Thursday, May 04, 2006

Politics as Humor

Mencken comments somewhere that Congress is worth its salary as a source of entertainment. Along similar lines, I was amused by the latest trivial twist in immigration rhetoric.

Someone brought out a Spanish language version of The Star Spangled Banner.

President Bush made the obligatory nationalist noises to the effect that it ought to be sung in English.

Someone offered evidence that Bush himself had, in the past, sung The Star Spangled Banner in Spanish, presumably as part of his efforts to woo hispanic voters.

At that point, I think the best thing the White House could say would be nothing at all.

Instead ...

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the assertion did not ring true to him because, "The president speaks Spanish, but not that well."

Not only do we have a White House spokesman deprecating the abilities of his boss in order to defend against a charge of inconsistency, he is doing it in a fashion that no reasonable person will believe. I don't speak any Spanish at all. But given a little practice and a desire for Hispanic votes I could learn to sing the Star Spangled Banner in Spanish, especially with the help of other singers who did know the language.

At least, I could if I could sing. And they haven't yet denied that Bush can sing.

19 Comments:

At 6:53 PM, May 04, 2006, Anonymous Barbar said...

Even funnier is that the fact that you can dig up plenty of quotes from Bush supporters describing him as being "fluent" in Spanish. This issue is not a good one for the Republican Party.

 
At 7:03 PM, May 04, 2006, Anonymous R.S. Porter said...

Is English even the official language of the United States? If it were the offical language, instead of being merely the de facto language, it would make a little difference.

I don't really have a problem with it being sung in different languages but, from my understanding, the translation was not very accurate. That is really my only beef with it, otherwise it doesn't bother me.

If the late night talk shows are anything to go on, Bush is better at Spanish than he is at English.

 
At 6:23 AM, May 05, 2006, Blogger SheetWise said...

I don't know why it required a response at all. In Arizona, I do a lot of transaction in Spanish -- because they are to my benefit or out of necessity. I still believe that they ought to be done in English.

 
At 6:47 AM, May 05, 2006, Anonymous johnt said...

Will Spanish be a required course in American high schools in the future? And will our system foul that up as they have everything else that is taught? The past few weeks offer endless possibilities for the future.

 
At 7:36 AM, May 05, 2006, Anonymous Tom Courtney said...

Will Spanish be a required course in American high schools in the future? And will our system foul that up as they have everything else that is taught? The past few weeks offer endless possibilities for the future.

Certainly no more than English is required now. Really, is there anyone out there who grew up in the U.S. in anything close to a standard situation who needed an English class to help them to learn to speak? You have to bend over backwards to stop kids of the right age from learning the language being spoken around them.

As for what language ought to be spoken in a particular time or place, I give you an idea I am rather fond of (well, once I modify it to account for my view of the universe being somewhat different than Pope's):

Cease, then, nor Order imperfection name;
Our proper bliss depends on what we blame.
Know thy own point: this kind, this due degree
Of blindness, weakness, Heav'n bestows on thee.
Submit: in this or any other sphere,
Secure to be as bless'd as thou canst bear;
Safe in the hand of one disposing Power,
Or in the natal or the mortal hour.
All Nature is but Art unknown to thee;
All chance direction, which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good:
And spite of Pride, in erring Reason's spite,
One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right.

 
At 9:48 AM, May 05, 2006, Blogger Michael Giesbrecht said...

I appreciate politics as humor, but there are just too many of those, "I don't know if I should laugh or cry" moments for me. I even like torture commedy (i.e. this is funny...now it's not...not it's really not...when are they going stop, this is really not funny any more...okay, now it's not just funny, it's freaking hilarious) probably more than most people, but when it comes to politics, you can die waiting for the punch line.

 
At 9:49 AM, May 05, 2006, Blogger Michael Giesbrecht said...

Oh, and I never learned to read (or spell.)

 
At 10:40 AM, May 05, 2006, Anonymous Rex Little said...

I thought it already was in Spanish. You know, "Jose, can you see. . ."

 
At 2:40 PM, May 05, 2006, Blogger markm said...

The translation seems to have been more than a little inaccurate - enough to look like deliberate changes, not translation errors.

Now, I know Danish fellow who (when we were all much younger) got kicked out of a theater in London for singing "God shave the Queen." You can't realistically expect or require foreigners to respect your national anthem. However, he was there legally, as a tourist, and would soon be leaving England anyhow. These people singing the altered anthem were mostly living and working here illegally, and yet they expect us to conform to their demands!

Note that back in Mexico, it's illegal for a foreigner to demonstrate, or even to criticize the government. And their government richly deserves criticism. Those Mexicans who staged demonstrations and a strike in our country Monday should return to Mexico until they figure out just why it is they want to live somewhere else.

 
At 2:41 PM, May 05, 2006, Blogger markm said...

The translation seems to have been more than a little inaccurate - more than enough to look like deliberate changes, not translation errors.

Now, I know a Danish fellow who (when we were all much younger) got kicked out of a theater in London for singing "God shave the Queen." You can't realistically expect or require foreigners to respect your national anthem. However, he was there legally, as a tourist, and would soon be leaving England anyhow. These people singing the altered anthem were mostly living and working here illegally, and yet they expect us to conform to their demands!

Note that back in Mexico, it's illegal for a foreigner to demonstrate, or even to criticize the government. And their government richly deserves criticism. Those Mexicans who staged demonstrations and a strike in our country Monday should return to Mexico until they figure out just why it is they want to live somewhere else.

 
At 9:56 AM, May 06, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Markm demonstrates one aspect of why this is so funny in the first place, and thus, the cycle of life is complete.

 
At 11:03 PM, May 06, 2006, Anonymous Ross Levatter said...

I understand the President can speak Spanish as fluently as he speaks English...

 
At 7:02 AM, May 07, 2006, Anonymous albatross said...

No le misunderestimate!

 
At 9:35 PM, May 07, 2006, Blogger ReticentMan said...

Mencken probably wrote that before Congress starting giving itself 25% raises every year.

 
At 9:47 PM, May 08, 2006, Anonymous js290 said...

Star Spangled Banner is a bad national anthem anyway. America, the Beautiful should be the national anthem. :-P

 
At 2:28 PM, May 09, 2006, Blogger I ROCK!!!!! said...

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At 1:23 AM, May 10, 2006, Blogger Jinzo said...

Dr. Friedman I've sent you a mail.
This is my mail address: jinzo@neolib.it

I'm the Italian Libertarian activist who has sent you that mail called "Italian Libertarian activist".

 
At 8:49 PM, May 10, 2006, Blogger Rick and Gary said...

I've never tried to sing the Star Spangled Banner in Spanish. But I sure can't sign it in English, and I doubt that Bush can either.

 
At 3:52 PM, May 12, 2006, Blogger Jinzo said...

Dr. Friedman I've sent you another mail.
This is my mail address: jinzo@neolib.it

 

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