Saturday, April 29, 2006

Jose can you see... 

Off Topic Social Commentary:

The debate over the US immigration policy has taken an interesting path, that brings forward and center, the issue of what it is nationalism. At issue is the recent translation of the US national anthem into the spanish language, recorded and played over the radio, by Latino artists. This article captures most of what is relevent to this debate:

Jimi Hendrix had his electric guitar at Woodstock. Tommie Smith and John Carlos bowed their heads and pumped their fists in the air at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. And who can forget Roseanne Barr's manly gesture after singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at a baseball game in 1990?
The national anthem has been honored, challenged, ridiculed and now - to presidential dismay - translated.

The latest skirmish over the Francis Scott Key lyrics is no less symbolic. A Spanish-language version called "Nuestro Himno (Our Anthem)" made its way to radio stations Friday, drawing a rebuke from President Bush, who said the song ought to be sung in English.

The song's release was timed to a national debate over immigration policies that is drawing attention to protests around the country and a threatened boycott of schools and workplaces on Monday.

...But attention Friday was on a three-minute, 20-second song featuring Wyclef Jean and a number of Latin pop singers like Gloria Trevi and Carlos Ponce. The Spanish version of the national anthem generally follows the tune of "The Star-Spangled Banner" with a few windy cadences and a loose translation about a "sacred flag."

British music producer Adam Kidron said the song honors Spanish-speaking immigrants so they can fully understand "the ideals of freedom" that the flag and national anthem represent.

Bush disagreed.

"I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English and they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English," Bush said Friday, during a briefing with reporters in the Rose Garden.

...He's more concerned that the song is another step - along with a push for bilingual education - toward turning California into a Latino version of Quebec, the Canadian city where French, not English, is the official language.

"This is another attempt to make us comfortable with what's happening to this country," said Landi, who lives in Dunsmuir, south of Mount Shasta.

But Belinda Reyes, an immigration expert at the University of California, Merced, said singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" in Spanish shows that immigrants come from a different cultural background - not that they don't want to learn English or aren't interested in becoming American.

"If the point is nationalism and national pride (of America), why does the language matter?" she asked.

What role does culture and heritage play in an already established nationalism, when those exemplifying the same nationalism do not share the same culture and heritage? At play are other societal pressures such as economics, and prejudice.

If the goal of the producer/s of this concept was to bring to a higher level of cognition, the immigration policy of the US and the role of immigrant workers within US society - then he/they have achieved that goal with honors. This action strikes a chord with any who have even the minimalist notion of nation. It throws into the national spotlight the history of the nation, with consideration to the immigrants who helped develop it, in contrast with the immigrants who now further its growth. It twists the pointing finger back onto the body to which it belongs, and proceeds to force the uneasy issue of discrimination vs. economic necessity.

Interesting to note is the fact that the star spangled banner is a derivative of an English Pub song that Francis Scott Key plagiarized when writing. One can envision a pub full of rowdy drunken English patrons signing a song not too dissimilar to the US national anthem, jolly in all their merriment. In fact, that vision also, is not too dissimilar to the general conception most have against Latino migrants, when they, as a whole, are stereotyped into a category, that has precedents elsewhere.


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