Jeff Ackerman: In any language, it’s still the national anthem
As many of you who know me know, I am an avid baseball fan, having been to, listened to, watched and played hundreds and hundreds of ball games. As a result, I’ve become somewhat of an expert on the national anthem, otherwise known as “The Star Spangled Banner.”
What some of you who know me may not know is that I’ve always been in love with the Spanish language. My grandfather spoke it fluently and his second, third, fourth, etc. (my grandfather was married six times, which is probably why he didn’t make it to 70) wives were all Mexicans.
And so, with all due respect to President Bush (who has been known to have some difficulties with the English language), I have absolutely no problem with anyone who wants to sing the national anthem in Spanish, so long as it doesn’t further delay the first pitch.
This latest “affront” to our American Way Of Life comes from news that a group of well-known Latino recording artists are planning to record a Spanish-language pop version of “The Star Spangled Banner.” The lyrics are a bit different (there’s a line that reads, “My people keep fighting. It’s time to break the chains …”) but the tribute to the stars and stripes is pretty much the same.
Asked whether he thought the Spanish version would have the same value, Bush said, “No, I don’t. And I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English.”
Same here. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be able to sing in Spanish, especially at a baseball game.
Bush, who is also a baseball fan, must certainly know that most fans can’t even recite the English version of the anthem. And three hours of tailgating prior to a ballgame makes it nearly impossible for some to even stand up, let alone sing the correct lyrics to anything but “17 Bottles Of Beer On The Wall,” and even that’s a stretch.
“Oh, say can you see … by the barn’s ear-ly light … what-so proud-ly we hail, from the sky-light’s so be-ming … and the rocket so fast … the bomb’s bursting in there … can you get me a beer …”
It’s even worse in English-speaking states down south, where patriotic-yet-inebriated NASCAR fans pull the earplugs out just prior to the start of the engines so they can pay tribute to their mother country.
“Oh, say, cain ya see, by the twa-lawt last glee-min … what sew proud-ly we hail … from the barn’s ear-ly night … and God Bless Dale Earnhart! …”
And we all remember how sweet Rosanne Barr sounded in her rendition of the national anthem at a baseball game, which she concluded by grabbing her crotch and spitting at the crowd.
Los Lonely Boys might be the best argument for a Spanish-language anthem. That band of three brothers moves effortlessly from English to Spanish in most of its lyrics. As I drive along to their CD, I find myself trying to follow along with the Spanish lyrics, which happen, by the way, to flow much smoother than the English lyrics.
Let’s face it. Spanish is much less awkward than English. There is a motion and a certain beauty to it. It rolls, rather than flicks, from the tongue.
Compare for yourself:
“Two beers, please.”
“Dos cervezas, por favor.”
My grandfather didn’t raise a dummy.
Let’s also face the fact that Hispanics represent the fastest-growing segment of our population, increasing 50 percent (to an estimated 42.7 million) since 1990. Children of today’s Hispanic immigrants will be the largest contributing group to the U.S. population growth over the next 20 years, and a third of California’s population is Hispanic.
While it is important to maintain an English-first society, the reality indicates that English-only citizens (especially our children) will need to learn Spanish in a hurry. We are not “becoming” a bilingual nation, we already are, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it.
That doesn’t mean we need to open the borders. It doesn’t mean we ought to require that every single sentence, or lyric, or government pamphlet (oops … too late) should be in English and Spanish.
It just means we need to assimilate (them to us and us to them). It means tolerance. It means acceptance.
If someone wants to sing our national anthem in an effort to recognize what a great a nation we have and how fortunate he is to share it, I don’t care what language he sings it in. Just get the words right and finish on time. The first pitch is generally supposed to be thrown at five past the hour.
Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. His column appears on Tuesdays. Contact him at 477-4299, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley 95945.
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