English Spoken Here

Why chew no peek panich?

If you knew how many times I have been asked that question you would be amazed to learn that I live in the US.  My son’s best friend was ashamed of the fact that his mother had lived in the US for over 30 years and was PROUD of the fact that she wouldn’t speak English.  There are little enclaves in our cities where English is treated as a foreign language.

One of the pictures that inspired this article shows a sign proudly stating “AMERICA bulit by IMMIGRANTS”.  It is a sign that expresses one of the proudest accomplishments of this country.

At one time, with very few, exceptions, everyone here was an immigrant.  But there seems to be a vast difference between those who came here in the formative years of this country and those who come here now.

At its inception this country was a loosely affiliated consolidation of groups each with its own reason for coming here.  Some came seeking wealth and fortune.  Some came to acquire power.  Some came for religious freedom.  Some came even against their own wishes.  Some of this group were “criminals”; given the choice of prison or transportation to the colonies.  Some were indentured servants; a form of slavery that at least had a term with an end and eventual freedom as a goal.  And some came as slaves; sold, often by their own countrymen, to men who treated them as gross possessions to be disposed of for a profit.  Slaves had to wait to be freed before they could set their own destinies.

Every individual had a different story and a different reason for getting here.  But they shared many things once they got here; or in some cases when they became free men and women.

Here they could better themselves.  Here they could take advantage of the new freedoms that were unique in this world. They could be Americans. They could help develop a culture of intelligent freedom where they could advance their lives and the lives of their children.

One of the first things you did when you got here was to learn ENGLISH.

The early American immigrants seemed to sense that it was a good thing to belong and to be accepted into this emerging society.  They were planting the roots of a culture and they needed a common ground, a common understanding.  It was necessary to meld together the many cultures into one that was not only acceptable to all, but better than any single culture in order to benefit all those who had made the journey.  The whole should be greater than the sum of its parts.

We became, of necessity, a “melting pot”.  We took the ore and alloys of the past (you know those “huddled masses”) and applied the fire of change and came out as a super alloy that was and is this country

One of the symbols of this “blending into a new whole” was a common language.  So, when you got here you learned English.  Why English?  Simple, the revolution was fought by English speaking colonists against the English king. If it had been Spanish colonists against the Spanish king we would be speaking Spanish.

You learned English so you could understand the new world around you.  You learned English so you could work and learn and advance.  Symbolically, you learned English to show all your new fellow countrymen that you respected the country they had struggled to form and that you wanted to belong. You wanted to be part of this thing called America.

The rule remains the same.  Come here, we want you.  We want you to succeed because when you succeed we succeed with you.  We want you to enjoy the freedoms and the joys that come with being here and being free.  But do not come here with the idea that you should supplant our culture with your own.  This is AMERICA.  We are ALL AMERICANS.  Accept that and stay.  AMERICANS SPEAK ENGLISH.

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