Bilingualism and the Republican primary process

Just when I thought the Republican primary process was becoming sensible a new ad surfaces from the Newt Gingrich campaign attacking Mitt Romney, and the best line of the ad? That would be, “And just like John Kerry — he speaks French, too.”

There is another ad that has been making the rounds, which encourages people to vote for Ron Paul, though the Ron Paul campaign denies making or running the ad.  In this ad Jon Huntsman is attacked for speaking Chinese, with the question, “American values? or Chinese?”  The worst part is when they attack him for his adopted daughters who are Chinese and Indian, but that’s not the point I want to make now.

What is wrong with bilingualism?  I personally believe that the fact that these men speak a foreign language makes them better candidates for President of the United States.  In a world that is growing ever smaller, with international relations being one of the primary functions of the President, how does it hurt at all to be able to speak a foreign language and communicate with diplomats and ambassadors and heads of state in their own language?  Why is this being portrayed as a negative thing, the fact that they are bilingual?

As one who has had a deep love of the German language and culture for longer than I can remember, this is appalling.  When did Americans decide that it was wrong to want to speak another language?  When did we decide that anyone who speaks an additional language must not be a ‘true’ American?  Probably around the same time that honest, native-born Americans who grew up speaking German in Texas or Wisconsin or Pennsylvania were suspected of being Nazi sympathizers, or their honest, native-born neighbors who grew up speaking Japanese or Chinese in California, Oregon, and Washington were sent to Relocation camps (because we did not call them internment camps) for fear they might be spies aiding their homelands.

America has always been a nation of immigrants and children of immigrants.  I don’t know the actual statistics, but I bet most Americans have an ancestor born outside of the United States within three or four generations.  And with these immigrants came their languages.  America was built on multiculturalism, so why do we see declining foreign language programs across the country?

I will say it again – though it is not a deal-breaker with me, I find that I am more inclined to vote for a presidential candidate who can speak another language.  I feel it makes him more suited to the job.  And not just because he can then converse with more people, but because as one studies a foreign language one must also learn a foreign culture.  And it is this learning to understand customs and idioms that are different from those you grew up with that makes a man better able to not only speak, but to communicate with those from other countries.

I am David Tertipes, and I approve this message.  Ich bin David Tertipes, und ich billige diese Botschaft.

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