Colorado Students Recite Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic; Freakout Ensues

As if we needed another demonstration of the xenophobia and misology of the American right, here’s a story of students in Ft. Collins, Colorado translating the Pledge of Allegiance into other languages and reciting it in those languages from time to time. Cue the outrage from the wingnuts when they got to it in Arabic.

“We do say the Pledge of Allegiance on Mondays at Rocky Mountain High School,” principal Tom Lopez said.

Students have always said it in English. This year, a group with about 30 students approached Lopez with a request to translate and recite the pledge in other languages.

“They had to go through me for approval, and I reviewed it pretty carefully,” Lopez said.

First, the students translated and read French. Then they recited the pledge in Spanish last fall. Monday, students read the pledge in Arabic.

“We have a tremendous amount of diversity in our school,” Lopez said. “This is very American, not un-American.”

I don’t think anyone should say the pledge at any time, in any language, but at least this way they’re learning something and perhaps managing to overcome that provincialism and xenophobia that America is so well known for. But the hyper-nationalist, we ain’t had no need for book learnin’ crowd was bound to lose their minds over it. They’re worried that if their kids learn a phrase in French or Arabic they’re going to become suicide bombers who surrender before they set off the bomb. Or something.

Reminds me of the old story, possibly apocryphal, about the Texas legislator who said, “If English is good enough for our lord and savior Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for me.”

Comments

  1. Michael Heath says

    Ed writes:

    Reminds me of the old story, possibly apocryphal, about the Texas legislator who said, “If English is good enough for our lord and savior Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for me.”

    Yeah, and keep the government out of my Medicare you MORAN!

  2. alanb says

    Ed,

    The quote is attributed to Texas Governor Miriam “Ma” Ferguson who became governor after her husband’s impeachment and conviction. And, yes, it is, sadly, probably apocryphal.

  3. says

    Wow, the comments section of that article is a maelstrom of imbecility. Here’s one of my favorite comments so far:

    Debbie Lee Schulz · Top Commenter
    Do you have knowledge Bjutterfli H. of the Pledge of Allegience of the United States of “America” being recited in French or Spanish? I don’t. Please site when and/or where. If it was it didn’t make the news. It seems to me that those of you bashing patriotism from these supporters of our country should back off and try to understand their/our viewpoints. It may be memorized “words” to you, but it represents sacrifice, freedom and liberty to its’ citizens. Don’t make a mockery of pride.

    If you ever wanted evidence that jingoism involves just mindlessly shouting boilerplate catchphrases without even taking the time to figure who/what you’re shouting at, look no further. This woman clearly didn’t get past the title of the article before she started mindlessly sputtering whatever prefabricated nonsense happened to be rattling around in her skull.

  4. says

    In the 4th grade there was a guy of Arabic origin in my class, and his mother came in and actually conducted some Arabic lessons with us. I remember thinking it was fun and fascinating, but it sure didn’t sink in because I don’t recall any of the words.

    I also don’t remember anyone giving a damn.

    Of course, that was pre-9/11, long before it suddenly became a rule that speaking Arabic makes you a terrorist.

  5. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    They’re worried that if their kids learn a phrase in French or Arabic they’re going to become suicide bombers who surrender before they set off the bomb. Or something. – Ed Brayton

    This is a bit of a tangent, perhaps, but does the American right still consider the French “surrender monkeys” after the interventions in Libya and Mali?

  6. says

    “If English is good enough for our lord and savior Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for me.”

    Whisper that in Victoria Jackson’s ear and she’ll probably go around repeating it. Betcha she would!

  7. says

    This is a bit of a tangent, perhaps, but does the American right still consider the French “surrender monkeys” after the interventions in Libya and Mali?

    I don’t think anyone’s taken a poll, but the answer is almost certainly “yes.” To the extent that the American right considers the French at all these days, that is. Jingoistic stereotypes care little for facts, especially recent ones.

  8. coragyps says

    My dad was a preacher, and once had a guy he called on in the hospital object to the Revised Standard Version of the Bible because “it’s not like Jesus said it” – meaning the King James version. My dad came real close to taking a Septuagint out there…..

    Everybody knows that when Jesus wrote the PoA, he wrote it in English.

  9. dingojack says

    All together now!
    “Yr wyf yn addo teyrngarwch i’r Faner yr Unol Daleithiau America, ac i’r weriniaeth y mae’n sefyll, un Cenedl o dan Dduw, anwahanadwy, gyda rhyddid a chyfiawnder i bawb.”
    or if you prefer
    “Geallaim dílseachta don Bratach na Stát Aontaithe Mheiriceá, agus an Phoblacht a sheasann sé, ar cheann Nation faoi Dhia, doroinnte, le saoirse agus ceartais do chách.”*
    Dingo
    ——–
    * Or “Δηλώνω υποταγή στη σημαία των Ηνωμένων Πολιτειών της Αμερικής, και για την δημοκρατία για την οποία στέκεται, ένα έθνος κάτω από το Θεό, αδιαίρετο, με ελευθερία και δικαιοσύνη για όλους.”
    or
    “Forsitan Vexillum Civitatum Foederatarum Americae regno et republica qui stat sub unius Dei indivisibile, pro libertate et iustitia. ‘
    or …..

  10. says

    There are still some majority French speaking communities in Northern New England. And after years of largely successful efforts to suppress American French, the states have taken to encouraging French. The Maine legislature recites the Pledge of allegiance in French on French-American Day.

    And then there are the Cajuns.

  11. says

    Would they have objected to the pledge if it had been rendered in ASL? After all, it developed from French Sign and Martha’s Vineyard Sign and is nothing like English. Although when viewing the translation, the pledge in ASL actually has a close to 1:1 correspondence with English – there isn’t that much variation in grammar.

    (sorry, Dingojack – my keyboard is not set up for SignWriting. I refer everyone to YouTube).

  12. Synfandel says

    A few years back I saw an American stand-up comic, whose name unfortunately I never took in, at one of the televised Canadian comedy festivals–either Winnipeg or Montreal. Part of his routine was based on the hilarious and well-known fact that we all, of course, despise the French. Apparently his agent had failed to mentioned that the city in which he was performing had a very large francophone minority (or in the case of Montreal, a majority), and that Canadians in general like France just fine. The poor fellow forged ahead undaunted, to the chirping of crickets and the occasional throat clearing in discomfort, until he found the good sense to move on to other material.

  13. says

    Sorry Ed, But I must respectfully disagree on this one.

    You live in America, You learn English and you recite the pledge in English. Period, End of Story.

    American Nationalist? You bet your sweet butt I am.

    I figure if these kids cannot learn OUR language, they ought to just go back to their home Countries where they really belong.

    Racist? Nope. Just someone that would like to see our pledge recited in our home language here.

    Nationalist? You Bet. Hyper? Nah, I’m too old. But, I do love my Country, and hate it when I see immigrants and interlopers disrespecting it.

    …and it’s nice to see that you are bigoted towards southern folk. I’ll keep that in mind.

    I now regret donating that $5.00. Maybe the next little scare, you won’t be so lucky. Just a thought.

  14. jws1 says

    @ Patrick: nationalism is for the weak-minded. Nationalists have brains by mistake, since for them a spinal cord is all that is required. They don’t want to think, just react to orders.

  15. says

    Ironically, afte Qaddafi was overthrown, many on the right praised the leadership of the French, because the alternative would be to give credit to the Hated Kenyan Usurper(tm).

    Of course, that as before they decided that Qadaffi was their new BFF and overthrowing him was wrong.

  16. slc1 says

    Re Patrick from Michigan @ #20

    Oh no, is Pat the prat commenting here from his mother’s basement?

  17. abb3w says

    Whacking Google Books…

    There’s relatively recent attribution to Arkansas governor Orville Faubus, Texas governor Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, an unspecified Tennessee legislator, and an unspecified Texas politician. Asimov included it in a joke collection circa 1971, without attribution; there’s an earlier reference in “Folk Laughter on the American Frontier” circa 1949. Volume 21 of the Expositor (circa 1919) makes a reference to an unspecified anecdotal preacher objecting to the 1881 revision (with “the Apostle Paul” instead).

    What appears a possible root behind this are the remarks of one Dr Hague, addressing the Anniversary of the American and Foreign Bible Society in 1850 (quoted in “The Bible Question Decided in a Correspondence”):

    “I might plead the authority of my Lord and Savior, and his apostles, for using a version made by a Christian King; for, in apostolic days, when the aposles wrote and preached, they quoted from a version called the Septuagint, made by a heathen King, confessedly erroneous, the errors of which you and I can point out; but if that version– made years before the Christian era– was good enough for the apostles, then I say, that a version honored by the martyred dead, and defended at the stake, is good enough for you and me.”

    Which is a rather more sensible sentiment, but makes for a less catchy anecdote.

  18. thisisaturingtest says

    @#20, Patrick:
    How a thing is said matters more than what it means? These kids are saying the same things that you yourself believe in; saying them a different way doesn’t change the meaning.

  19. says

    @20:

    The United States has no official language. English is the language of business simply for convenience, and like it or not there are large parts of the country where Spanish is the most common first language (Miami, El Paso, etc.)

    Also: http://xkcd.com/84/

    In other words: you are wrong.

  20. says

    And our old pal Pat, who has spent considerable effort trying to make nice with me and tell me how much he’s changed (with no response from me because I’m just not that naive) once again reveals why I consider him a weapons-grade moron. The kids did learn English (pro tip: it’s hard to translate from English if one does not speak it) and they are Americans, not those mythical evil foreigners who come here and never learn the language (in fact, language assimilation is nearly universal by the second generation — you know, like kids in school). What they did here was try to learn another language; it’s the learning part that really annoys these pseudo-patriots (pseudo because they think patriotism is about xenophobia rather than about trying to make the country a better place).

    And yes, next time I have a health scare I might not be so lucky. But it will have nothing at all to do with anything I write about. And if me writing something he disagrees with makes him regret the $5 he took out of the allowance his parents give him and donated to me after my health scare, then it was inevitable that he would regret it. *shrug*

  21. says

    I figure if these kids cannot learn OUR language, they ought to just go back to their home Countries where they really belong.

    All or almost all of these kids already speak English already. Any that don’t speak English will be speaking fluent English within a year of two of beginning school. There is a predictable pattern with immigrant families: the immigrant generation learns English with varying degrees of success. Their children, first generation Americans, are bilinugual. The second generation grows up in a bilingual home, but rarely learns the language of their grandparents.

    The pattern of bigots is also predictable. They come up with all sorts of bullshit reasons for accusing immigrants and their children of being unAmerican and disrespecting the United States.

  22. says

    I do believe that Pat typed the words “respectfully disagree” and then followed it up with the suggestion that Ed should be careful not to write things which upset people like Pat, because in the event that Ed suffers health problems in the future he might not “be so lucky” as to receive a few dollars toward recovery from surgery from such magnanimous people.

    Which suggests, to me, that Pat would not grasp the meaning of “respect” if Aretha Franklin personally showed up at his front door and kicked him in the head.

  23. says

    I figure if these kids cannot learn OUR language, they ought to just go back to their home Countries where they really belong.

    Racist? Nope. Just someone that would like to see our pledge recited in our home language here.

    Nationalist? You Bet. Hyper? Nah, I’m too old. But, I do love my Country, and hate it when I see immigrants and interlopers disrespecting it.

    In case this is not a subtle attempt at irony that I’m totally not getting, let me explain a couple of things:

    This has nothing to do at all with learning English. These are kids who are perfectly fluent in English, or at least if they’re not, there’s no indication of it from the article. Nor are they necessarily immigrants. They’re just regular students being exposed to different languages as part of a multicultural club that they chose to participate in.

    And saying the pledge, by definition, is an act of nationalism. As Ed points out, it’s an unnecessary and sometimes creepy exercise in enforced pseudo-patriotism, but no one can legitimately claim that saying the pledge is somehow disrespectful of the nation. The actual intent of the words do not change just because you translate them into another language.

  24. zmidponk says

    Patrick from Michigan:

    Sorry Ed, But I must respectfully disagree on this one.

    You live in America, You learn English and you recite the pledge in English. Period, End of Story.

    American Nationalist? You bet your sweet butt I am.

    I do believe you American chaps fought a war about not being part of the UK a while back, which I heard you fellows actually won. That being the case, it really rather puzzles me why you so defend the idea of being shackled to the language of England, and only that language, instead of allowing diversity to spread, and perhaps, eventually, severing the last tie you have to dear old mother England by adopting a different language – Spanish perhaps, as Spain is an old enemy of England.

    I figure if these kids cannot learn OUR language, they ought to just go back to their home Countries where they really belong.

    Racist? Nope. Just someone that would like to see our pledge recited in our home language here.

    Well, I do believe the Michigan area was originally home to several Native American tribes, so, applying the same standard, care to repeat your post in Ojibwe? Or say the Pledge in Potawatomi?

  25. eric says

    You live in America, You learn English and you recite the pledge in English.

    Teh irony, it burns.

    I figure if these kids cannot learn OUR language, they ought to just go back to their home Countries where they really belong.

    The same group of kids recited it in English, French, Spanish, and Arabic. Where do you think they are from, Framerixico Arabia?

  26. moebius2778 says

    Racist? Nope.

    In this case, I don’t think rearranging the syntax of the phrase “I’m not a racist, but…” changes either the semantics or the pragmatics.

  27. magistramarla says

    Hey DingoJack,
    I love what you did at #12.
    When I taught Latin (in Texas!) I had a poster of the pledge in Latin posted right under our classroom flag.
    We would occasionally recite it in Latin as a great learning tool.
    I wonder how the wingnuts would feel about that?

  28. kermit. says

    Howdy, Patrick.

    Apparently you think that only folks from other countries should learn multiple languages. Is that because you want them to have the advantage in politics and business, or because you think that Americans are incapable of learning them?

    You seem to be under the impression that anyone taking an oath under pressure is somehow likely to be loyal, or beholden to it psychologically. This is risible and contrary to experience. Ordinary citizens simply learn to tolerate being bullied, and learn to disrespect oaths and promises. Spies and terrorists, of course, are amused that authoritarians such as yourself are somehow reassured. Do you think that the real Soviet spies in the 1950s (we did have some) hesitated to recite the Pledge?

    Please do not disrespect the US of A by asserting that we are all lazy, timid bullies. Only some of us are.

  29. DaveL says

    You live in America, You learn English and you recite the pledge in English. Period, End of Story.

    Pat, do you consider yourself a “small-government” conservative? Do you believe that rights are inherent in the people, and that government legitimately holds only those powers delegated to it by the people through its constitution?

    So would you say it is the role of the government to tell the people which language(s) they must speak, or that it is the role of the people to tell the government which language(s) it must speak?

  30. NitricAcid says

    Synfandel- I remember seeing a clip from Montreal’s Just for Laughs, but I think it was a Scottish comedian. He was saying something about how he couldn’t understand this country, “Half of the people speak French, and the other half put up with it!” His act ended when someone got on the stage and punched him in the face.

  31. fastlane says

    And thanks to Patrick for demonstrating the ‘freakout ensues’ part of Ed’s title.

    How’s life in your mom’s basement, Pat?

  32. says

    You know, making fun of people for being poor, regardless of the reason, is a shitty thing to do. Making fun of the dignity-destroying things they must do as a result of being poor is effectively the same as making fun of them for being poor.

    The problem with Pat is that he’s a hateful bigoted obliviously hypocritical malicious douchebag. Not that he lives in his parents’ basement.

  33. says

    I wonder which the people freaked out about the Pledge being recited in Arabic believe, that the Pledge is a magic formula that must be recited in English, or that Arabic is a language with magic powers? After all it was only a few months ago that some Americans were freaking out about some US turkey farms producing halal turkeys, a process which involves reciting a specific piece of Islamic scripture as the bird is butchered. The vibe one got was that they thought the magic Araibic words would weaken their connection to Jesus, or something equally silly.

  34. says

    You do know that Barack Obama and his daughters recite the pledge in Dholuo, while Michelle burns an American flag.

  35. iangould says

    “This is a bit of a tangent, perhaps, but does the American right still consider the French “surrender monkeys” after the interventions in Libya and Mali?”

    The Freepers LOVE the French currently – but feel that the campaign in Mali should include more torture and murder of civilians.

    I wish I were making that last bit up.

  36. laurentweppe says

    They’re worried that if their kids learn a phrase in French or Arabic they’re going to become suicide bombers who surrender before they set off the bomb. Or something.

    You know there’s an Algerian joke which goes aproximately like this
    When the French taught us their language, we finally understood what the lyric of La Marseillaise meant, so we decided to live up to these by kicking them out of our country

  37. dingojack says

    laurentweppe – which is the original language it is funnier in: Arabic, Berber or French?
    :) Dingo

  38. laurentweppe says

    I heard it in french (but it most certainly exists in berber & arabic as well)
    In french, it goes like this:
    Quand les Français nous ont appris leur langue, on a finalement su ce que voulaient dire les paroles de La Marseillaise, et on les a mises en pratique: on les a foutu dehors

  39. iangould says

    Following dingo’s efforts allow me to translate the Pledge into Strine: “Mer’ka, love ya. Fair does all round. Onya God. Ken oath.’

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  1. [...] I don’t think anyone should say the pledge at any time, in any language, but at least this way they’re learning something and perhaps managing to overcome that provincialism and xenophobia that America is so well known for. But the hyper-nationalist, we ain’t had no need for book learnin’ crowd was bound to lose their minds over it. They’re worried that if their kids learn a phrase in French or Arabic they’re going to become suicide bombers who surrender before they set off the bomb. Or something. Reminds me of the old story, possibly apocryphal, about the Texas legislator who said, “If English is good enough for our lord and savior Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for me.” — Colorado Students Recite Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic; Freakout Ensues » Dispatches from the… [...]

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