There once was a candidate running for the office of President of the United States who traversed this great nation from coast to coast, drawing throngs of onlookers and supporters wherever he appeared. He spoke to the country about its fears, its aspirations, its recently troubled past, and its very uncertain future in orations that were at once fiery, yet comforting. And he did all of that without uttering one syllable of detail about how he would address the country's many issues and move us to a secure future.
The year was 2008. The candidate was Barack Obama. During the Democratic primaries, the neophyte senator from Illinois crisscrossed America and spoke in the most general of terms to all who would hear him. He pioneered the art of insubstantial oratory and proved that specifics are but a minor concern when one is able to mesmerize an audience and the media with a strong presence and fantastic oratory skills. Watching Obama command a gathering was like turning back time and watching Ivan Pavlov make his dogs salivate on command. For those who didn't see him at the time, let me assure you--he was that good.
As we know, Senator Barack Obama became President Barack Obama, and he did it by campaigning on a platform of nebulousness, of vaporous statements and insubstantial utterances. The Democratic machine sensed that the presidency could be recaptured and he was thus embraced by the Party faithful despite his lack of substance. To be fair, candidate Hillary Clinton was equally non-specific, but she did not have Obama's speech-making brilliance. She did, however, have an utterly creepy knack for pointing and waving to imaginary persons around her whenever she walked forward to speak. Vacuous and JFK-esque eventually won out over vacuous and creepy, so with the former in office we again have a candidate who is a powerful speaker, yet whose diatribe is utterly vacuous.
Democrats, meet candidate Donald Trump. Meet a man who espouses "Hope and Change" as much as candidate Obama did, complete with a lack of information about how Hope would be met and Change would be achieved. Trump is the Conservative Obama in this instance, an excellent speaker whose passionate oratory addresses hearts, but whose lack of detail leaves the mind wanting. I am puzzled, then, as to why Democrats vilify Trump for following a playbook that was perfected by the current Democratic president and one of the two current Democratic front-runners. The likely answer, of course, is fear. Fear that Trump--the unapologetic anti-Muslim Birther and nativist--could follow the Democratic playbook and return the presidency to the GOP. If so, then I wonder if the gods of the Democratic Party will blame the People for falling for such tactics again or shame themselves for perfecting the tactics in the first place.
Sarah Palin is right.
Not once did I ever think I would state such a thing, but the former governor of Alaska is correct in her belief that English should be the official language of the United States. Yes, I know all of the less-than-positive things that are often said of the former VP candidate. Yes, I know of her public gaffes. Yes, I know, I know, I know....
The fact is, however, that Sarah Palin (yes, her, the woman who shoots animals from a helicopter) is absolutely correct in her assertion in this matter. She made her assertion on Sunday, August 6th of this year, and for me that was a red-letter day, for that that was the day I found myself in agreement with the Sarah Palin. We need to mandate English. Now. To put it bluntly, America is on a strong, steady course towards becoming a modern analogue to the Tower of Babel as every language on Earth is in use here in the United States, and each is as legally viable in all matters as any other. While such a situation provides a sense of egalitarianism to the speakers of the various non-English languages, I argue that their very presence as equal tongues within our nation only serves to divide us.
Let us consider that the United Kingdom includes England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland--each a formerly independent nation with its own national and historical languages. For England, the primary language is, of course, English, but the Welch and Cornish languages are also spoken. As for Scotland, as part of the UK it also has English as its national language, but the use of the original Scots language and Scottish Gaelic (an offshoot from old Irish languages) remain in use as well. In Wales, the languages are English and Welch, and in Northern Ireland the languages are English, Irish, and Ulster Scots (a dialect of the Scots language). At the time of the American Revolution, most of the modern UK was in place, meaning Redcoats, British Loyalists, Colonial Militia, and British Americans alike had roots deeply planted into England, Wales and Scotland. For us, that means our Founding Fathers not only spoke with a British accent, there is an excellent chance that some spoke with a Welch, Cornish, or Scottish lilt as well.
So what does this have to do with America? Everything. From the beginning, America was a nation of many languages, yet the Founding Fathers created The Federalist Papers, the Declaration of Independence, and the United Stated Constitution in English. It makes sense that a nation whose early flag included the Union Jack (of that time) would follow established UK practices, not the least of which is the expectation of a national language without the official declaration of one. That is, the use of English in the United Kingdom is a de facto standard, not a de jure requirement, meaning there is no law, decree, or other document which requires its people to speak English. However, they just do. Until recently, the expectation of a national language saved the UK from being a nation of multiple tongues and sub-tongues, and it enabled the Government and the People to communicate in a single manner, thus eliminating the confusion that often comes with massive amounts of translation. (Click here and here for a few hilarious examples.)
Historically, the use of the English language is as expected of Britons, Irish, Welsh, and Scottish as breathing air or drinking water. It is therefore very reasonable to believe that the Founders likely assumed the use of English to merely be part of Natural Law, the basic tenets of which form the underpinnings of our Constitution. With English long established as an intrinsic element of everyday living within the United Kingdom and its colonies, the Founders likely saw no need to formally state that which was known across the land, that English was the natural language to be used.
I will not employ any euphemisms in this post. I want it to be perfectly understood that mankind’s trusted “common body of knowledge” is both a sick joke and a barely-there thing of an overwhelmingly ephemeral nature. As I see it, the damned thing is a dismal, incomplete collection of dim remembrances, half-truths, and folklore-turned-fact that becomes inserted into the collective American consciousness through repetition. And when I say repetition, I mean the kind like the “Columbus set sail to America prove the world was round” kind of repeated misinformation. He was looking for a new route to India, not looking to discover some "new world". In truth, the Vikings and Asians already found what would later be called "the Americas" long before the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria went sailing around the Caribbean. Only recently has the above correction begun to creep into the popular consciousness, thus showing how in retelling that which is incorrect again and again, fable becomes fact while fact becomes corrupted or forgotten.
Speaking of fact, it is an unquestionable that the general population tends to know of the extremes of a given type of incident or element of an event, but few are aware of other events that, while not quite as spectacular, devastating, or salacious as the better-known events, are nonetheless possessed of their own elements of courage, sadness, triumph, and bitter tragedy. This is the critical point where truth pivots toward lesser things. It is not only the exact point where the failures of the common body of knowledge become apparent, it is where our own desire and ability to be informed fails us as well, and where true knowledge should not only begin, it is where common knowledge should end. Unfortunately for us all, it does not.
There are many instances which illustrate the fallacy that is common knowledge. Let us consider the common knowledge about troubled painter Vincent Van Gogh (1853 - 1890). According to popular lore he cut off his entire right ear, but in reality, Van Gogh cut off his right ear lobe, not his entire ear. However, common knowledge demands the depiction of Van Gogh in the mass media with a large bandage on his head, presumably to cover his presumedly severed ear.
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