I will continue my series on writing later, but today I came down with some nasty bug which I think I’ve actually been “hatching” for about a week, thereby accounting for my total lack of concentration while working and how long this book is taking to get ready.
Anyway — being dehydrated and not wanting to spend more time outside the house than needed, when I went to pick up Number One Son, I swung by the grocery store. Bananas, three things of diet coke and a can of shoe polish…
I go to the express lane and while we’re going through, the cashier out of the blue asks Robert, “Do you speak your mother’s language?”
Now I think I have told you people how my son feels about this sort of thing. And how I feel too. So he said “Yes.”
At which point she compounds the offense by saying “Good,” in that self-satisfied lecturing way…
And then, verily, brothers and sisters, the devil got into me. You could more easily prevent a river from flowing downhill than prevent what happened.
I said, cheerfully, “As you see, he speaks English passably.”
At which point this woman failed to take the hint… and jumped in with “No, no, you have an accent.”
(Really? Astound me. This is the equivalent of someone telling me — and people do — “you’re overweight.” I always want to go “Oh no. How did that happen?”.)
And, then, brothers and sisters, the devil being at its worst, I drew myself up in terrible offense and said sneeringly “That is NOT an accent. I have mid range hearing loss.” (which is actually true and responsible for part of the “accent”)
Let me qualify it right here…
If she had said “Do you speak your mother’s native language?” I’d have answered truthfully. “No, we thought to teach it to him, and actually started, but I was the only one speaking Portuguese around him and he just tuned it out. I guess he thought I was babbling. Also, speaking Portuguese too much interferes with my English fluency. I thought he’d pick it up as an adult, but it turns out he has the ability of your average hen for any foreign language.”
It would still be none of her business and it would be still rude as hell of her to stick her nose in it, or to pass approval/disapproval judgements on how I raise my kids. HOWEVER I’m ill, and I’d have let it go.
BUT that “Your mother’s language” put the devil in me. I cannot and will not abet any belief that language or culture are established at birth. MUCH less will I abide the idea they are transmitted — or should be transmitted — immutably to our kids. If that were true, then we’d all still be Greeks, Etruscans, Babylonians, or perhaps whatever flavor of cavemen our ancestors were. No WONDER these people have so many issues with the idea of encouraging immigrants to assimilate.
So, let me shout my philosophy from the rooftops — human beings are free. They’re free to speak what language they wish to as their “main” language. They’re free to pass it on to their kids or not. They’re free to reinvent themselves and leave one culture for another.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
This means ALL men were created equal and they’re not born with genetic culture attached to them. And they will not be deprived of the liberty of learning new languages, nor yet of not passing the old ones to their kids. Oh, yeah, and if they so choose, they will pick a culture that makes them happy.
And anyone believing otherwise will put the devil in me. Which self-evidently no sane person should want to do.