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09.25 Labour wants green energy to power most UK homes by 2030

09.25 US to be hit worse than almost any other country by climate change, report says [“Stupid is as stupid does.” –Forrest Gump]

09.25 Climate gentrification: the rich can afford to move – what about the poor?

09.25 Monsanto's global weedkiller harms honeybees, research finds

09.24 Everything you've been told about plastic is wrong – the answer isn't recycling

09.24 Unlocking secrets of sea level rise in Greenland [15 minute video]

09.24 Air pollution rots our brains. Is that why we don’t do anything about it?

09.24 What are public lands?

09.24 The Netherlands Unveils the World's First Recycled Plastic Bike Lane

09.24 Americans: the next climate migrants 'We're moving to higher ground': America's era of climate mass migration is here [estimates do not include migrants from other nations even more affected]

09.24 Opec predicts massive rise in oil production over next five years [wonderful for fossil fuel investors; terrible for all plants and animals]

09.23 Nasa launches satellite to precisely track how Earth's ice is melting

09.23 Climate study ‘pulls punches’ to keep polluters on board

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09.25 Dozens Arrested as Survivors Flood Capitol Hill to Share Trauma of Sexual Assault, Demand Senate Reject Kavanaugh

09.25 Why I find the Kavanaugh/Ford case so unsettling

09.25 The Republican party is about to face the wrath of women

09.25 Trump has given women yet another reason not to report rape

09.24 Sexual assault is fun if we can all 'lighten up' about it

09.24 Brett Kavanaugh faces second allegation of sexual misconduct09.23 MARYLAND GOVERNOR REBUFFS CALL FOR CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION INTO BRETT KAVANAUGH ATTEMPTED RAPE ALLEGATIONS [Republicans above the law...]

09.23 Trump Is Strangling the U.S. Refugee Program to Death

09.23 Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 11/9" Aims Not at Trump But at Those Who Created the Conditions That Led to His Rise

09.23 The Trump Administration's Latest Tax Scam for the Rich [video]

09.23 One Tiny Tax Reform, Billions for America

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09.22 Making Tariffs Corrupt Again

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09.20 Trump Should Be More Worried About the Brennan Dossier

09.19 'Killing a generation': one million more children at risk from famine in Yemen [Does America's government have empathy? Does it understand the concept of morality? The Saudi Air Force would be ineffective without U.S. military assistance...]

09.19 ‘Tied to trees and raped’: UN report details Rohingya horrors

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09.23 The Spider’s Web: Britain’s Second Empire [1:18:01 documentary video; the Book]

09.23 Why We Have To Break Up Amazon

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09.25 US Isolated: Europe’s Big 3, plus China & Russia Outmaneuver Trump to keep Iran Deal at UN

09.25 Spain to Recognize Palestinian State, work for European Union Acceptance

09.25 The male cultural elite is staggeringly blind to #MeToo. Now it's paying for it

09.25 'A smell of death:' Mexico's truck of corpses highlights drug war crisis

09.24 'Stop this disaster': Brazilian women mobilise against 'misogynist' far-right Bolsonaro

09.23 For This Year’s International Day of Peace, Korea Takes the Lead

09.22 Which nation is 'most generous' to refugees? Certainly not the US

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  The Price of Scapegoating
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The Price of Scapegoating

by John Hickman
Our national identity is no more about membership in a single language community than it is about membership in a single religious community or single racial community.
Every ambitious demagogue knows that the trick to winning popular support is to give an audience permission to feel righteous in their hatred. Give them someone to blame for their problems. Georgia Sixth District Republican Tom Price is willing direct popular anger at Spanish-speaking migrants. To that end he has introduced H.R. 1588, the “Common Sense English Act,” which would amend Section 703 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to permit employers to require employees to speak English at work.

Why give employers the power to make enforce English-language -nly workplaces? Although there is a reference in the language of the bill to the possibility of “misunderstandings” that “might create dangerous circumstances,” the primary justification offered for the proposed law is that “English has been the common thread to unify the American people.” That linguistic uniformity is the primary goal is evident in the ready to print news article from Price’s office published in the March 19, 2009 Dalton Daily Citizen, which asserts that a common language is necessary to “encourage the promotion of our national identity.” What Price and his Republican cosponsors are promoting is not efficient workplace communication, something that might just as conceivably require giving employers the right to enforce Spanish language only workplaces in some cases, but instead a linguistic nationalism. They want to redefine what it means to be an American.

For a sitting member of Congress to promote a flimsy nationalist alternative to American patriotism is nothing less than tragic, and more than a little dangerous.

Our national identity is no more about membership in a single language community than it is about membership in a single religious community or single racial community. Being an American is no more about speaking only English than it is about being Christian or white. Being an American is about believing in individual liberty, the rule of law and constitutional government. For a sitting member of Congress to promote a flimsy nationalist alternative to American patriotism is nothing less than tragic, and more than a little dangerous. History teaches where nationalism leads. Hundreds of millions suffered and tens of millions died in the two world wars caused by rival nationalisms in the Twentieth Century. If Republicans like Price know no history, surely they remember the tens of thousands of lives lost in the Balkans in the 1990s because of rival nationalisms.

Why attempt to substitute a linguistic nationalism for American patriotism? Part of the answer is that patriotism is too inclusive for effective scapegoating. Notwithstanding our many struggles to achieve social equality, immigrants from every corner of the planet have succeeded in becoming Americans—both in their own eyes and the eyes of other Americans—because they contributed to American society and embraced American ideals. Nationalism, by contrast, is by definition exclusive, and is thus a better ideological vehicle for scapegoating a vulnerable minority group.

Another part of the answer is that there is a great deal of economic anxiety back in Price’s still relatively affluent, overwhelmingly white, suburban Atlanta district. Georgia ranks eighth among the states in the rate of home foreclosures and suburban Atlanta has the highest foreclosure rates in the state. Georgia’s unemployment rate is now higher than the national average. So, for many in the Sixth District, there is palpable fear that they might lose what they have worked to accumulate.

Price could have done the courageous thing by focusing their anger at the economic elites who caused the current economic crisis. But he is a conservative Republican, and thus responsible for having endorsed the sort of “business regulation is always bad” economic policies of the Bush administration that produced the crisis. So instead, he chose the pusillanimous path of directing anger at Spanish-speaking migrants. They make such inviting targets for bigotry. The economic crisis is bringing more of the native born into competition with them for low-wage employment. Some are individually vulnerable to reprisal because they lack legal residence. And, as a new immigrant community in states like Georgia, they are far from mobilizing effectively as a voting bloc.

What makes cheap posturing like the introduction of the “Common Sense English Act” a threat to us all is that it encourages beliefs among the fearful and the unwary that are at odds with an inclusive, patriotic conception of American identity. We are capable of being a better people than that.

John Hickman is associate professor of comparative politics at Berry College in Rome, Georgia. His published work on electoral politics, media, and international affairs has appeared in Asian Perspective, American Politics Research, Comparative State Politics, Contemporary South Asia, Contemporary Strategy, Current Politics and Economics of Asia, East European Quarterly, Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans, Jouvert, Legislative Studies Quarterly, Political Science, Review of Religious Research, Women & Politics, and Yamanashigakuin Law Review. He may be reached at

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This story was published on March 26, 2009.


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