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When we stop that, when we settle the tongue, when we settle the culture, we become, friends, it seems to me. And there are people in this country, I think, who really want to settle it. At the level of biology, of course, we're listening to each other's music, we're falling in love, we hate each other, we're fighting, we're so engaged by each other that we can we almost can't--are obsessed by each other.And I hope this Commission is not part of that process. ROBERT WIEBE: I take your bumper sticker `Assimilation happens' to be, in a sense, the theme of your talk. People want things, but in your scheme, that want becomes ironic, foolish, ineffectual. I wonder, is that the message you think would best serve this commission, to sense that when a person or groups of people in the United States choose to identify themselves in what would additively become a multicultural society, they're fatuous, they're against the current, that assimilation happens? I mean, the level of biology--I keep thinking--you know, I'm working right now on the Jehovah's Witness, which I find--I'm studying the Jehovah's Witness.
' You know, is the word `sauna'--is that English, you know? WIEBE: Or we would need to then look for the happenings and not paying much attention to what people...
I mean, is this kind of the Academie Francaise, where we sort of decide what is and what isn't? RODRIGUEZ: Well, I asked one of the Commission members this morning whether there is an intent in future meetings to meet gang members, to meet high school teachers, to meet policemen, to meet missionaries from Mormon churches and so forth.
' And I thought to myself, `Well, you know, if I were culture minister in Brazil, the first thing I would do is teach them Brazilian Portuguese, for their survival.' I am not going to legislate gringo evangelical missionaries out of Guatemala. But we know that in the United States, at the end of World War I, New York stole English from London.
Right now Mexico has stolen Spanish from Madrid and we do not note that sufficiently, it seems to me--how the colonized become in some way as powerful as the colonizer, and that in that medium of assimilation the two are changed--or at least one is in jeopardy in a way that perhaps only Prospero knew.
RODRIGUEZ: Well, I think you can--for example, I think that--let me use the issue of illegal immigration.
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I think that part of what I'm urging is that it seems to me that there's a movement in the world right now that we cannot completely control. First of all, I you parachuted into a group that is talking exactly about what you're giving us, or at least you're putting on our agenda. Three times you used the word `meaning': once `the meaning of America'; once your waiter this morning `will change the meaning of Philadelphia'; and `what does California mean? I just find this country to be astonishing in its adolescence, that it just seems not to settle down. By the way, I do have a Mexican granddaughter, so I'm beginning to be in the club. I think one of the things I love so much about this country is precisely its wildness.The intensity with which the pioneers in the 19th century were willing to steal Spanish and make it English--mosquito, mesa--and make those Spanish words our language. WIEBE: Am I in tune with what you're trying to tell us? I'd like to see between what I call the level of physics and the level of biology.That was the very arrogance that allowed for the creation of a world tongue. I mean, the President's about to convene this meeting on race relations, and I think it's going to be very much physics, where Americans talk about what race is and race relations and these huge terms as though there is this thing called black America or this thing that's called white America and so forth.I think we can talk about improving of the way the border is policed.We can talk about certainly making the Border Patrol a much more efficient, a much more professional police force.RICHARD RODRIGUEZ: This is the part of the meeting that's more interesting to me than to you because I can find out how much of this makes any sense to you. ' And I'm wondering whether you think there is such a thing as a search for the meaning of the larger culture, whatever it is. And every time you think you have it, it just sort of goes away and does something else.I'm willing to entertain any observations, objections, questions, insights. In that way, I've always thought that I don't speak English so much as I speak American, that this country, this language that we speak--the British have always said that, of course, that we don't speak English--but that the language that we speak is so much I mean, the world language--the American tongue--the reason it's the world language, because it's always been without fear of the world. It has been willing to change and to steal the languages of the world. I'm very much afraid, as we begin now to speak of the US English movement, mandating that English be spoken here, and I think to myself, well, `What is English?Well, I don't want America to lose that determination, but at the same time, it seems to me that we have to move with a kind of willingness to move with the flow and to deal with the flow at the level at which both we have to respond to it, but we also have to realize that it's not totally within our control to manage, and that some patience with the world is required, it seems to me, and some patience with the future, that it's not going to be ours to settle. But I'm very much humbled by the energies of this society, which I'm very optimistic about, incidentally.I think something is being born in this society; it has not died. LAWRENCE LESSIG: I want to continue with Bob's question, I think.