I Speak Spanish Because This Is America

Walter Rhein

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The problem with social media is that people give glimpses of themselves you'd prefer not to see. It's like living next to a neighbor who has a bay window in his bathroom and no curtains.

Not a pretty sight.

The other problem with social media is that people are careless, they post things that have inadvertent, long-reaching consequences that they haven't considered. But when you call them out on these things, they are more likely to defend themselves than back down.

The other day a friend of mine posted a block of text written by some nameless armchair philosopher (probably in Russia) that had the line "This is America, we speak English, don't speak..." and then it went through a list of other languages.

Usually the best strategy for social media is to read something until you encounter a point you disagree with, and then stop reading to address that point. There's nothing to be gained from building a castle on a foundation of broken glass.

Now, one of the things I like to do is speak Spanish in public. I do it because it is completely legal, totally acceptable, and it makes racists uncomfortable. The friend of mine that posted this block of text knows I speak Spanish, so I called him out on it.

"C'mon man, the USA has no official language, you can speak whatever you want. Don't post BS like this."

Now, it would have been just as easy to walk away from the moment, but there's an inherent danger in that as well. When you allow group-think to take over, and people to puff themselves up with justifications about how they're "right" to indulge their rage when they hear a foreign language, you're asking for problems.

I've seen it firsthand.

My kids speak Spanish fluently, and they've often been singled out by dim witted imbeciles who think they're protecting the sanctity of the nation by lecturing children not to speak Spanish.

For some reason, a certain percentage of the adult population of our nation sees no problem in approaching seven and nine year old girls and telling them what language to speak. They never tell me what language to speak however.

Hint: if you want to protect the nation, enlist, don't bully little kids.

But here's where things got interesting. My friend tried to justify his post by saying, "I think the sentiment of this post is that we shouldn't force people to speak a language they don't want to."

He said this without irony, completely oblivious to the inherent contradiction contained in the statement.

First of all, there is no "movement" to "force" citizens of the United States to speak languages other than English. That simply doesn't exist, it's a lie. False, false, false, so puff down pufferfish.

Second of all, his position amounts to a preemptive assault to FORCE OTHERS to speak a language THEY don't want to.

The exchange exemplifies a fundamental pitfall of a fear-based mentality that you often see with conservatives. They're so convinced that their rights are about to be infringed upon, that they have NO PROBLEM attacking the rights of others in a preemptive assault!

My speaking Spanish does not in any way, shape, or form infringe on your right to speak English or Italian or Pig Latin or Klingon. The raw terror that people feel when they hear a foreign language is a reflection of their own personal cowardice.

It's their problem, not yours or mine.

However, a trapped animal, even when the trap is an illusion of their own delusional thinking, is still prone to violence. And the worst part is, when these animals lash out, they feel as if their unprovoked violence is self-defense.

The fact is, you're free in the US. You can speak whatever language you want. There IS NO OFFICIAL LANGUAGE in this nation. When somebody sits there and says, "you should speak English," it's important to educate them on the realities of a freedom-based society.

It's no different to feel resentment when you HEAR a foreign language than it is to feel resentment when you SEE a person who is not from your culture. It's intolerant and frankly it's kind of pathetic.

The problem starts when groups of people who share the same irrational insecurities get together, and start supporting each other in the belief that their absurd thinking is somehow justified.

Hatred starts with sharing a post, then it moves on to people feeling empowered to speak up in real life, and ends with unchecked, unprovoked physical violence.

People are often inclined to think that it's important to keep silent in order to maintain the social peace. But that isn't true.

There's an old saying that a rumor gets halfway around the world before the truth has time to put on its pants. The same is true with irrational thought.

When you catch people saying, or believing, or acting upon an idea that's inherently absurd, it's important to call them out publicly. If you let nonsense fester, the situation escalates from a person stewing in silence, to a person motivated to take terrible action.

Can the seed of hatred be found in an uncontested Facebook post? You bet.

Perhaps the best thing we can do in an increasingly hostile social environment is keep speaking languages other than English. Speak them loudly and speak them with pride.

The more people hear foreign languages, the more they'll begin to understand that the language other people speak is no threat to them.

The only threat to your own peace and well-being is carrying around the seed of unreasonable fear and terror in your own heart.

Try encouraging people to speak their own language. That's the only way to protect your right to speak your own.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI
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