Saturday, February 04, 2006

With a name like Varadarajan...

Tunku Varadarajan is upset by the mayor of Los Angeles giving a response to the State of the Union in Spanish.
I am a first-generation migrant to this country. I believe that in settling abroad, foreigners make a brutal contract with their land of adoption. They may speak their language, eat their food and practice their religion--but at home or by private arrangement. That is as far as I would go with multiculturalism. All else--including an insistence on a public affirmation of ethnic frills and fancies--cripples the process of integration.

He goes on to explain why he is bothered by the mayor choosing to give a public speech in a foreign tongue.
Mr. Villaraigosa chose to emit his message specifically in Spanish, and by doing so he sent a clear signal of his chosen tribal identity (and not just the accident of his birth). That may help him with his vote bank, but it will not help his city. Ultimately, it will distance his primarily Mexican-American audience from their neighbors, including other immigrants.

Varadarajan says, "Why not a response in Farsi or Korean--languages spoken by people toward whom Mr. Villaraigosa has no fewer mayoral duties than he does toward his Hispanophones?" I had thought of the benefits of public business always being conducted in the national language. I hadn't thought of the risks of alienation to other linguisitic minorities.

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