At the conclusion of his MSNBC Hardball show tonight, host Chris Matthews recognized the problem of America’s growing language segregation. Speaking in context of Scotland’s secession vote today, Matthews said he worries “occasionally where we are headed in the United States as we see the erosion of English as our agreed upon, common language. Nothing is easier than to break apart over language. Nothing is harder than to unite across the barriers of language.”
Well said, Mr. Matthews. If nothing else, the secession vote in Scotland alerts some among us to the dangers of growing divides by race, ethnicity, class, political party and, yes, by language. My first two books tell a story of where this may take us. For the rest of the Hardball commentary:
Just a few months ago, political pundits treated tomorrow’s secession vote in Scotland as no more than a passing nuisance.
After 307 years together, Scotland and England are so intertwined that most firmly believed Scots would overwhelmingly vote to remain invested in the relationship. Several months ago, polls suggested they were right.
Now, less than 24 hours before voting begins, polls suggest it is just as likely that the Scottish people feel more than a bit aggrieved by perceived and real transgressions. Even if a “no” vote succeeds tomorrow, it comes only after the three major U.K. political parties promised in recent days to step up Scottish authority if voters reject the referendum.
Regardless of the vote’s outcome, there are real lessons to be learned for the United States and other nations, particularly those countries of the increasingly segregating sort. Sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education, news stories are routinely recognizing the re-segregation of America’s schools. A move toward more integrated living that started in the 1960s began reversing in the 1990s. We are segregating in where we live by race, ethnicity, economic class and, increasingly, language and political party.
At some point, this re-segregation will lead to divide. I believe the point is approaching far faster than most conceive today. Nationalist efforts frequently cloak themselves under the veil of progressive ideology, the idea that target voters are being treated as a separate and unequal underclass able to obtain their fair share of economic and political power only through independence. Do you see any precursors of this movement in today’s political climate?
Peaceful voting and separation is the best secession outcome, but is no means assured as attested Continue reading
Sharing a common language and some elements of common culture are important to multi-century national survival, particularly in democracies where secession movements can gain political traction. Right now, secession efforts are underway with Barcelona and other Catalan speakers trying to break off from Spain, the Flemish wanting to separate from the French-speaking part of Belgium, Scottish seeking to break from the United Kingdom and many in French-speaking Quebec wanting to separate from the rest of Canada. Still, it’s not always language that drives secession movements. Continue reading