Language and Patriotism

It’s remarkable how powerful the English language is in its ability to bind us together as a people. A shared language has always given American’s a strong shared identity. That’s probably why left wingers are always trying to undermine the whole concept of a national language.

When the Communist Party USA was getting started in the 1920’s, the great majority of its members where recent immigrants. As Romerstein and Breindel explain it in their excellent book The Venona Secrets, the Party at that time “had few members, most of them foreign-born members of “language branches,” where they spoke only their native, not English.” Furthermore “Even the 2,282 in the Party’s English-speaking branches included included a substantial number of foreign-born.”

Whittaker Chambers gives confirmation of Romerstein and Breindel’s point in Witness, his autobiography. Chambers was that rare bird in the 1920’s; a native born American who renounced any loyalty to his nation and joined the Communist Party. He joined New York City’s English speaking branch and discovered that his fellow Communists “were of several nationalities, but broken English, Greek and Yiddish seemed to be the prevailing languages.” The branch “was called ‘English-speaking’ to distinguish it from the more numerous Communist units where English was not spoken, and to indicate that the business of the meeting would be conducted in English, however broken.”

It is perhaps significant that the English speaking Chambers eventually renounced Communism and shared everything he knew about the Communist underground with the FBI.

When I first read The Venona Secrets it shocked me that the majority of American Communists would be recent immigrants. Why would a person leave his home and his family to come to the United States, and then within a few years renounce America’s values and join a revolutionary movement aimed at over-throwing the US government?

I now think language played a large role. It’s much easier to see yourself as a “real American” when you can relate to other Americans in the national language. America’s success as the great Melting Pot should probably be attributed to the fact that most immigrants made the effort to learn English fairly soon after getting here.

I think this explains why liberals put into the abominable Motor Voter act a requirement that immigrants be allowed to vote in languages other than English, despite the fact that immigrants have to learn English before they can become US citizens.

It also explains why liberals fight for bilingual education in the public schools.

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