On the stock-market channel Friday afternoon, just before commercial time, comes news that the Senate of the USA has declared Inglés the “national language” of state. Then comes the commercial, cutting to a Chinese couple standing in a busy airport, somewhat startled by a youngish white man who rushes up to them and says “welcome to America” in Chinese. “I practiced all morning,” says the gleamy-eyed realtor. “I hope you understand. Welcome to America!” The Century 21 realty company calls this new series of ads, “Agents of Change.” But if it’s true that the bi-lingual aspirations of the eager realtor qualify him as a change agent, where does that leave the Senate?
When the term “national language” was inserted into immigration legislation this week, it both revealed and escalated power attached to English proficiency. On the one hand, the language of the so-called compromise immigration bill already would require English proficiency as a condition of citizenship. Or as one Senator put it: “If you fail to pass the English proficiency exam, you will be deported.”
To this clear and distinct requirement was added another warning: “Unless otherwise offered or provided by law, no person has a right, entitlement, or claim to have the Government of the United States or any of its officials or representatives act, communicate, perform or provide services, or provide materials in any language other than English” (SAMDT4073). The timing and placement of that language says watch out, when it comes to communicating in languages other than English, the USA is fed up trying.
And so another pander-to-fascists week came to an end in Washington, with little remembrance of the fact that the Senate had declared 2005 “The Year of Foreign Language Study” (SR28); or that legislation is pending “to construct a language arts facility at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia, New Mexico” (S2274); or that the 911 Commission said, even according to compromise co-author Sen. Kennedy, “we ought to give emphasis to other languages and that that was in our national security interest.”
The pander-to-fascist context seemed to relieve many observers from worrying overmuch that anything serious or long lasting will come from the President’s call to send National Guard troops to the Mexican border. As in: “isn’t he just pandering to fascists? Isn’t that what this troop thing is really about?” And then moving on to the next issue, as if it matters not at all that based on this week’s fascist pandering soon enough the troops will actually start moving into place.
When the President announced plans for troop deployment, his so-called target audience was only half satisfied. A “Minuteman” spokesman called it a “stop-gap” measure, which again seemed to help observers take comfort that the President was being only a little fascist. More progressive voices picked up the “stop-gap” language and therefore contributed to the impression that the President was being mostly insufficient, stupid, or crazy; when in fact sending thousands of troops to the Mexican border follows the same logic of radical excess that has motivated pre-emptive war, global strike, and torture camps. If this logic has to stop sometime, why not now? In solidarity with a rising immigrant rights movement, the Quakers seemed to get it. So did the ANSWER coalition. This time, these likely suspects are joined by enough insiders that maybe we can quietly snuff this troop deployment before it starts.
Refuting the charge that the troop deployment was merely a pandering insufficiency was none other than the Vice President himself, who came out of his bunker long enough to record an interview on a right-wing radio show that was promptly published at the White House web site. In the interview, the number two leader of the free world explained that good troops can make good fences, and of course good fences are what good neighbors are made of.
Most stunning was the sudden relevance of the New York press, headlining in a timely manner the crucial context to keep in mind: that this is the month when billion dollar bids will be submitted for a megamammoth border contract called SBInet (the Secure Border Initiative Network). Bidders will include such military-industrial behemoths as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon. Most interesting is the last-minute entry of the European-based Ericsson company, because they provide surveillance along the Russia-Finland border, matching up nicely with the ideological model of the USA-Mexico border pushed by the fascist crowd’s cold-war compulsions.
On the question of ideological models, it would be prudent to consider that the Vice President’s description of the next Mexican border sounded a lot like the Israeli border with Palestine. In this context, the Bush-Cheney troop deployment will provide free of charge to the winning bidder of border security services a cadre of perma-temp employees who are already trained, dressed for photo-ops, and security-cleared (in case you missed the simultaneous news this week that the agency in charge of security clearances was shutting down because of poor budgeting).
Sad to say during election year in the USA, it still helps to be a little fascist. Everyone seems to comprende.
GREG MOSES is editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review and author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. His chapter on civil rights under Clinton and Bush appears in Dime’s Worth of Difference, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair. He can be reached at: email@example.com.