Another Veterans Day come and gone. I thanked our vets as always and with deep gratitude. But, this time, Veterans Day left me pondering who we are really thanking – and for what….
I know I thank all veterans of all wars for taking time out of their personal lives to work, and often fight, on behalf of the rest of us. I am also thankful to the military who serve during peace times. They also commit to service the rest of us do not.
But what exactly are we thanking them for? I ponder this after seeing the following post on Facebook: (If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a soldier)
What exactly does this mean? If you don’t read English, you can’t thank a soldier? If you live in a country that speaks another language, you can’t thank a soldier?
I worry the meaning is much more biased: If you don’t read English, you must live in a country where English (the only good language) is not spoken. In other words, only English-speaking folks are good enough and they all live in the US.
Am I over-reacting? Our wonderful country was built on the back of immigrants – many of whom did not speak English. We still have immigrants arriving in our country every year – looking for freedom to practice their religion, to speak their views, to live a better life. (For the purposes of this blog, I am speaking of legal immigrants only)
When immigrants come to this country, they receive many messages that English is the good language and other languages are not as good/powerful/accepted. But this goes against research:
Lily Wong Fillmore (1991) tells us “When parents are unable to talk to their children, they cannot easily convey to them their values, beliefs, understandings, or wisdom about how to cope with their experiences. They cannot teach them about the meaning of work, or about personal responsibility, or what it means to be a moral or ethical person in a world with too many choices and too few guideposts to follow. What is lost are the bits of advice, the parents should be able to offer children in their everyday interactions with them. Talk is a crucial link between parents and children: It is how parents impart their cultures to their children and enable them to become the kind of men and women they want them to be. When parents lose the means for socializing and influencing their children, rifts develop and families lose the intimacy that comes from shared beliefs and understandings.”
Bialystok, 1991; Corson, 1998; Durgunoglu & Verhoeven, 1998 tell us children experience significant linguistic, cognitive, social, and cultural gains when they become bilingual at an early age.
Oh – and then there’s that other issue: Why are WE speaking English? All of our ancestors (unless we are Native American) immigrated to America where there already existed thriving cultures and thriving home languages. But instead of learning the language(s) of the land to which we immigrated (as we expect others to do), we forced the native population to learn ours and proclaimed English the language of the land.
By the standards we apply to those who immigrate from other countries today, we should be speaking a Native American language, not English.
So thank a veteran for taking on a hard, lonely, dangerous job. Thank a veteran for protecting us in a way most of us cannot. Thank a veteran for loyalty, for service, for making sacrifices -far too often the ultimate sacrifice. But don’t thank a veteran for the fact that we speak English. That’s racist and it just plain doesn’t make sense.
Warmly, Linda, the Babies Can’t Wait Lady