Language and Identity Essay

Abstract

The main purpose of this writing is to present a subset of literature on identity, cultural identity, and discuss language identity: How does ethnic identity manifest itself among Americans? Are there any correlations between language and identity? Does symbolic ethnicity prevail for ethnic minorities who are living in the USA as it has for Americans of European descents? This essay is a close reading of the work of Samuel Huntington, an influential Harvard academician, who wrote a series of essays and books relating to the themes of language and identity. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order by Samuel Huntington, which was published in 1993, drew tremendous attention and interest on its author who has been de facto either depicted as a genius or a xenophobic villain.

His book is drawing even more interest now, seven years after the September 11th events when Huntington’s insights on international politics as dominated by cultural antagonisms seemed to some people to have been confirmed by the events. Huntington predicted in his book that the Islamic world would clash with the Western world. In his various essays he warned of an emerging “clash of civilizations” centred on religious and political economic disharmony. Many scholars and even politicians now see the attacks as the fulfilment of Huntington’s prophecy. The Huntingtonian discourse of the ‘West against the Rest’ has been translated into a new “Cold War against the others”, a new “geopolitical delimitation that excludes all non Westerners.”

Introduction

Individuals, being natives, immigrants or born in the country considered, have to negotiate their identification with their ethnic group and their identification with the mainstream culture of the society though an wide range of concrete or symbolic values. The year 1990’s marked the beginning of complex reconceptualization of the concept of identity in academic work and popular culture, mostly due to the collapse of Communism in Europe.

The world was no longer bipolar or Manichean; as a consequence academic literature began to flourish in the West that related to the issue of identity as people could no longer define themselves in opposition to their Russians nemesis .The question “who we are?” became part of the forefront popular discourse. These rhetorical issues that have been ignored by the fields of sociology and Cultural Studies are now experiencing resurgence. The research question that drew my interest is the following: what constitutes social, cultural and personal identity?

The primary objective of this article is to analyse the academic work of Harvard Professor Samuel Huntington and test the linkage he makes between ethnic identity and language. A second objective is to highlight identity as a core concept that sets human beings apart in groups and subgroups. A third objective is to explore the rationale of his conceptual analysis in the US society. The analysis is divided into three sections:

In the first part of this paper I briefly explore Huntington’s paradigm though his academic essay the clash of civilization, embodying possible contradictions. From there, I move on to an analytical discussion on identity and language. I will finally examine his rationale and possible influence in US politics, the impact of such strategies on our overall understanding of identity.

Part A

Huntington theoretical approach on the concept of civilization

Huntington’s main argument in this book is that in the post-Cold War world, the most important distinctions between people are no longer ideological, political, or economic but cultural. According to him the dissolution of the Soviet Union not only ended the Cold War era but also it ended simplistic understanding of world politics, divided between the “righteous Americans” and the advocates of Marxism. Huntington’s main theory is that new conflicting blocs are now emerging on the globe and the power struggle will determine the new world order. Huntington discourse ends the classical dichotomy between the East and the West.

Like many academicians before him, Huntington’s work focuses on a new linkage or rather a new world order that is divided between North and South. He also demonstrates in his latest articles a power relationship between two fictional blocs (the North and the South), or the Western world versus third world countries. In that his work is not really innovative. However what sets him apart from his fellow academicians is that he segments this new geopolitical world order in six distinct sections : there are six contemporary civilizations according to him , (Hindu, Islamic, Japanese, Orthodox, Sinic, and Western) and two possible candidates (African and Latin American). Five of these eight civilizations have a dominant core state (India, Japan, Russia, China, and the United States), but the African, Islamic, and Latin American civilizations do not. Huntington’s theory, while original, is not without deep empirical and normative problems; If Huntington’s theory is indeed correct, Algeria and Indonesia belong in the same civilizational group. How do these countries relate? Are there any linkages other than religion between all these blocs?

It is hard to link these countries exclusively on a religious basis due to the fact that they practice distinct forms of Islam. Furthermore the core state of the Western countries is not England, but the United states, which not only fails to give any historical perspective but also undermines the role of the United Kingdom as a world power, and the rest of the Western countries. In his discourse the United States is the natural world leader, the guardian and the defender of social and political values, and protects justice and democracy in the world However its” natural” hegemony is now being challenged by non-Western states that are now emerging as great powers (in particular the” Sinics” and the “Islamics”) which will bring an end to the dominance of the Western World.

These new great powers are increasingly rejecting Western values in favour of their own cultural norms, and the continuing decline in the West’s material superiority will erode its cultural superiority. Thus, Huntington rejects the belief that globalization is creating a convergence between the West and the other five civilisations. ” Globalization plays a different role: it empowers cultural values embodied in each civilization, redefines the identity of each bloc while accelerating the clash between those blocs.

The clash of Civilizations

The world is becoming multipolar and each core state plays a hegemonic role within its bloc. These core states (India, Japan, Russia, China and the United) represent the main axis in world politics, and they are increasingly becoming distinctive in civilizational terms. As a result, “they cooperate with and ally themselves with states with similar or common culture and are more often in conflict with countries of different culture.” He adds elsewhere that, “alignments defined by ideology and superpower relations are giving way to alignments defined by culture and civilization. (Huntington, 1996, p157)” As a prolongation of Social Darwinism, he argues that conflicts will occur between these core states and a new world political order will emerge: it is the survival of the fittest.

A few years prior 9/11, Huntington states that Muslim countries are experiencing a cultural resurgence, similar to the Islamic Revolution in Iran, which would inevitably lead to conflict with the West due to the absence of a strong core state and an innate incline among Muslim people for conflicts. Muslims are portrayed as Barbarians in his work, lacking moral values that identify white protestant culture: he envisions permanent conflicts with the West in the years to come, observing that “dedicated Islamic militants exploit the open societies of the West and plant car bombs at selected targets. Western military professionals exploit the open skies of Islam and drop smart bombs on selected targets” (.Walt, Stephen M., Foreign Policy, Spring 97, Issue 106).

He believes that the challenge from Islam is inherently cultural and likely to be prolonged. The second clash will occur with the Sinics (the Chinese) and likewise, it will be a clash of cultures. Influenced by Confucius political philosophy, the Sinics reject the individualistic culture of the West, and opt for a more collective form of happiness; their recent economic success has reinforced their self-confidence and desire for greater global influence. Huntington sees a clash of interests and thus, a clash of civilizations as virtually inevitable.

His view of Islam and China as enemies to the West, are formulated at a time when the world is gradually globalizing, with the West leading this “benign” trend, while China and the Islamic world represent evil forces. The clash between the West and the Islamic/Confucian civilizations is going to be by Huntington to be particularly painful, in that it would lead to the derailment of a trend that was building up such key structural factors as privatized economies, foreign investment, military alliances and democratic freedom. These “oppositional” civilizations had in their power, or so it seemed, not only to degrade globalization’s positive and rapid economic, political, and social impacts on traditional cultures, but also develop weapons that could destroy the entire western world.

Thus the clash of civilization will occur between civilizations but also between religions; Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Confucianism (described as a religion) are central in his design of international politics; What sets the Christians apart from the rest of the religions, is that its adherents have high morals, common values that distinguished them from Muslims, and the Confucians (and the Sinics). Huntington identifies Confucianism as the religion of Orientals and fails to mention the fact that Chinese are overwhelmingly Buddhists. Huntington goes as far as talking about an Islamic-Confucian connection against the Western civilization, a sort of conspiracy. In doing so, he recommends that the West should limit expansion of Islamic-Confucian states’ military and economic power and the West should exploit differences between the two civilizations. He strongly implies that the Western countries should create tensions between the two blocs as a self-protection measure.

The collapse of the bipolar structure of the world which, opposed communism to capitalism, provided simple answers to an apparently simple situation: America represented good and Russia evil. The collapse of communism initiated the beginning of much more complex era which paroxystic point was reached on 9/11. In this new world “conspiracies” are, according to the philosopher Pascal Bruckner” reducers of complexity”(Bruckner, 1996:77, cited by Douzet 2004, p. 20).

The reversals of the burden of proof, in which good is opposed to evil and in which the accuser doesn’t t have to prove that the defendant is wrong. George W. Bush presidency, dominated by 9/11 and attempts to invade foreign countries (using military actions in the world) has been used a discourse that resembled strangely Huntington’ paradigm when he for instance accused Iraq of possessing weapons of mass destruction or when he spoke of the evil axis that spread from Iran to North Korea or when he announced to the world that President Bush first told us he was setting out on a “Crusade” to fight evil forces. In what is a complex situation, the contradictions, conspiracy enthusiasts can be inspired by Academic work of the likes of Harvard Professor Samuel Huntington.

The Clash of Civilizations is an unreliable guide to the emerging world order and a potentially dangerous blueprint for US international policy. Various American academicians have voiced similar concerns. However Samuel P. Huntington was undoubtedly the most articulate in depicting it In the first page of his famous article, Huntington presented his civilizational conflict paradigm; In his hypothesis, the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily economic but ideological. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be battle lines of the future.

Huntington’s clash of civilizations thesis proposes a new paradigm of world politics. His work also stressed the renewed interest in culture among social scientists at the end of the 20th. The notion that culture rather than genes cause human behavioral differences creates a paradigmatic shift among social scientists; ethnic and racial dissimilarities are viewed as cultural artifacts. The logical extension of this rationale is the cultural superiority of the West, the Anglo Saxon countries and their core state the United states; It is focused on international relations theory, with the Western world being in a “naturally ” superior to the rest of the world. In contrast to a simplistic nationalist model, Huntington discourse is very elaborated and articulate. He primarily focuses on cultural-religious-civilizational factors. The most important distinctions between people are no longer ideological, political, or economic but cultural.

According to Huntington, people and nations are preoccupied with their cultural identity and use politics not just to advance their interests but also to define that identity. In that he resembles most xenophobic political leaders such as Le Pen in France, or Nick Griffin in the UK. But his definition of civilization sets him apart. Huntington defines “civilization” as the highest level of identification to which a person belongs, emphasizing religion as a central defining feature of any civilization. To Huntington, flags count and so do other symbols of cultural identity, including crosses, crescents, and even head coverings, because culture counts and cultural identity is what is most meaningful to most people. Huntington asserts that civilizational differences, which stem from divergent cultural and religious values, will be primary causes of regional and global conflicts in the post-Cold War epoch.

Part B

Huntington theoretical approach on the clash theory

The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order offers a new paradigm to understand world politics. Huntington’s main argument is that ‘civilizations’ rather than ideologies now define international politics. People and nations are preoccupied with their cultural identity and use politics not just to advance their interests but also to define that identity. American identity, which is presented as the core identity of humankind, is in crisis. Its crisis signals a more global identity crisis that springs from the combined effects of economic development, new technologies, urbanisation and globalisation, will inevitably lead the erosion of the core identity of humankind (the citizens of the United States). America’s main challenge is not only external but it is internal as well: America’s core culture is disintegrating due to multiculturalism and immigration.

The current wave of immigration from Latin America could allow Latinos supplant white American wasps, while turning their white counterparts into second class citizens; The Hispanic and Anglo opposition has now supplanted the old black-white racial bifurcation. Alternatively, white America must ‘revive the discarded and discredited racial and ethnic concepts of American identity’ based on exclusivity, expulsion and suppression or, finally, Americans ‘could attempt to reinvigorate their core culture’ as ‘a deeply religious and primarily Christian country, adhering to Anglo-Protestant values, speaking English, maintaining its European cultural heritage, and committed to the principles of the Creed’ (Huntington, 2004, 20).

The Hispanic” nightmare”

In “The Hispanic Challenge,” Huntington applies the same logic of civilizational fault-lines and conspiracies to destroy American identity. Instead focussing on specific “civilizations’ to adhere to “the Western program,” he focuses on one ethnic group, Latinos, and on one subgroup in particular: Latinos of Mexican heritage. Latinos form”oppositional” clashes with what he perceives as the natives (the white American protestant group); Huntington argues that that the persistent inflow of Latino immigrants into the United States threatens to divide this country into “two peoples, two cultures and two languages (Huntington, 2004, 1).’ He warns of an ‘alien invasion’ that is threatening core American culture. Huntington depicts Latinos as a homogenous group, an overbearing entity, alien entities that threaten American identity,.Phrases like “the persistent inflow of Hispanic immigrants,” “the contemporary flood of immigrants from Latin America,” and “the current wave [of immigration]”which ” shows no sign of ebbing show a very aggressive form of rhetoric; (Huntington, 2004, 2) .” This language conveys the image of Mexican immigrants literally inundating the United States with their overwhelming numbers.

These new waves of immigrants, unlike in the past “have not assimilated into mainstream U.S. culture, forming instead their own political and linguistic enclaves, from Los Angeles to Miami, while rejecting the Anglo Protestant values that built the American dream.” Asides from his aggressive rhetoric, key factors are missing from his analysis: when Huntington refers to past immigrants from Latin America, he fails to mention the fact that Spanish predates English in the USA, and that the first settlers in the USA were actually Spanish and not English. The first European Colony was established in present day Florida in 1565 by the Spaniards. Therefore the country was divided linguistically, culturally and ethnically from its early days by a mosaic of people. From white, Anglo-Saxon Waspish perspective, Huntington clearly adds a new dimension to the concept of racism that bears resemblances with negationism.

The distinction between people is much deeper than a distinction between races or skin colors. What set people apart are their cultural differences. Huntington sees Latino immigrants as unsupportive of the American dream and negligent of white-Anglo-Saxon protestant values, which prioritize a deep faith in God and the importance of education and hard work. Furthermore he portrays them as cultural exclusivists, reluctant to be part of mainstream America and opting instead to live in isolated community .Their “unyielding” preference for Spanish, their rejection of protestant values and their lack of work ethic represent persistent attacks on core American culture.

In his discourse there should be only one America, and that is the America whose identity was defined in the 17th and 18th centuries by the overwhelmingly white, British and Protestant settlers. He states that “there is no Americano dream. There is only the American dream created by an Anglo Protestant society. If Latinos want to be part of the American they must stop dreaming in Spanish and start dreaming in English. Such a transformation, Huntington concludes, “would not only revolutionize the United States, but it would also have serious consequences for Hispanics, who will be in the United States but not of it.

The United States ignores this challenge at its peril.” For Huntington, contemporary immigration from Latin America is “without precedent in U.S. history. The experience and lessons of past immigration have little relevance to understanding its dynamics and consequences.” This unique situation has been brought about by six factors:

(1) Contiguity: Mexico is geographically contiguous to the United States and Latinos (especially Mexicans) feel at home in the United States.

(2) Scale: never before has so large a proportion of immigrants spoken a single non-English language within the United States;

(3) Illegality: there has never been before so many immigrants entering the United States illegally;

(4) Regional concentration: Mexicans and Latinos in general, are strongly concentrated in particular regions of the U.S., a factor greatly impeding assimilation;

(5) Persistence: in contrast to European migration, Mexican/Latino immigration is likely to persist at high levels for the foreseeable future; and

(6) Historical presence: Mexican Americans feel that some areas of this country, in the Southwestern states, which they feel is still part of their country, and there is sense of appropriation or reappropraition of the territory is what Huntington defines as “the reconquista”.

Huntington sees the Latino immigrants as unsupportive of the American dream, and therefore they represent a direct and immediate threat to it. They discredit white-Anglo-Saxon protestant values which highlight the Christian values of in the education and hard work. In his discourse they are presented cultural exclusivists not buying into mainstream America and becoming an isolated communities spread throughout the South West, forming distinct cultural and linguistic enclaves; They cultural identities clash with the identities of the citizen of America,, and that is the America whose identity was defined in the 17th and 18th centuries by the overwhelmingly white, British, and Protestant settlers. More specifically, Huntington thinks that there is no Americano dream; there is only the American dream created by an Anglo Protestant society. Mexican Americans will share in that dream and in that society only if they dream in English.

Huntington’s conceptual approach to American identity

In the second paragraph, Huntington argues that “America was created by 17th- and 18th-century settlers who were overwhelmingly white, British, and Protestant. Their values, institutions, and culture provided the foundation for and shaped the development of the United States in the following centuries. They initially defined America in terms of race, ethnicity, culture, and religion”. Huntington (2004: 1). The Protestants that he refers to are in fact the Puritans who were persecuted in England and fled to America for their religious reasons. Besides, the United States, founded by dissident Protestants seeking religious freedom, is a myth. While Huntington sets himself up as the defender of the Anglo-Protestant values that shaped America, his fear of the Hispanic community underlines a clash of cultures based on religions; Religion in his discourse is an important source of group comparison causing him to identify immigrants as “religious others” and thus a threat .The majorities of the new immigrants are Roman Catholics. They represent “religious others” who can not share this important piece of culture and identity that is a central part of core American culture, which is religion. Secondly, both Roman Catholics and the Protestants have a sense of belonging to a minority, a religious one, and it limits the interactions that these two communities may have. Religion can be a key source of identity for many in the highly religious atmosphere of the United States.

Religion can be an important source for the formation of moral imperatives and social values: hard work, high morals are exclusively protestant ethics in Huntington paradigm and the condition sine qua non personal salvation can be achieved. The religious references to Protestantism are positive: in the meantime his appeals to the same stereotypes that the protestants have about the Catholics, for instance, hyper fertility .He states that “the single most immediate and most serious challenge to America’s traditional identity” comes from immigration from Latin America, especially Mexico, and “the fertility rates of these immigrants compared to black and white American natives” Huntington (2004: 1). To highlight this point, the article twice presents the same picture of a grim looking young Latina mother with an infant in her arms.

Huntington’s parallel between ‘immigrants’ from ‘natives’ implies that the U.S. society of the past is being corrupted by the changing immigrant population of the present, and the high fertility rate among Latinos is a main threat to core American culture. Huntington argues that as high as the fertility rate is, Latinos are more likely to marry each other rather than cross ethnic lines, undermining their ability to assimilate. What he sees as Americans (white Anglo Protestants) are elevated, to a “pure”, sacrosanct status, whereas immigrants are construed as an invading contaminant. Finally, Huntington also makes the argument that Mexicans are more likely to marry each other rather than cross ethnic lines, undermining their ability to assimilate.

Huntington’s use of ‘Anglo’ instead of ‘white’ is another good example of his strategic application of language. He insists that “Anglo-Protestant values [built] the American dream” and the central element of our national identity is “the distinct Anglo-Protestant culture of the founding settlers.” The United States’ ‘core Anglo-Protestant culture’ forms one side of the dichotomy that Huntington is trying to set up between native and immigrant, Anglo and Hispanic. In 1753 Benjamin Franklin voiced his concern that German immigrants were not learning English: “Those [Germans] who come hither are generally the most ignorant Stupid Sort of their own Nation …. They will soon so out number us, that all the advantages we have will not, in My Opinion, be able to preserve our language, and even our government will become precarious”, Milroy (2000: 56).

Theodore Roosevelt articulated the unspoken American linguistic policy hen he stated that, “We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, of American nationality, and not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding house.” And: “We must have but one flag. We must also have but one language. That must be the language of the Declaration of Independence, of Washington’s Farewell address, of Lincoln’s Gettysburg speech and second inaugural, Milroy (2000: 57).”

In 1753 Benjamin Franklin voiced his concern that German immigrants were not learning English: “Those [Germans] who come hither are generally the most ignorant Stupid Sort of their own Nation …. They will soon so out number us, that all the advantages we have will not, in My Opinion, be able to preserve our language, and even our government will become precarious, Milroy (2000: 58).” There is a paradigm shift between Germans and Latinos. The invaders that Roosevelt lambasted are the Latinos in Huntington’s discourse: Spanish actually predates English on the North American continent, yet it is labelled “foreign.” The Latinos suffer from the label of newcomers, but these newcomers have been present in the USA for over four hundred years.

Part C

Beyond Huntington paradigm

There is little doubt Huntington’s discourse on identity has found an echo among contemporary politicians in America. John Mac Cain, for instance, made a public intervention in California and spoke about the “big American identity crisis”. His public speech strangely resembled Huntington’s discourse on identity. Mc Cain reiterates in his public interventions that America’s national identity is being weakened by the spread of multiculturalism, globalization, immigration and a big segment outside world, divided into the axis of good and by evil, which is reminiscent of Huntington’s civilizational theory of clash Islamophobia, Hispanophobia, the fear of globalization, of immigration are themes that are central in the American debate Bush’s rhetoric is also reminiscent of Huntington’s discourse.

More surprisingly Obama asserted that Americans were more vulnerable to terrorist attacks than before the 9/11 attacks because of a war in Iraq “; he revealed recently plans to attack Pakistan and Iran if he was to be elected. What both camps have in common is a stigmatization of foreigners, particularly undocumented immigrants from Latin America and Middle Eastern Muslims. Although there are massive differences in the making of Islamophobia and Hispanophobia (the fear and the hatred toward Muslims and Hispanophobia, the fear and hatred toward Spanish speakers and Latin America), the process of creating phobias in the mind of civil society is the similar. Such ideas are not only the prerogative of extremist fringes, or the prerogatives of conservative academicians like Huntington; they are in fact very much part of the mainstream discourse:

Samuel Huntington, whose latest book Who Are Introduction In his recent book on American culture and identity, Samuel P. Huntington points out the many challenges to maintaining a homogenous Anglo-Protestant American nation Among the contributing factors to the erosion of this identity are the egalitarian ideologies of multiculturalism bilingualism, religious diversity, and continual immigration flows. Huntington asserts that immigration from Latin America is causing the Hispanization of much of America, resulting in a bilingual and bicultural society. Huntington goes so far as to suggest, “The southwest could become America’s Quebec,” creating a “serious potential for conflict,” Huntington (2004, p 230). Huntington aptly asks, Who Are We? In asking this question, Huntington suggests that the United States is losing the battle and that the immigration-related challenges to American national identity have slowly eroded the core culture and creed of America.

Huntington’s view on language identity

The theme that runs throughout various works of Huntington is best characterized as a theory of fear and paranoia. His books typically identify a mounting threat, such as Mexican immigrants, Islamic civilization and so forth and then he points to the need for strong national-unity building measures and mobilization of the people (including militarization) in response to the barbarians that he sees as a threat to his country. The Huntington argues that immigrants, especially those from Mexico, are undermining the “Anglo-Protestant creed,” destroying the shared identity that makes Americans patriots. These immigrants do not assimilate as they refuse to learn English, and therefore they cannot become American citizens, opting instead to maintain a segregated society cantered on un-American values. He writes:” In the late twentieth century, developments occurred that, if continued, could change America into a culturally bifurcated Anglo-Hispanic society with two national languages” (Huntington, 2004, p. 66). This trend was in part the result of the popularity of the doctrines of multiculturalism and diversity among intellectual and political elites, and the government policies on bilingual education and affirmative action that those doctrines promoted Huntington (2004) warns that the migration of Latinos will ultimately cause America to divide along language and culture lines because Latinos refuse to integrate linguistically. “If the second generation does not reject Spanish outright, the third generation is also likely to be bilingual, and fluency in both languages is likely to become institutionalized in the Mexican-American community “(Huntington, S (1996), ‘The Hispanic Challenge’, [Online], Available: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/1084558/posts [April 2004]). It is not only speaking Spanish as a primary language that he condemns but he is against the use of Spanish language within the US borders. The entire language, and its accompanying culture, must be eradicated within the U.S. borders if America is to remain unified.

In Huntington’s paradigm, language and nationalism are intimately intertwined. Language functions as a symbolic identifier in the United States, as an emblem of national pride or a badge of exclusivity. For the many Americans, language runs deeply into cultural and personal identities. Anzald�a’s used an innovative formula to capture the language identity fusion: “Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity-I am my language” (Anzald�a, 1987, p. 59). To integrate Spanish either literally or symbolically as a language of communication would imply losing a significant dimension of personal and cultural identity. English has become over the years a feature of American identity that unifies people. There is a clear distinction between American English from the dialect of the mother country and is used as a symbol of American unity, in spite of the fact that English is not the official language of the United States. The United States, to this day does not have a clear language policy. English has traditionally been the state language in the United States even where it is not specifically required by law.

The dominant approach to linguistic diversity throughout the country’s history has been one of using both formal and informal means to encourage linguistic assimilation to English. Other languages, such as German in the 18th century and Spanish beginning in the 19th century, have been considered dangerous for the country’s cultural and political future. The desire to designate English as the official language of the United States appears whenever the English speaking population is threatened by an increasing number of immigrants. The number of Latinos in the United States has been increasing steadily. According to the latest Census statistics, they constitute about 13.7 percent of the population in the U.S. (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2004).

The steady rise in the Hispanic population has given rise to the expression “the browning of America,” a development that Huntington sees with alarm. Opponents of this “browning” of the United States propose different strategies to stem the flow of immigrants. One of the means to protect the Anglo Saxon values of the United States is to make English the official language of the country and to apply linguistic discrimination to subdue what Huntington among many in the elites see as the “invaders”. One of the central themes he developed in his work is the linguistic heterogeneity in the USA and the necessity to enforce the English only measures to protect the status of English as the dominant language in the USA. That implicitly calls for stronger countermeasures, banning bilingual education and reinforcing the English only policy.

Language and politics

Huntington’s view on language status in America is now very much part of the mainstream discourse. For the majority of Americans the English language runs deeply into cultural and personal identities. To relinquish Spanish either literally or symbolically (which many monolingual citizens of the United States seem to think is appropriate for integration into the country) is to relinquish a significant and powerful dimension of personal and social identity. Like many ideas of the post 09/11 America, the idea to give English legal status in America is not necessarily a rational one, free of prejudice and paranoia. Contrary to appearances, the English Only movement is not about promoting English, it is about restricting the use of other languages. It’s also about labelling immigrants as linguistically problematic; Many issues intersect in the controversy over Official English: immigration above all, the rights of minorities (Spanish-speaking minorities in particular), the pros and cons of bilingual education, tolerance, how best to educate the children of immigrants, and the place of cultural diversity in school curricula and in American society in general.

The prevailing linguistic ideology promoting linguistic homogenization embodies several myths. One reason adduced to the legalization of English is or example that the speakers of other language represent a threat to “American values” and the American “core culture” (Cornelius, 2002: 178). It was probably ineluctable that the Official English (or English Only-the two names are used almost interchangeably) movement would acquire a conservative, almost fascist undertone in the 1990s. Proponents argue that English has always been the ‘social glue,’ the most important ‘common bond,’ which has allowed Americans of diverse backgrounds to understand each other and overcome differences. The other common misconception is that the Hispanics refuse to learn English, unlike the good old European immigrants and are discouraged from doing so by government-sponsored bilingual programs.

Huntington warns that language diversity inevitably leads to language conflict, ethnic hostility, and political separatism � la Qu�bec (playing to paranoia of all stripes). Virtually no evidence has been produced on behalf of any of these propositions, all of which are demonstrably false. Recent researches suggest that the facts are that most immigrants to the United States have lost their native languages by the third generation. Recent demographic data analyzed by Estrada and Veltman (1988) indicate that rates of Anglicization shift to English as main language are steadily increasing among immigrants. Despite those facts, n August 1 of last year the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that would make English the official language of the United States

It is hard to demonstrate the extent of Huntington’s writing in policy making in the USA. However there is no doubt his discourse on identity has found a favorable echo among politicians in America. John Mac Cain made a public intervention in California and spoke about the “big American identity crisis”. His public speech strangely resembles Huntington’s discourse on identity. Mc Cain reiterates in his public interventions that America’s national identity is being weakened by the spread of multiculturalism, globalization, immigration and a big segment outside world, divided into the axis of good and by evil, which is reminiscent of Huntington’s civilizational theory of clash Islamophobia, Hispanophia, the fear of globalization, of immigration are themes that are central in the American debate. . Although there are massive differences in the making of Islamophobia and Hispanophobia (the fear and the hatred toward Muslims-and Hispanophobia- the fear and hatred toward Spanish speakers and Latin America), the process of creating phobias in the mind of civil society is the similar. Such ideas are not only the prerogative of extremist fringes, or the prerogatives of conservative academicians like Huntington; they are in fact very much part of the mainstream:

Samuel Huntington, whose latest book Who Are? points out the many challenges to maintaining a homogenous Anglo-Protestant American nation. Among the contributing factors to the erosion of this identity are the egalitarian ideologies of multiculturalism, bilingualism, religious diversity, and continual immigration flows. Huntington asserts that immigration from Latin America is causing the Hispanization of much of America, resulting in a bilingual and bicultural society. In fact Huntington goes so far as to suggest that “The southwest could become America’s Quebec,” creating a “serious potential for conflict,” Huntington (2004, p 230). In posing this question in the title of his book , Huntington suggests that the United States is losing the battle to” aliens” and that the immigration-related challenges to American national identity have slowly eroded the core culture and creed of America.

The theme that runs throughout various works of Huntington is best characterized as a theory of fear and paranoia. His books typically identify a mounting threat, such as Mexican immigrants, Islamic civilization and so forth and then he points to the need for strong national-unity building measures and mobilization of the people (including militarization) in response to the barbarians that he sees as a threat to his country. Huntington argues that immigrants, especially those from Mexico, are undermining the Anglo-Protestant creed, destroying the shared identity that makes Americans patriots. These immigrants do not assimilate as they refuse to learn English: English language acquisition is, in his discourse, opting instead to maintain a segregated society centered on un-American values. He writes: In the late twentieth century, developments occurred that, if continued, could change America into a culturally bifurcated Anglo-Hispanic society with two national languages.

This trend was in part the result of the popularity of the doctrines of multiculturalism and diversity among intellectual and political elites, and the government policies on bilingual education and affirmative action that those doctrines promoted Huntington (2004) warns that the migration of Latinos will ultimately cause America to divide along language and culture lines because Latinos refuse to integrate linguistically. “If the second generation does not reject Spanish outright, the third generation is also likely to be bilingual, and fluency in both languages is likely to become institutionalized in the Mexican-American community.” It is not only speaking Spanish as a primary language that is troubling to him, but the bilingual’s ability to speak Spanish at all. The entire language, and its accompanying culture, must be eradicated within the U.S. borders if America is to remain unified.

In Huntington’s paradigm, language functions as a symbolic identifier in the United States, as an emblem of national pride or a badge of exclusivity. There is a distinction in his paradigm between American English from the dialect of the mother country. English appears to be the natural language of Americans and it is used as a symbol of unity, in spite of the fact that English is not the official language of the United States. The United States, to this day does not have a clear language policy. English has traditionally been the state language in the United States even where it is not specifically required by law. The dominant approach to linguistic diversity throughout the country’s history has been one of using both formal and informal means to encourage linguistic assimilation to English. Other languages, such as German in the 18th century and Spanish beginning in the 19th century, have been considered dangerous for the country’s cultural and political future. The desire to designate English as the official language of the United States appears whenever the English speaking population is threatened by an increasing number of immigrants.

The number of Latinos in the United States has been increasing steadily. According to the latest Census statistics, they constitute about 13.7 percent of the population in the U.S. (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2004). The steady rise in the Hispanics has given rise to the expression “the browning of America,” a development that many Huntington sees with alarm. He suggests that in order to protect the Anglo Saxon values of the United States, policy makers must give legal status to English, which will subordinate who he sees as the “invaders”. One of the central themes he developed in his work is the linguistic heterogeneity in the USA and the necessity to enforce the English only measures to protect the status of English as the dominant language in the USA.

Huntington’s view on language status in America is now very much part of the mainstream discourse. Like many ideas of the post 09/11 America, the idea to give English legal status in America is not necessarily a rational one, free of prejudice and paranoia. The prevailing linguistic ideology promoting linguistic homogenization embodies several myths. One reason adduced to the legalization of English is or example that the speakers of other language represent a threat to “American values” and the American “core culture” (Cornelius, 2002: 178). Proponents argue that English has always been the ‘social glue,’ the most important ‘common bond,’ which has allowed Americans of diverse backgrounds to understand each other and overcome differences.

The other common misconception is that the Hispanics refuse to learn English, unlike the good old European immigrants and are discouraged from doing so by government-sponsored bilingual programs. Huntington warns that language diversity inevitably leads to language conflict, ethnic hostility, and political separatism � la Qu�bec (playing to paranoia of all stripes). Virtually no evidence has been produced on behalf of any of these propositions, all of which are demonstrably false. Recent researches suggest that the facts are that most immigrants to the United States have lost their native languages by the third generation. The gravitational attraction toward English is universal in the United States.

Huntington’s potential influence on US politics

Huntington scholarly literature has made a decisive impact on anti-immigration issues post 09/11, which marked a come back of anti-immigrant attitudes. Whether because of increasing fear of Islam or increasing anxieties about an upsurge in undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America it is clear that nativism has once again captured the sentiments of a broad swath of the American public. What Huntington’s work allows us to appreciate is that the question of national identity, and especially threats to national identity posed by immigrant groups, has been part of American discourse since, before and after 09/11. Huntington claims has helped to conceptualize and theorize the general attitude of the American elite and public alike concerning the immigration debate. Huntington is for example a strong believer that the immigration issue is a central element of national identity and so do the neo-conservatives in power. The government gave for instance Immigration and Naturalization Service the right to detain immigrants and hold them indefinitely.

In December 16, 2005, the United States House of Representatives passed the bill H.R. 4437 titled “Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005.” This bill makes illegal presence in the United States a felony. The bill also requires the department of Homeland Security to construct a double security fence across several portions of the Mexican border; it encourages local police to enforce immigration laws; and makes it a felony “to assist, encourage, direct, or induce to enter or remain in the country with knowing or reckless disregard” of the fact that immigrants reside in the country illegally; and imposes a maximum fine of forty thousand dollars per undocumented worker that an employer hires or that an agency helps to find work, Card (2006 : 56).

One of the most extreme forms to preserve the Anglo-Protestant culture as the central element American national identity and to make it normatively good was the adoption of the Patriot act. The questions about cultural otherness raised by Huntington and difference playing upon the minds of its citizens, and Bush clearly identified the axis of good (mainly the western countries) and the axis of evil that comprised Latin America, the . After the event of 09/11, Huntington’s theories on identity became part of the mainstream discourse. The US government increasingly sought to defend the identity of the citizens of the country and the identity issue bifurcated to a national security one.

Widely cited by government officials as a significant step forward in securing the nation against terrorism, the USA Patriot Act of 2001 has become one of the most controversial legislative acts in the history of the United States. In essence, the USA PATRIOT Act is a regressive social and legal step, which flatters the Anglicized ego of the American elite while targeting ethnic and cultural minorities. In summary, the USA PATRIOT Act called for enhanced protection of borders between the United States and its neighbours in Canada and Mexico, enhanced federal powers in the surveillance of potential terrorists, expansion of police power in effecting warrantless searches, and the negation of basic human rights.

Conclusion

Making sense of Huntington’s complex personal identities questions requires looking beyond the superficial categories that circulate in popular discourse. What is interesting is that people are increasingly concerned with identity issues, and this renewed interest in the topic allows certain academicians and politicians alike to manipulate the minds of civilians, by making subtle linkage between identity and language, identity and security. If we are to accept the notion that identity (cultural or ethnical) are central in human society, then we have to rethink key notions that are part of Western cultures such as multiculturalism, multiethnicity…Cultural separation praised by Huntington can be achieved on a rhetorical level (using conservative or ultra-conservative approach in political or academic discourse ) as well as in more concrete and material ways (building up fences to prevent Latinos from entering the country or by adopting all sorts drastic measures such as the Patriot Act), but there is no concrete measures to counter the effects of globalization and migration flows. Besides, the framing of migration as a threat to security and identity in much of current US immigration and asylum policy-making is very disproportionate to the reality of the threat posed

The rational of Huntington’s discourse is both interesting and challenging on a theoretical level: Whenever cultural homogeneity is insisted upon in a democratic state, it usually leads to nationalism and very often in its extreme forms: Medvdev’s regime in Russia is for instance a result is a non-democratic regulation based on a radical conceptualization of identity. Thus what Huntington’s work so challenging to political analysts is that he genuinely sees a threat emerging internally with the Latinos and externally with the Chinese and the Arabs. What appears to be on the surface a coherent and logical theoretical argument can be effectively used by policymakers interested in rationalizing the radical measures such as the Patriot Act.

Historically the United States has always been hermetic to outside influences: political ideology such as communism has created a red scare, a “communism phobia”; religion such as Islam has developed similar fear (Islamophobia); even immigrants (especially Latin Americans) are now experiencing similar treatment (Hispanophobia). Isolationism and the loss of democratic values in the United States exacerbate this trend of creating phobias, which leads to Nationalism and blended forms of fascism (and xenophobia) among both the elites and civilians. Despite Huntington’s concerns the United States is still united with “one language, one people”: the real concern is that it is increasingly moving away from a democratic model towards secular nationalism. This trend has been most vivid since Georges W Bush became President.

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