Always on the lookout for wedge issues to divide us, President Bush waded in on the side of “English only,” proclaiming it is wrong to sing the Star Spangled Banner in Spanish.
“I think people who want to be citizens ought to learn English,” Bush opined. “And they ought to sing the anthem in English.”
A background check revealed that the Star Spangled Banner was sung in Spanish at Bush rallies when he was campaigning for Texas governor and at his inauguration in Austin. The hypocrite is once again pandering to jingoism, pouring fuel on anti-immigrant hysteria. His efforts in recent days have also included Homeland Security dragnet roundups and deportations of undocumented immigrants, seeking to repress the rising movement for immigrant rights.
The U.S. Bureau of Education translated the Star Spangled Banner into Spanish in 1919. It has been rendered into German, French, Samoan, Cajun and Yiddish. Translation of songs is a way of expressing admiration for a nation’s culture, and the Spanish translation of the Star Spangled Banner is no exception.
On the Internet, Mexican pop star Gloria Trevi’s stirring rendition can be heard by clicking on The New York Times or NPR web sites. With its Latin rhythm, guitars and chorus, her version soars. Many people tuning in to sports events these days hear wildly diverse performances of the national anthem including rhythm and blues, pop, and jazz versions. It is just another sign that our country is becoming more multiracial, multinational and multilingual, a gorgeous mosaic we should celebrate, not fear.
Those who want to reverse this trend are like King Canute ordering the ocean tides to recede. The Spanish version is not a word-for-word translation, but the question it ends with still must be answered: “Despliega aun su hermosura estrellada, Sobre tierra de libres, la bandera sagrada?” — Does the sacred flag still display its starry beauty, over the land of the free?
Will we as a nation do what is right for 12 million undocumented people, and for all our country’s workers, by ensuring their labor and civil rights while providing them a path to citizenship?