Growing up in Colorado, we had a governor, Richard Lamm, who used to advocate (and most likely continues to do so) for English as the official language of the country. To paraphrase his argument, going on my memory, Lamm stated that as Americans, we have no cultural ties, no religious ties, no ethnic or racial commonality – any or all of these things have historically been used to carve out nations and hold people together in unity. As Americans, with our diverse backgrounds, the only common bond we share is our language – when we lose that bond, we risk balkanizing the country.
I’ve long held to that logic and fully embrace Lamm’s position on English first. I went searching to see if I could find a Lamm quote on the topic and came across a document where Lamm went in to detail on, not just the danger of multilingualism, but much more.
The documented was un-dated, but I’ve little doubt that it originated from Lamm. (It’s worth reading, although people might not like what it has to say).
The subject of the speech delivered by Lamm was “how to destroy America.” In his speech, he details the various steps that should be pursued to make the country fall apart at the seams. Lamm’s subject, the necessity of maintaining English as a common denominator, comes against the backdrop of immigration and multiculturalism. However, one part of his speech did give me pause:
“My sixth plan for America’s downfall would include dual citizenship, and promote divided loyalties. I would celebrate diversity over unity. I would stress differences rather than similarities. Diverse people worldwide are mostly engaged in hating each other- that is, when they are not killing each other. A diverse, peaceful, or stable society is against most historical precedent. People undervalue the unity it takes to keep a nation together. Look at the ancient Greeks. The Greeks believed that they belonged to the same race; they possessed a common Language and literature; and they worshipped [sic] the same gods. All Greece took part in the Olympic games. A common enemy, Persia, threatened their liberty. Yet all these bonds were not strong enough to overcome two factors: local patriotism and geographical conditions that nurtured political divisions. Greece fell. “E. Pluribus Unum” — from many, one. In that historical reality, if we put the emphasis on the ‘Pluribus’ instead of the ‘Unum,’ we will balkanize America as surely as Kosovo.”
Looking at Lamm’s speech through the optics of culture (and not ethnicity or linguistics), it’s actually a very frightening prospect.
We are well on our way down a path of divergent cultures in America — a conservative culture and a liberal-progressive culture. Each has its own spokespeople, its own representatives, its own news channels, its own news sources. The vocabulary used is different as are the terms used to describe members of the other group.
To liberals, conservatives are ignorant “tea baggers;” to conservatives, liberals are “libtards.” Against this backdrop, it’s pretty easy to understand why our government is a dysfunctional mess – it’s because We the People are a dysfunctional mess as well!
We have effectively cocooned ourselves from the din of competing ideas – and in most cases, I believe, not because the ideas are terrible, but the delivery of these ideas offends civility.
Call it the internet culture – people feel a freedom of expression to destroy or berate opposition in a way that would make sailors blush. We used to think that real people wouldn’t behave in that manner stripped of anonymity; however, today, I’m not so sure. We have grown coarse as a people, and we lack the basic ability to be civil. I hesitate to offer the following, but it applies – without civility, it is hard to have civilization…
The coarseness of our language in dealing with competitive ideas has crept in to newspaper columns and “news” shows. We have this feeling of entitlement to treat “others” as stupid liberals/conservatives out of the purity of our cause – we are on the side of “smart” and “right,” all others are brainwashed idiots. The fragmenting of America is not taking place linguistically, it’s taking place ideologically.
What I find most fascinating is this excerpt from Lamm’s speech:
“My fifth point for destroying America would be to get big foundations and business to give these efforts lots of money. I would invest in ethnic identity, and I would establish the cult of ‘Victimology.’ I would get all minorities to think that their lack of success was the fault of the majority. I would start a grievance industry blaming all minority failure on the majority population.”
Substitute “ethnic identity” and “minorities” with “ideologies,” and you have that today. “Special interests” on all sides of the issue (pick the issue) pour money in to funding the demonization of “the other.”
Not terribly long ago, liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, could sit down with one another and have a rational conversation about policy. While they may not have agreed on every detail, they could identify areas of commonality to pursue that eventually resulted in compromise. Today, when our elected officials dare to cross party lines, even to shake a hand, they run the risk of being “primaried” in the next election, labeled as “appeasers.”
It appears that at least some out there are using the Lamm playbook for destroying America – funneling billions of dollars in to efforts to divide vice unite – the question we need to ask is why? What do they stand to gain? What is their interest in a weakened, dysfunctional, corrupt, or nonexistent political environment? Not to be partisan, because it happens on all sides of the political spectrum, but what do Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch stand to gain by fanning Fox viewers conservative passions? What is the agenda of MSNBC’s Jeffrey Zucker and Phil Griffin?
It’s asking these questions, understanding the “why” in the manipulation of our positions on issues that leads us from being controlled sheep in the modern Game of Thrones. When we are told that unions are destroying America, or the lack of gun control is destroying America, or the black Muslim socialist president is destroying America, or, pick your issue, is destroying America – question what the proponents of the message stand to gain and their stake in the issue.
I don’t know if Dick Lamm’s message on linguistic/multiculturalism is just hyperbole. Is this idea that the “fracturing” of America on ideological lines going to lead us to the great break-up of the United States? Is the “American experiment” doomed to the same fate as all previous empires?
“No nation in history has survived the ravages of time. Arnold Toynbee observed that all great civilizations rise and fall and that ‘An autopsy of history would show that all great nations commit suicide.’”1
Is this the beginning of the end or is this just a bump in the road as we continue down this path of ideological isolation?