Monday, May 21, 2018

The Freedom Of Speech - In Any Language!

I am currently travelling in a nation with a national language, an official language and more than 100 other spoken languages spread throughout 3 major geographic regions, all utilized in harmonious interaction and cooperation. By comparison, our venomous debates over language in the United States seem beneath us and reflect poorly on us. We forget that at one time, German was so widely spoken here that it narrowly missed being the language of use in this nation. Even French still shows its place in our heritage in creole form in Louisiana, yet no one seems to mind Cajun accents, expressions or the French influence on Louisiana Government and law. Yet, in spite of its influence and contributions to US culture, the public use of Spanish in the US is now viewed by some to be as harmful as being engaged in casual activities in the US while Black. This is grievous and unfortunate. While the vastness of our national territory makes our collective majority monolingual reality understandable, the reality of our varied origins and cultures of heritage should, at the same time, help us to understand the reality of the linguistic diversity in our midst as well. Air travel's practical shrinkage of the world and the availability of international travel should help us to understand the desire to learn more about us from those have come to us. We should also have a greater appreciation for those among us with the ability to communicate in more than one language and encourage our youth to learn more as well. In a society where languages intersect, will there be misunderstandings between people of different backgrounds and will there be spiteful individuals who use misunderstanding as a tool for derision and insult? Of course. There are unpleasant people in every culture and language group. Even when intentions are good and the language is the same, misunderstanding can arise. It has been said of Americans and our British cousins that we are " two peoples divided by a common language." Nevertheless, is it possible for the majority of us, in a desire to build each other up and to act from good will, to give each other a little slack, allowing each other to exercise our freedom of speech in whatever language we choose and to seek to think the best of each other in the process? I would like to believe that it is possible. If not, perhaps we as Americans are forever confined to a trajectory of misunderstanding, hostility and division that refuses to see opportunity in diversity and unity in spite of our differences. I pray that optimism and hope will prevail, but I am concerned that fear and ignorance may prove difficult to hold at bay. May the Lord enlighten us and help us to endure!

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