Talk American, dammit!
That's the basic message some Missouri's lawmakers want to send to the state's roughly 360,000 multilingual residents, and specifically to public school students. On Wednesday, the Missouri House gave initial approval to a bill that would mandate the Pledge of Allegiance -- the statement of belief that embodies America's spirit of inclusion and unity -- be only spoken in English.
The bill comes courtesy of freshman Republican Representative Shane Roden of Cedar Hill, who backed the measure with iron-clad logic of, well, xenophobia:
"Next thing you know we're reciting our Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic," Roden told the Associated Press. "The Pledge of Allegiance needs to be recited in the English language because that is the official language of Missouri."
Roden's jab at Arabic may have something to do with last month's conservative backlash to a New York high school class reciting the pledge in Arabic as part of a promotion for National Foreign Language Week. (The same class also recited the pledge in Spanish and French, but no one seemed very mad about that, for some reason.)
Since 2002 all Missouri schools getting public money have been required to recite the pledge weekly, although students cannot be forced to participate.
Critics of the bill, such as Democratic Representative Genise Montecillo, accuse Roden and the bill's supporters of allowing their fear of other cultures [cough Muslims cough] to produce a law that is "ludicrous" and unnecessary.
But it doesn't take an elected lawmaker make that point, apparently. In a Facebook post this morning, Montecillo shared a letter she'd received from high school student in Jefferson County, who said he was inspired by her criticism of Roden's bill.
"The first sentence of the pledge, 'I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,' basically is us saying we love everything about America," the student wrote. "That flag represents freedom, which should mean we are free to talk in whatever language we please."