I've often thought about what it was like for the first explorers to set foot in the New World and meet the Native Americans for the first time. How did they possibly communicate with each other let alone learn each other's languages? For that matter, how did any of us learn how to speak each other's languages.
I think to a degree we, Americans, have been placed at a disadvantage due to our native tongue. So much of the world has been forced to learn English so that they could deal with us that it really has not been a priority for us to learn other languages, and I think we have cheated ourselves out of an enriching experience.
Don't get me wrong though. I dislike almost as much as anyone else seeing signs in three different languages or being out and listening to people speak a foreign language in public on purpose to avoid eavesdropping. I guess I'm somewhat old fashioned in the sense that my ancestors who emigrated to the United States needed to learn the language. My grandmother, for example, first learned some Greek and then when her father died and her mother remarried she had to learn Slovak as well as English. I believe my grandfather knew some Slovak from his parents as well.
I had neighbors across the street that spoke perfect English in public, but spoke Polish to their mother when they were inside the house. I just believe that we are fracturing from what truly made this country great. This country was deemed a "melting pot", a meeting of traditions and cultures. A place where ethnicity enriched being an American.
Somewhere in the last 40 years, our ethnicities have begun dividing us, weakening us instead. For example, when was the last time you heard of a Chinese-Canadian or an Italian-Canadian or a Portuguese-Mexican?
Why is this the only country where we feel entitled or required to wear our ancestry on the sleeve? We have Irish-Americans, African-Americans, Italian-Americans, Asian-Americans, Mexican-Americans and so on. I guess my question is why? None of us nor our ancestors came to this country because life was better in our native land. The Irish came here because of the potato famine, many Chinese and Africans were brought here as slave labor, the Italians came to provide us pizza (just kidding on that last one) but I hope my point is understood.
No matter how we arrived, we all came here and when our ancestors took the oath of fealty to the United States (that's an oath of loyalty), they became Americans without the prefix. This prefix business has gone on too long and has self segregated us. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for this country to be united and colorless.
Race has only been an issue in recent times. Before this country was settled, most bigotry was class initiated. I think we have come a long way in terms of race relations, but this ethnic separation is really hurting our country. It's dividing us and I think it needs to stop.
The leaders of our country have been flapping their jaws for almost a decade now about the divisiveness that exists. Well how can we solve that if we continue to label ourselves in segregationist ways? We are all to be one people under God. People have fought and died on this soil to ensure that we can do that. We owe it to our founders and those who died fighting for equal rights for all to stop this self-imposed separateness.
I guess in a way though, it is not surprising that this great nation could be brought down by some egotistical drive to be separated. It's not a new idea. One only needs to look back in the Bible in Genesis to find a story about a tower to the Heavens in order for the people to commune with God. Babel was allegedly built and was the tallest structure in the world, but it was destroyed by God because He felt the people were becoming too haughty.
Supposedly, God used this occasion to separate the people by making them speak different languages. His reasoning was by creating this barrier to communication, they would never be able to become so powerful again. This is how the Jewish people explained the origins of languages on this planet. It is very interesting this country made great strides until the last 40 years or so. It is also worth noting that our back sliding seems to coincidentally begin with the same era that hyphenated Americans became the fad and now the norm.
One might say this is minor. In the same sense that the loss of public prayer is minor, or school uniforms are minor. I don't think it is. It is just another indication that our unity is slowly eroding and when that goes, so does the majesty of this free country unless we seek to unite our people once again. So the next time you find yourself beginning to say the words, stop and think, then use the word American instead. Let's rescue this nation from the ever closer brink. Let's be just Americans again.
Til next time….