I'm sure you've heard the one about the New York high school that committed "treason" by permitting a student to recite the Pledge of Allegiance over the school's PA—in Arabic.
The reading was arranged by the school's foreign language department to commemorate National Foreign Language Week, which, unsurprisingly, caused droves of quasi-ignorant, xenophobic uber-patriots to get their pissers all in a twist because the hermetically sterile biocontainment tank in which they keep their America immersed was somehow infiltrated by something—gasp—foreign.
The way they reacted, you would have thought the kid had translated it to say, "I pledge allegiance to jihad / on the United States of America / Death to the Republic, for which it stands / One nation, under siege, with car bombs and beheadings for all."
Conservative blabbermouth Laura Ingraham rhetorically asked on her radio show, "What if skinheads want to [say] the Pledge of Allegiance? Are we going to [let them] do that too?" Which, as far as bad analogies go, is like a muskrat ordering scallops from a libertarian social worker.
But that's how it was in the media, on social media and in middle-American dining rooms where drooling, half-senile grandpas muttered from the kid's table about how "The Pledge of Allegiance should only be spoken in English" and that we are "One nation under God, not Allah." Lots of folk, mostly on Fox News, even went so far as to say that Arabic is the official language of terrorism, subscribing no doubt to the syllogism: "When Arabic = Islam, and Islam = Terrorism, then Arabic = Terrorism." Or, as Aristotle once said, "When A = B and B = C, then A = R you on crack?"
What follows are some reasons why the above arguments can only have been made by frequent users of hard drugs.
"Are we going to let skinheads say the Pledge of Allegiance, too?" As I said, bad analogy. Arabic is a language. Skinhead is a person. A very bad person. A contemptible-waste-of-organs-type person. However, Arabic, like all languages, is morally neutral. It is merely a vehicle to convey ideas. Sure, Arabic can be used to convey objectionable ideas, like, "Death to the infidels." However, it can also be used to convey more amiable messages such as, "Would you like a bon bon?" or, "I believe it's time for your sponge bath, sire."
"We are not 'One nation under Allah.'" Sure we are. Putting aside that all deities are fictitious constructs designed to keep us calm during thunder storms, the word Allah, in Arabic, means God. It's not as if Allah is some different God who lives in the sky overlooking the desert from the mount of his 10-story camel. If you look at an Arabic Bible (yes, there are Bibles written in Arabic), God is called Allah throughout—just as Hashem is God in Hebrew, just as Dios is God in Spanish, just as Bono is God in the green room.
When Arabic = Islam and Islam = Terrorism, then Arabic = Terrorism. Anybody who doesn't have a bag of flag lapel pins where their brains should be knows that Islam does not equal terrorism. And Arabic does not equal Islam any more than English equals Christianity. Arabic is a language. Islam is a religion. Talk about apples and naranjas! Arabic is spoken by 250 million people, including millions of Christians, Jews, Buddhists and atheists, whereas nobody speaks Islam. Because Islam is not a freaking language!
See how the connection is tenuous? Not only is Arabic spoken by millions of followers of religions other than Islam, only 20 percent of the world's Muslims speak Arabic. Because—like every other religion—Muslims speak the language of the country or region in which they live, which is pretty much every language, including, duh, English. But if after all this you still feel the need to excise it from your existence, then at least be consistent and resign yourself from ever counting or doing math again. Because the numbers 0 through 9 that you use so often? They are called Arabic numerals—the same ones the terrorists use.
"The Pledge of Allegiance should be spoken in English only." This language territorialism always befuddles me. I mean, yes, for efficiency and convenience, we should default to a single language. But how does occasionally reciting the Pledge in a foreign tongue hurt us? I would argue that it does the opposite. Diversity is stronger than singularity. That's why large gene pools are better than small ones; that's why 12 jurors of varying races, genders, careers and classes are better than 12 straight, white, upper-middle-class dentists. It is why it's best to have an architect, a demolitions expert, a chopper pilot and a surly, yoked, bling-bedecked mechanic who don't take no guff on your A-Team.
Yes a lot of people feel the Pledge should only be spoken in English, but nobody ever explains why. I mean, seriously, what does it matter?
"Pledge" is a solemn promise. "Allegiance" is loyalty to a government, group or cause. And "America" is that country in which you live. The United States. The one you want everyone to honor. What difference does it make if someone pledges to it in Arabic, or Mandarin, or Azerbaijani, even? Christ, you could say the Pledge in Korowai, the language of the brain-eating cannibals of Papua, and it would still be a vow to our republic—no less solemn, no less binding.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Edwin Decker blogs at www.edwindecker.com. Follow him on Twitter @edwindecker or find him on Facebook.
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