Guest Commentary

A call for Arizona to adopt an official language--Spanish, that is

Wow. Lots of people got their panties all bunched up over the piece I wrote last time in praise of local Mexican culture. Mexicanism around these parts is obviously a sore subject, particularly if the legions of camouflaged geezers camped out on my front lawn are any indication. I feel like President Bush with Cindy Sheehan and her supporters, only I've talked to these guys plenty. I told them the sprinklers are going on in five minutes, and if that doesn't work, I'm going to release the dogs.

But never mind them. All this flak has brought to the surface something I've been brooding on for a couple of years, ever since I had a conversation with my neighbor. He works with mentally handicapped kids in a southside school district, and he's pissed off all the time, poor chap. Not only are the little bastards none too quick on the uptake; most of them hardly speak any English! I suggested to him that he take a Spanish class, but like the guy with the "Welcome to America. Now speak English or go home" bumper sticker, he's standing on principle. Let them learn English, he says. If some of them are so low-functioning that it's all they can do to learn to tie their shoelaces, it's their problem. Everyone in Arizona, says my neighbor, should speak one language.

I agree completely. Only I think that language should be Spanish.

There are a couple of reasons for this. No. 1 is aesthetic. Spanish just sounds better than English, which many foreigners tell me is the aural equivalent of a Sloe Gin Fizz hangover. Of course, Italian sounds even better than Spanish, but I don't think there's any way I can come up with an argument for that. However, if we ever do decide to make Italian the national language, most Spanish speakers can understand it pretty well, so it shouldn't create a problem.

Secondly, Arizona used to be part of Mexico, as did California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, half of New Mexico, the better part of Texas and a little of Colorado. It wasn't until 1848 when the United States, all cranked up on Manifest Destiny and expanding Anglo-Saxon democracy, seized a good part of Mexico. According to the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, anyone who can govern themselves, should. This sounds good on paper, except for the part at the bottom where it also proclaimed that this excluded anyone perceived as being incapable of self-government. At the time, this meant all Native Americans and people of non-European origin.

"Seized." According to the American edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, there are several definitions of this word. No. 1 is, to take hold of forcibly or suddenly. No. 2 is, to take possession by warrant or legal right.

The kind of seizing the United States did was No. 1. It had no legal right to the Mexican territories, but like a crook who steals your wallet while you're distracted, it took advantage of a bad situation. Mexico, having gained independence from Spain in 1821, was rife with internal political conflict between monarchists, republicans and so many other factions that it could barely see straight. It lacked equipment, supplies and any kind of a united front to hold back the United States during the Mexican-American War--which was, in reality, a tremendous land grab.

The United States could have purchased those territories. It took them not because it had any right to them, but because it could.

I don't think anyone would say that just because a crook steals a wallet, it's rightfully his, even while he is spending the cash and using the credit cards. The fact is, the wallet still belongs to the poor schmuck he stole it from.

Hence, Americans of European descent are effectively squatting in Mexico. This logic is unassailable. The least we could do is learn the language.