Linguistic Consciousness-Raising

A few months ago, I saw a video of the Star-Spangled Banner being sung in Navajo.  It triggered a moment of clarity for me in that, I recognized in myself no conflict with the song being sung in another language other than English.

In fact, it felt almost super-patriotic, considering everything the United States has subjected the Native Americans to.

So, to book-end the language and authority series, we’re going to look at this idea, that says, “The national anthem and pledge of allegiance should ONLY be done in English”.  It is becoming more and more of an issue, as language classes around the country are teaching kids the pledge and other things in languages like Arabic.  And some people aren’t too happy about it.  But it seems to me that this is a case of discrimination and not one of patriotism.. or something equally bizarre, like.. the idea that the pledge only makes sense in English.

To show why.  Let’s watch two videos.  The first, is the Star-Spangled Banner being sung in Spanish.

And now, the Star-Spangled Banner sung in Navajo.

How was your reaction?  If you defend the proposition that the anthem should only be sung in English, were you equally upset by both versions?  Did you feel one was more offensive than the other?

Sadly, I can’t actually rely on anyone reading this article to respond authentically; because if you are a person who believes in the English-Only movement as one of patriotism, then you would be more than willing to lie about how you feel here.  Luckily, Youtube videos have ways of exposing the English-Only mindset.

Let’s start with the Navajo version.  First, over 77,000 views! 250 “likes” and 5 “dislikes”.  An overwhelmingly positive statistic.

But, more enlightening, are the comments.

diabolicalajyo 1 month ago

greatest anthem i have heard…

Leah Walentosky 6 months ago

This is a beautiful version of the anthem. This is the one that should be sung at the next superbowl.

MrReoification2 2 years ago

my great uncle was a dine code talker and my grandfather is chief joesph medicine crow

nicklane4 3 years ago

at our school in ganado we listen 2 this after pledge of allegence

And so on.  I tried to look on all the Navajo-sung videos, but I couldn’t find an example of a white person upset about this.  There is even a video from a Yankees game.  No one cared.  The only people who had negative comments were like this fellow:

travisnez 1 year ago

this song is a disgrace! Cannot believe it is still being sung in my language. After all it was the red, white & blue that tried to kill off my people. It’s sad that my sacred language is being used to sing this ridiculous song.

No “English only!” folks though.

Now for the Spanish version.  For some reason (hmm.. I wonder) the video does not have a ‘like/dislike’ count, but it has been viewed almost 147,000 times. (First difference, more people are aware of the Spanish version than the Navajo version).

A selection of comments (warning: the language is offensive).  The following is the very first comment on the video (as of today).

What the fuck is this shit?…this is the United States of America – speak English or get the fuck out of this great country

Reply ·

Natural8o9Reborn 1 day ago

You’re just an ignorant Troll. The USA is built on its multicultural society. Todos somos humanos, somos equales. I’m American, I speak two languages and im not even Latin. If it wasn’t for EVERY single race that is in our country, we wouldn’t be the “Great” country you speak of.

Reply · in reply to Sports70

LesterisMusic 8 months ago

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Exactly. First off, it sucks. Secondly, it just means nothing to Americans & it will never be absorbed, taken serious, or be part of America in reality. It was just a “pop” project and some artists made money making it in the studio, pfft. To hell with those who can’t handle the truth and that get “offended”, they’ll get over it. It will surely NEVER be a part of the American mainstream. Dicho. In the United States of America, there is the Star Spangled Banner, period.

This has been flagged as spam

fucking spics cant learn anything other than spanish, a filthy dialect ,vulgar latin+ vulgar arabic+vulgar greek =spanish fuck spain. these latinoes dont even know what spanish is made up of even though they speak it. they got no culture, i speak also spanish but there’s nothing importan to learn in spanish unless its something important from another lnguage that was translated to spanish. i mean look at spain’s history in europe,never invented anything in science.fuck spain.


DerekIsAwesome1494 1 year ago

lol, English is the language made by the germanic barbarians who destroyed years of flourishing civilization by the Romans. The languages derived from Latin are the languages of Culture and Civilization, while English is the language of Barbarity and Murder, and Imperialism, and Genocide, and Racism. Plus, Spanish has more speakers than English.

Reply · in reply to murggik

PatrioticEagle50 10 months ago

The Roman Empire, the French Empire, the Spanish Empire, the Italian Empire, all imperialistic, and their all LATIN language. How is english more imperialistic then Latin language nations? Or any other language for that matter? The chinese had several empires, the egyption empire, the aztec empire. Imperialism is not a Germanic idea, it is a human idea. The Romans, or the civilized culture, invaded germanic land, and you don’t expect them to fight?

Reply · in reply to DerekIsAwesome1494

I was fascinated by the latinate/Germanic conversation that erupted.

There is simply an overwhelming difference when someone hears the Star-Spangled Banner in Navajo compared to Spanish.  Why?  Is it because it’s unpatriotic? Well.. you can tell yourself that, but it doesn’t seem to explain the divergent reactions, does it?

What does help, is noting the difference in size of the two minority groups.  Latinos are an ever-growing part of the American geo-political landscape.  The Navajo and other Native American tribes were subjected to rampant racism, war and genocide that drastically reduced their numbers.  After awhile, we gave them “their lands” back to live on.  There are native Americans alive today who went to special boarding schools where they were corporeally punished for speaking their native language.  We used to care about natives speaking their language.  But they simply aren’t a big enough part of the population to matter anymore.  Mainstream America doesn’t need to worry about silly natives singing the national anthem in Navajo.

Let’s not forget that the Navajo and other tribes are perceived by mainstream America as some of the most ardent supporters of the United States.  The Navajo Code-talkers of WWII are a national treasure.

How do “English-only” types view Spanish-speakers?  With suspicion.  It feels un-patriotic in a way that Navajo doesn’t.   There are many Latino-Americans who, it should be noted, don’t even speak Spanish.  3rd generation latinos follow the same “grandfather” trend that all other immigrant peoples faced.  Which is that while 1st generation immigrants may only speak their native language, their children (2nd generation) will invariably be bilingual.  And by the 3rd generation, many of have lost the native language of the 1st generation altogether.  Some dialects of English like Chicano English are mistaken as “badly spoken English by a native-spanish speaker”, when in reality, many of the youth who speak Chicano English don’t speak Spanish.  Leaving them in this sort of no-man’s land, where they may believe they don’t speak a language at all.

Of course, English-Only types can’t out-right proclaim their racism, it’s in bad taste these days.  So instead we get the arguments that were addressed in the last post.  The idea that “multi-culturalism has failed” and the re-writing of history so that “English has always been the unifier of America!!”

But, really, while many good people may be convinced that an Official English amendment is a good thing; it simply boils down to this:  It is not about language.  It is not about protecting English.  It is not about helping minority groups.


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