostly insufficient, stupid, or crazy; when in fact sending thousands of troops to the Mexican border follows the same logic of radical excess that has motivated pre-emptive war, global strike, and torture camps. If this logic has to stop sometime, why not now? In solidarity with a rising immigrant rights movement, the Quakers seemed to get it. So did the ANSWER coalition. This time, these likely suspects are joined by enough insiders that maybe we can quietly snuff this troop deployment before it starts.
Refuting the charge that the troop deployment was merely a pandering insufficiency was none other than the Vice President himself, who came out of his bunker long enough to record an interview on a right-wing radio show that was promptly published at the White House web site. In the interview, the number two leader of the free world explained that good troops can make good fences, and of course good fences are what good neighbors are made of.
On the question of ideological models, it would be prudent to consider that the Vice President's description of the next Mexican border sounded a lot like the Israeli border with Palestine. In this context, the Bush-Cheney troop deployment will provide free of charge to the winning bidder of border security services a cadre of perma-temp employees who are already trained, dressed for photo-ops, and security-cleared (in case you missed the simultaneous news this week that the agency in charge of security clearances was shutting down because of poor budgeting).
Sad to say during election year in the USA, it still helps to be a little fascist. Everyone seems to comprende.