She wasn't even one of the people who cleans my bathroom. In fact, I met her in a library (surprise!). Ultimately, our relationship was doomed (me being a capricorn and her being insanely tardy all the fucking time, I had to fire her ass), but as it ended I was shocked to discover that I'd developed some feelings for her. I was unprepared for the fact that her being black didn't get in the way of me really liking her. Thus, as we parted, I was forced to reevaluate my world view: if a white man like me could have feelings for a black girl like her, what other interracial coupling experiments might I one day be a part of and might I have to accept among other couples? What I learned was that just because someone is black (or hispanic, or Chinese, or Protestant) doesn't mean he or she is less lovable. It was a hard reality to face, but it's one I've adjusted to.
It's with that lesson in mind that I've watched the actions of the Senate these past few days. As they debate the issue of whether or not English should be our national language, I realize that what they're actually debating is whether or not someone who doesn't speak English is less American than someone who does. Six months ago I would have said, "Yes! If you can't speak English, you can't be my neighbor!" But now that I am wiser, I understand this is wrong. If a black person is not less lovable, then a non-English speaker is not less American. It's the only conclusion that follows logically.
However, if you are still unpersuaded, consider this: If speaking English equals being American, then we have to determine when it is that someone becomes an English speaker. Is it when he learns his first English word? Is it when he can order a ham sandwich at the deli? Is it when he scores a 650 or better on the SAT? This is important because most of the employees at the local Chinese buffet have English skills on par with the average second grader. If their English isn't good enough to make them Americans, then we also must accept that our children aren't Americans either. Further, Americans in general have poor English skills, and if being able to speak English determines one's Americanness, then it only follows that the quality of one's English determines the quality of one's Americanness. In other words, your ability to correctly use a semicolon is a direct reflection of how much you love your country. Up front, this might not seem like a terrible thing -- it just means that most people love their country an "average" amount. But look a little deeper and you'll uncover a horrible truth: that the most American people in the world are... (get ready!)... the British. Now that's irony.
And it's shameful. Shouldn't we be judging our citizens by more important standards? Like whether or not they drink domestic beer, or attend PTA meetings, or (here's a crazy idea) get out and vote.
Let's not wait until we're back to saluting the Queen before we realize this is an idea that's gone tits up.
(Special thanks to Hoot for helping me refine these thoughts.)