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viernes, 16 de abril de 2010

English and Liberty Go Hand-in-Hand

The Americano Jose Fuentes In a recent edition, the usually conservative and sensible National Review magazine published an inflammatory commentary on behalf of the lobbying group US English (“A Spanish 51st State: Puerto Rico Draws Closer to Statehood.”) Its central argument is that 4 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico should be denied federally recognized self-determination on the future political status of the island, unless a heavy handed federal English proficiency mandate that applies nowhere else in America is first imposed on the territory. This position is not consistent with sound conservative policy. First, English has been an official language under law in Puerto Rico since 1902, federal law makes English the official language of the federal government and federal courts in Puerto Rico. But that is not good enough for US English, who demand Congress by federal command impose a formal linguistic primacy for English, subordinating Spanish in the public commons and schools. The other stunning irony is that US English has aligned itself with the status quo commonwealth party, which is responsible for ending a policy dating back to the 1930’s, ensuring equal time for English instruction in the public schools. In fact, in the early 1990’s, when the commonwealth party was in power, it ended English as an official language. Four years later the statehood party restored English to official language status. The hypocrisy of the alliance between US English and the local Commonwealth party that supports continuation of the current territory status is that it has nothing to do with promoting English language. It is intellectually dishonest collusion to prevent democratic self-determination on the choice between statehood and independence. What now becomes obvious is that the local Commonwealth party is using US English, and its extreme proposals for federal linguistic regulatory intervention, to prevent federal sponsorship of a political status vote for our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico. It has been 93 years since Congress conferred U.S. citizenship at birth on every person born in Puerto Rico, there are more American citizens in Puerto Rico than in half the states of the union, and Puerto Ricans serve in the U.S. military at a per capita rate higher than 49 states. If a majority do not consent to the present commonwealth government, if a majority want statehood, or independence, isn’t that something our nation needs to know? US English is being used by the Commonwealth party as a peon to forestall the unfinished work of American Democracy. US English demands an English proficiency policy for Puerto Rico never applied to any state. By the standard this group advocates for Puerto Rico, the territories that became the states of New Mexico, Louisiana and California would have been barred from the union. In the territory of New Mexico, the vast majority spoke only Spanish, so provisions to ensure citizens were not penalized for speaking either English or Spanish were added to the state constitution. We all agree that any nation-wide policy on English will apply to Puerto Rico as a state. But Puerto Rico should not be singled out for a harsher policy than states, as a pre-condition to democratic self-determination on whether statehood is even in the cards. The real test of citizenship is allegiance, loyalty, patriotism, willingness to serve and sacrifice for our country. The American citizens of Puerto Rico have met that test. The folks over at US English may speak the same language, but in joining their strange bedfellow have forgotten what it really means to be Americans.