By The Progressive on May 08, 2008

Let’s hope McCain’s new website means he understands that the use of Spanish, and many other non-English languages in America, is here to stay, and the idea of declaring an official language is officially defunct.The general election campaign hasn’t even started yet, and already Sen. John McCain is flip-flopping.

This week, he launched a sleek new Spanish-language website, announcing “Estamos Unidos Con John McCain” (“We Are United With John McCain”).

But almost two years ago, McCain voted for an amendment to declare English as the official national language. And last March, he skipped a vote on an amendment that sought to block lawsuits by employees challenging English-only workplace rules.

Like most Republican politicians, McCain faces a dilemma when it comes to pursuing the Latino vote. If he courts them too strongly by maintaining a moderate stance on immigration, he may be seen as not being a “true” conservative. But if he neglects them, he may have trouble in certain key states.

The Latino vote, particularly in Florida, was crucial to President Bush’s victories in 2000 and 2004. But it was also a barometer of flagging support for Republicans in the 2006 midterm elections. This drop-off was due in part to the hard line taken by the anti-illegal-immigration wing of the party, which called for massive arrests and deportation.

That wing keeps flapping about the need to make English the official language, even though the vast majority of Spanish speakers in the United States are U.S. citizens, born or naturalized.

What’s more, there is nothing in the Constitution that mentions the need for an official language, and there is nothing inherent in democracy that requires the use of English. The availability of government services in different languages is justified by the 14th Amendment, which requires that citizens not be denied “equal protection of the laws.”

McCain’s Spanish-language website is part of a good old-fashioned American effort to market his campaign to millions of law-abiding citizens. These are the same citizens for whom the world’s biggest multinational corporations spend millions of dollars to market their products in Spanish.

Supporters of making English the official language should consider this: If they apply their rule literally, we may have to rename some of our favorite states, like Colorado (Red) and Florida (Filled With Flowers).

Strict enforcement of such a law might mean taxpayers would have to pay for the cost of redubbing all of John Wayne’s movies, making sure he says “guy” instead of “hombre.” Or it might require English-challenged California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to change his signature line to “Till I See You Again, Baby!”

Let’s hope McCain’s new website means he understands that the use of Spanish, and many other non-English languages in America, is here to stay, and the idea of declaring an official language is officially defunct.

Ed Morales is a contributor to the New York Times and Newsday and is the author of “Living in Spanglish.” He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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