Tuesday, April 01, 2008

El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles del Rio de Porciuncula

...Or, Los Angeles as they call it today. That was its original name when it was founded by 44 Filipino, Native American, African and Spanish settlers in 1781.

I left LA many years ago, but had returned for Christmas. It was warm, as it always is, the air conditioner was on to cool the house down enough for a yule log to burn in the fireplace.

We sat around, as we always do, chit-chatting and watching the tots tear at the glossy wrapping-papered presents. It was leisurely, and I drifted in and out of consciousness.

In the back of my mind, however, I picked up on a conversation that made me ill at ease...

"...with all of them Vietnamese and Koreans over there, they got their Chinese writing all over everything!"

(I was about to make the obvious correction, but then...)

"Ya, didn't we pass that 'English is the Official Language' law? Some help that was!"

(Now, I started to sit up, trying to recall California's legislative history while also processing the shocking affront to the First Amendment of the Constitution...)

"[Blah blah blah blah blah...]"

(I chose not to upset the harmony of Christmas morning, and let it go, muttering something about the rule of law and slippery slopes under my breath.)

Then: "I mean, this is our country. We were here first."

So, OK, let's do the math. To be certain, If one were to move to India, one would be expected to speak any one of the various Indian dialects. Or, well, I suppose you can speak English too since it is taught in their schools.

But OK, Japan. You have to speak Japanese there too, right? Well, no, they also learn a number of languages in school, English being among the top. Same with most of Europe and the industrialized world.

OK, but, the point is, different indigenous languages are spoken in different nations, right? Russian in Russia. Spanish in Spain. Malay in Malaysia.

Our problem is, I suppose, the United States isn't a nation. It does not have the cultural, historical, linguistic or religious homogeneity that nations enjoy. Sure most of us are Caucasian, but that could mean origins from Ireland, Scotland, England, Spain, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Poland, Russia, Hungary, etc...

Many of us aren't Caucasian, though, with origins in Africa, South America and Asia. And despite the cultural baggage brought by all of our ancestors, all of us are equally "American." Well, at least, those of us who ARE American... (Sorry Lisa)

With each new flood of immigrants, English-speaking Americans feel that their language and lifestyle are somehow threatened. Yet, with all of the big city urban conclaves, the China Towns, the Little Italies and Barrios, folks seem to adapt over time, and learn to fear and loath the next waive of immigrants.

I mean, if you live in America now, you are the descendant of immigrants.

However, some people insist on touting English-Only or English-as-the-Official-Language laws and rules. And Sure, why not? I suppose that makes sense. I mean English comes from England, and the Pilgrims settled this place, Right??

Well, no.

Actually, the first permanent English settlement was Jamestown. (Ignoring, of course, the lost colony of Roanoke...) That was in 1607, beating the pilgrims by 13 years.

Still and all, if "We Were Here First" is the standard by which we are to determine the "Official Language," then Nous devrions peut-ĂȘtre parler français, because France started settling America in 1524, a full 80 years before the English.

OK, sure, the English beat their blue-coated asses back to Quebec and won the right to speak English-only, at the end of the French-&-Indian War.

However, it doesn't matter, because the Spanish were the first ones here in 1492, beating everybody to the linguistic punch. Hola Amigo! Se habla Espanol?

OK, OK, There was Leif Ericson, of course, in the year 1003, but he didn't make it much further south than Newfoundland, and who wants Norwegian to be the official language of the United States anyway?? Certainly not me!

So, Spanish it is! They were here first. Spanish should be the official language of El Estados Unitos...

Oh, but wait, the Spanish weren't actually the first ones here... Hell, folks have been coming to America for 35,000 years! Among Native Americans, the oldest known tribes was the Sandia Paleo-Indians, who date back about 15,000 b.c. Unfortunately, their language died out with them...

So, the oldest known, currently-existing native language is Athabaskan, a native language family that includes sub-dialects such as Apache, Navajo and Umpqua. That's about as far back as American linguistic history goes. So, based on the "We Were Here First" theory, Navajo should be the official language of the United States.

Hell, we've all seen that Nicolas Cage WWII movie. If we switch to Navajo, we can all be wind talkers!

39 comments:

  1. America goes from Canada (Kan-ah-duh) to Tierra del Fuego. French, Spanish, Portuguese, are all principal languages in nations in The Americas.

    As for LA, those places with all the “Chinese” signs, Valley Blvd. In San Gabriel and what not, well, they pretty much kick ass. I am not sure how “Americun” they are, but they are pretty sweet if you know where to shop, eat and drink. I recall one night in a bar on Valley where they brought us an ash tray. I puzzled because there is no smoking indoors in California. It was then explained to me as the hostess brought over a selection of cigars, “We are not in California right now.”

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  2. Oosje8:20 AM

    When I cama to the states, I did not know one word of english. There was no coddling in school. It was sink or swim. I swam fast and picked up my new language. English became my third language at the age of 5, with French and Dutch being numbers 1 and 2. Thank goodness I did not have to learn Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Yiddish, Arabic, etc. It was not "popular" to be "un-American".

    If I had had the opportunity to live in a place where my heritage was honored, as these people are doing, while they are living their daily American lives,I would have such riches to pass on to my grandchildren. As it is, I became "American" and now that they are here I am saddened at my loss.

    It only takes 2 generations to become "Americanized"...trust me, I know. Mrs. G&T is generation one and the Girl and Boy are generation Two. and all they know are "Dumolot, Lickiput, Longayap, Korteknap, and Pinkalink......."

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  3. Lucky Red8:46 AM

    My Gram had a cross burned on her lawn by the local KKK for being Irish-Catholic when she was a kid. She told me stories of being Irish in the Midwest..."we were dumb,lazy and drunks" and "NO IRISH NEED APPLY" loomed in all the windows. In the 50's a black family moved into "their" neighborhood. No one would speak to them...except for my Gram who had the wife over for coffee. Her friends said to her, "if you have niggers over to your house, they are the only friends you're going to have" my Gram replied, "It seems to me they are the only ones worth having."

    As to keeping your past alive, I so agree with oosje... that's why now and again, you will find me in the kitchen, dancing the jig my Gram taught me while she made a pot of stew

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  4. I agree with Oosje. I guess technically Todd is first-generation, as I was born in Germany and came here when I was 4. My parents always regretted never having taught me Chinese, so they're making up for it by teaching Todd. It does help that he actually *lives* with them... otherwise, it'd be a lost cause.

    And... it does disturb me that this "ignorant" Christmas conversation took place amongst people I assume are related to you... AND in the San Gabriel Valley of all places!!

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  5. Don't be sorry Brian, despite some friends saying I'm becoming more American than Americans, I'm Welsh and proud!
    Although I did notice you left Wales out of your UK list of immigrants....

    oh, and I thought you did wind talk - you mainly talk out of your ass after all

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  6. sorry, no Welsh allowed...

    Oh, and I'm not divulging the identity of the people involved in the conversation...

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  7. Welsh came to America too

    Theres the Madoc legend for a start

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  8. Well, I can only hope that whoever was involved in this conversation didn't originally grow up in/around San Gabriel, or anywhere else in LA for that matter. Otherwise... yikes...

    And what is the Madoc legend?

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  9. I went to Costco this weekend in Fontana. (Yes, the city where the NASCAR track is) It's recently constructed and located North of the new eastern branch of the 210 freeway which now connects to San Bernardino.

    I was amazed that an area once known as redneck city and where a very large branch of the KKK used to be located is now home to mostly Hispanics. They bring their 8 children and visit each sample station for their Sunday afternoon meal while spouting Spanish with enthusiasm.

    Don't for once second think that this is an isolated issue that only is happening in Southern California.

    Oregon will be next and then Canada.

    President Bush has done nothing about it and neither will McCain or Obama. Maybe in 18 years my kids will get grants for college for being a minority.

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  10. I dunno, Dr. B, that actually sounds like a step *up* from trailer trash and Klan hangouts.

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  11. Helly, it's a generation thing.

    I sit and listen to the elderly patients blaming everything on the Indian, Pakistani and more recently Polish influx of immigrants to our city. They don't mean to be racist or even ignorant, it's just not what they are used to. They don't do change.

    There are some aspects of immigration policy I don't agree with. But the Poles here work hard basically doing the minimum wage jobs that the lazy British unemployed wont get out of bed for. At least they are paying taxes and contributing to the economy.

    And google or wiki the Madoc Legend

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  12. Good point. I hadn't thought about the really "elder" generation...

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  13. Up here, we have the jojo caucasion hillbillies from Gresham with their 8 kids grazing the Cosco snack trays.

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  14. Mrs. G&T10:53 AM

    Without divulging more than Mr. G&T, I was also present, and biting my tongue for the sake of Christmas harmony, during this conversation, so I know who was involved, where they grew up, who they are related to, and how many children they influence. Be afraid, please... be very afraid.

    Generations do learn fear and misunderstanding from each other, mostly based on a distiction of difference. I hope that the Ginlets, along with the Inoglets, Todd, and the other Lounge offspring will get more inclusive messages. And, we're pretty much doomed to pass on something that our children will abhor, and that's a good thing... it will mean that the world has learned something in the meantime.

    The Ginlets have little access to their not-too-distant heritage of French, Dutch, Irish, Scottish & Texan (Yes, Mr. G&T always reminds me that "Texan" is not a heritage, but I have to honor my Nana who rolls in her grave every time he says that... and why can't "Texan" be a heritage? It's one of the longest standing consistent cultures in our non-nation). We do our best... and get a little beyond the fingers. The Girl likes me to sing "the song your Granma sang" (Freres Jacques). They will also both acquire new kilts within the next few months. Bydand!

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  15. I think my hubby's family would agree with your "Texan heritage" assertion-- many from his mother's side still live there!

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  16. As I recall, during your visit to the Syndicate Ranch during the holidays, we enjoyed aged Scotches, italian meats, french cheeses, italian and spanish wines, cuban cigars and japanese video games.

    It can't get any more multicultural.

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  17. As my sister's boyfriend lives in Glasgow, there are many trips back and forth between the 2 of them. If the G&T's ever have any requests for Scottish merchandise, feel free to let me know

    although I think the ginlets would look lovely in some Welsh Tshirts.
    I know Todd loves his welsh rugby ball

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  18. Speaking of multicultural:
    I'm Asian (obviously), hubby is mostly Caucasian (and even then, it's a mix of English, Scottish, Irish, Dutch and German, with a dash of Native American blood), so that makes Todd quite the mutt ;-)

    Sister-in-law is also Caucasian but her hubby is a full-blooded Mexican. We eat enchiladas alongside the turkey/goose during Thankgsiving and Christmas.

    Family get-togethers look like quite the melting pot!

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  19. hmmm... it's good to know folks on other continents.

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  20. really gives new meaning to the term *world* wide web, eh?

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  21. Oh, and Mrs G&T, Bydand in deed!

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  22. yeah, this Welsh girl has some uses...

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  23. I figured you wrote this entry to get me all fired up. Look, its really easy to sit in your white suburban neighborhood and talk about fear and misunderstanding. Don't you love living in Lake No negro vs. West Covina?

    I was merely pointing out that our policies toward people who are here illegally are what have caused the influx. I'm not blaming those people who want to come here. I blame the legislators who have created the reasons that they are coming here. We give them everything at the expense of the other legitimate citizens. A vote for McCain is a vote for Amnesty.

    You can't speak your mind in this country anymore without being an asshole to someone.

    If McCain wants his war then he can send Renaldo and his 7 brothers to fight it. In my opinion that would earn them the right to stay.

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  24. I would fight vigorously to protect your right to be an asshole any day of the week.

    That's what the Lounge is all about!

    The First Amendment, which protects your assholian rights, also protects the right to speak any language you want. The First Amendment is the closest thing to holy scripture that I have.

    Thus, my objection to English-only laws...

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  25. Well thanks, I represent that remark.

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  26. Oh, but I do disagree about the cause of the influx. I think abject poverty, chronic hunger and opression are what drive folks up through the southern borders.

    If we changed our foreign policy and encouraged financial growth in the developing latin countries, I think you'd see less people coming here.

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  27. Encourage them all you want tree hugger boy. You would have to overthrow their corrupt governments in order to make that happen. Hmmmm isnt that what Bush is getting crucified for right this minute? (Well, besides he's retarded)

    Nope, stop giving out free shit and punish the businesses who hire them. Felipe will hop back over the border faster than a you can melt a quesodilla.

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  28. Dr. B, I think you and I would get along quite nicely. We generally have the same opinion on this topic.

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  29. Yep, I agree with B.S. I think we should have all them niggers who got nothin better to do then sell drugs to kids so they kin put big shiny wheels on they big ghetto hoopdees they should be pickin' lettuce and skinnin' chickens and moppin floors instead of some Spick Mexican job-stealer! An maybe for the real hard work like buildin new highways so us respekible white folk kin drive to work ever day, we kin inport some dem pollywogs from Inja or China an whip they yellow hide to a high shine! An all them tico-taco wetbacks kin stay there in Meh-hee-co an especk a bullit in the heyd if they try an come over here stealin our good jobs!

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  30. Seriously, though. B.S. must think that immigrants to this country come here for the sole purpose of having babies for free in our hospitals and living off the fat of the land! Ha! Do you know how hard these people work? Are you insane? What do they get for free? Man, I wish you could get a glimpse of what your life would have been like had you not grown up in a candy-ass middle class suburb, afforded every luxury including a family who encouraged you to succeed and provided the environment for you to do so (including: healthy food, access to a doctor, and nobody shooting at you).

    Immigrants to this country have all had to work hard to get anywhere. The Irish were the "wetbacks" of their day: reviled and forced to work the most menial of jobs. The Italians? Do you think they were laying around drinking Chianti all fucking day long? I could go on and on...

    So why, suddenly, are we so hateful of the people who are making it possible for us to eat 99 cent hamburgers? You are completely out of your goddamn mind if you think for an instant that your quality of life would improve if undocumented aliens were somehow eradicated from this country.

    I swear to (insert deity of your choice): Californians are by far the most racist motherfuckers I have encountered anywhere...and I lived in the deep South for 5 years!

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  31. You know, I was at the Christmas gathering that night. I am sorry for what I said. I was just trying to pick up your grandmother.

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  32. Lucky Red8:52 PM

    Familytrain: TESTIFY~ you are welcome in Oregon anytime and the beers are on me.
    Tom: My Gram was wondering why you don't call anymore...you son of a... I told her you were a fuckin' player...

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  33. Mr G&T...
    I salute the fact that you can get over thirty comments on the blog for postings on something other than lingerie!

    To those who have weighed in - While I think we can all agree that our immigration policies have all the consistency of a Keystone Kops movie, I agree with Mr G&T that our laws are only part of the equation. Opportunity, saftey, potential for the future - all the things we consider the "american dream" (with apologies to those in other jurisdictions), are also part of the lure. The math is pretty easy when they're living in what is essentially third world squalor.

    While its not necessairly our job to fix what's there, or absorb those who choose to flee it, its easy to see why it happens.

    And - just like the "wetbacks" of their day, when the Irish were seen as fit only for jobs like stoking coal fires, mining, and other scintillating tasks - I would point out that I just don't see your average suburban 15 yr olds queuing up to go pick produce at .35 per flat of strawberries 7 days a week, 18 hrs a day, just so Sainsbury's can have a sale...

    Just sayin....

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  34. Don't even get me started. My mom was born on an Indian reservation. Her relatives denied being Indian because it was the lowest social standing you could be. Until my mom died she joked that she was an Indian without a feather because she lost all that rich heritage.

    Familytrain - I think you missed the point. I noticed you forgot the word illegal next to the word immigrants. And what do illegal immigrants get free? Well let me ask you this - what do they pay for? Do they pay taxes for all the free things they enjoy by living here? Free schoolings, Free health care, Free food, Free blanks on Dodger day!

    Do you know that some school close to the board lose funding because they can't keep their attendance up during the holidays so they cater to the illegal immigrants and close the schools extra long during the holidays when the immigrants go home for the holidays.

    And as for the jobs they do. Come on dude. Did you know our crops could be done by machines which is what other countries do who invest in new technolgies instead of paying dirt cheap wages that do no one a favor but feed the beast.

    So I ask you - how is it that laws are broken and yet no one ever address the Illegal aspect. I can't break the law - why should anyone else?

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  35. BTW - go to any Indian Casino and fatten up one of my cousin's pockets.

    Yea Navajo blood! Soon I will rule over all of you!

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  36. First, wow. Everyone. Wow.

    Second, I call bullshit on the "illegal" distinction.

    There are illegal English immigrants and illegal Australian immigrants and illegal German immigrants and illegal Canadian immigrants. However, when you say "illegal immigrant" you are not thinking Blue eyes and blond hair. No, you are thinking Mexican. So, call a spade a spade, so to speak...

    Third, Fox News has done a fantstic job convincing folks that all mexican immigrants live high on the hog with no contribution, and that they receive all manner of non-existant social services.

    There is no socialized medicine, yet. Any medical care provided is the same as any other indigent person can receive. Besides, in California at least, everyone, including Mexicans, pay sales tax and property tax. Further, by buying, selling, picking, cleaning, assembling and
    saving, undocumented workers contribute to the overall GNP, which bennefits all of us.

    Fourth, Red, Familytrain used to live in Oregon.

    Fifth, Tom, my grandmother says hi.

    Lastly, yes, I realize that Southern California is a shitty fucking suckhole. I can see why you would want to leave. Please, just don't come to Oregon, We don't need anymore immigrants coming up over our southern border...

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  37. I have a video of Family train naked grabbing his business and saying "muchaca burrito"

    You don't even know me loco...I'll go to the liquor store and drink a 12 pack right now Ese!!

    Seriously Chris, when was the last time you came back here to visit?
    It makes those times we drove around El monte fearing gunfire seem like nothing.

    I can shoulder being called a racist. But, I have had to work very hard for where I am now and always get pissed off around tax time. I wouldn't be comparing the Mexicans of today to the eary imigrants of the East coast either.

    I couldn't compete with the work ethic of the Asian or Indian honors students of today.

    As a side note, you are still one of the most creative intelligent people I have ever met and I value your opinion even if it is wrong.

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  38. By the way Brian, on Sunday, the parking lot at Costco was filled with shiny new SUV's with 22" wheels.

    Also, my sister-in-law is a nurse and you would not believe what good quality care these people can get and you cant even ask them if they are a citizen. Who pays for that?

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  39. I'll always love you, B.S.

    See you in Hell.

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Be compelling.

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