Commentary by James Shott
can be “aliens” no longer. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) wants to refer
to them in federal matters as “foreign nationals.” And if they are in
the country illegally, we cannot refer to them as “illegal aliens,” they
now must be transformed into “undocumented foreign nationals.”
mind that the proposed new designation is longer and more cumbersome, a
larger problem is that the old designation is more accurate.
“alien” is defined as: A resident born in or belonging to another
country who has not acquired citizenship by naturalization, a foreigner.
“Illegal” is defined as: By law or statute, contrary to or forbidden by
official rules, regulations, etc.
Ergo, someone from another
country who is not a citizen, who is in the country without having gone
through appropriate legal processes to be here, is an “illegal alien.”
proposed change in our use of language is being insisted upon because
Castro thinks the label “illegal alien” is demeaning and hurtful. This
idea ought to have linguists concerned. If words with specific meaning
can no longer be applied to people or situations that precisely fit that
meaning, then we have a problem that we may not be able to survive.
if you are in this country illegally, you do not deserve any special
consideration in how we describe you. If you are offended by the
designation you have earned for yourself by being in the country
illegally, well then, go back home, and then if you want to return, do
it the right way.
The solution to removing the hurtfulness of the
term “illegal alien” is to be a legal alien or a legal immigrant by
following immigration and/or visitation laws, not by changing a term
used in federal documents since 1790 that accurately describes the
person and the circumstance.
America once was about individual
freedom. You could think what you wanted, pretty much say what you
wanted, and within fairly limited legal bounds do what you wanted, and
you didn’t have to spend an inordinate amount of time worried about
whether what you thought, said or did might offend someone, somewhere.
did not become the country so many of us grew up in and loved by
worrying about offending someone by observing long-standing traditions,
or doing normal, everyday things. It also did not become the great
nation it once was by accommodating people whose life consists primarily
of searching out things that offend them.
One right that is not
guaranteed in the Bill of Rights or by the U.S. Constitution is the
right to not ever be offended. And thank goodness it isn’t. Part of
being an adult is being able to cope with less-than-ideal circumstances,
and each of us has an obligation to the rest of us to “just deal with
Instead, many people believe that when they are offended by something, others must change to suit their preferences.
good example of over-reaction in the name of being non-offensive is
that at least two school districts banned Halloween activities, one of
them because 20 percent of the students could not or would not
Milford, Conn. parents and other residents were
angered when the school district decided to ban the popular Halloween
parades at the city’s elementary schools, due to fear of excluding
children who can’t or won’t participate in the tradition.
An official of the school district told the local newspaper, the Connecticut Post,
“Milford Public Schools do have many children from diverse beliefs,
cultures and religions. The goal is for all children to feel comfortable
and definitely not alienated when they come to school.”
petition opposing the decision read, in part: “These are our American
customs and traditions and we should not have to give them up because
others find them offensive!” And a school parent added, “I’m so tired of
my kids missing out on some of the things we all got to do as children
and are some of the greatest childhood memories I have due to others
saying they find it offensive.”
The school district reversed the
decision, however, some obvious questions arise: What about the vast
majority who could and probably would participate? Is 20 percent the red
line beyond which traditions that some don’t like can no longer exist?
does it stop? How few people who are offended by some activity should
be able to end to it? We Americans love and treasure our traditions, and
some of them have been around since before the birth of the nation.
finally: Is it even possible to assure, as the Milford school district
intends, that all children, or adults, will always feel comfortable and
never feel alienated?
President Barack Obama was likely not
involved in the actions of these school districts, but these actions fit
comfortably within the idea of his pledge “to fundamentally transform
the United States of America.”
Fortunately, there are tens of
millions of Americans who want none of it, and will fiercely resist
efforts to erase treasured traditions from our lives, and further are
disinclined to go crazy trying to avoid offending the terminally
Cross-posted from Observations