First of all, let me explain to you that America is not a country. This is a fight that I have been engaged in since I first came to the US and was told by a racist parent in my elementary school in Florida, that America didn’t want me here, and that I should go back to my country. I explained to her as politely as I could that I had been born in America, as Cuba was a part of the American continent, and she promptly spit on my face. It was not a wonderful beginning to my residence here. In my next year I won the school spelling bee, but the week before I had been told by my homeroom teacher that I would never succeed because a) I spoke a second-rate language and b) I came from a third-rate culture.
These two experiences, the first of many, made me decide that I would never lose my original language and culture. So when I taught Spanish at the elementary, high school and college level, when I shared my knowledge of history and geography with my students, when I practiced law and represented clients, whether Spanish-speaking or Haitians or people who spoke other languages, I always provided translations. There were no automatic translators in those days, and although I acknowledge that they serve as a tool, as a professional translator and interpreter I find their use by companies and government agencies as the sole means to address my people to be lazy and offensive. We speak a beautiful language, as all languages are beautiful; don’t relegate it to an automatic robotic construct for the sake of expediency. Yes, you are the current seat of Empire, but all things, good and bad, come to an end.
In my work as an advocate in the courts helping immigrants and people of color and all of the voiceless in this country, including homeless brothers and sisters and the elderly (and I suppose, having turned 67 last month, I could start adding myself to that group), I have always insisted on what Flaubert called ‘le mot juste,’ the exact, appropriate, perfect word. My paternal Sephardic grandfather, who spoke eight languages perfectly, always told me to keep studying languages because I would find the word I needed to express a feeling or concept, ‘le mot juste,’ in one of those languages. He was completely correct.
We are engaged in a terrible fight to the death in these current elections that constantly bring back to me the words of Abraham Lincoln in his address at Gettysburg. “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.”
These elections are, to me, a great civil war. The discourse among us all is harsh and divisive, except for one candidate, who has refused and continues to refuse to engage in the low tactics of his adversaries. I don’t know that we will be able to endure; as we have seen with candidate Trump’s casual rhetoric of violence, violence only begets more violence; only love trumps violence.
And that brings me back to my point: the general attitude in these United States, or US America for short, that the only opinions that matter are those of white, English-speaking people. That those of us (latinos, hispanic, chicanos) who will soon constitute a majority in the United States are not worthy of equal representation. That the language we speak, and the cultures we bring to the pot, are less important. I say all cultures are important, and the first nations here did not speak English, were not white, and had to undergo genocide, depredation, violence and abuse that continue to the present time; their languages and cultures are important and worthy of equal representation. That the original languages and cultures of the African slave ancestors, who also continue to experience rape, state and individual violence, are important and worthy of equal representation. All of us bring our special flavors and cultures to the pot; we are all important and worthy of equal representation.
I am using the word America during my work to elect Bernie Sanders because it would take too long to change your understanding of how offensive your use of that word is to the rest of us, the Guatemalans and Bolivians, the Canadians and the Mexicans, the Cubans and Puerto Ricans and Dominicans and Colombians and Salvadoreans and Hondurans, to name just a few of us Americans. But when the electoral process is over, I will continue to demand of all people of good will, and my experience has been that there are many of you out there, willing to learn, willing to take back this nation from the hands of those who would destroy it, that they give up the appellation of America and American, unless you mean to include the rest of us in the discourse, by proper respect and equal representation.
God bless the whole world, no exceptions.