Ok, let’s pretend that the Latino population explosion is not going to happen (heh, heh, heh, at least try it) and go back to the “English Only” issue. Let’s have everything be in English. Wherever you go, all the signs will be in English, all commerce and legal proceedings will be in English, and there will be no more Spanish messages when you call information.
If this is the situation, then we are going to have to re-name most of our states. We can no longer have states named California, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Montana or New Mexico … and that’s just the Spanish-named states. Most other states have Indian names. Under the new system, we cannot tolerate names like Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, or Santa Monica … and that’s just in California.
So what are we going to do in an English-only United States? Glad you asked. I have the solution, and it’s the “American Way.”
We open the renaming process to corporate sponsorship, just like our pro sports venues. Think of the possibilities. What giant mega-corporation wouldn’t want the naming rights to a state formerly known as Florida? It could be the “Minute Maid State.” Miami could become “Meyers Mojito City.” It would be up for re-naming in three years.
It can be a renewable source of corporate cash by those folks who brought you the last financial disaster. Let the punishment fit the crime. Texas could become Enron. Just Enron. “Yeah y’all. I’m from Enron. The biggest, the baddest, the brokest.” Colorado would be Sherwin-Williams. “Whatever color you’re thinking of, we have it here in Sherwin-Williams, ‘The Rainbow State.’ ” Arizona would, of course, become “The Iced Tea State” and every county named after a different flavor.
Wisconsin can become the great state of Kraft, the cheese-filled center of the country, with its capital city of Prilosec: “It’s even better the second time.”
Those “new” states with old English names don’t have to be left out. They could be the first beneficiaries of economic globalization. New York is the financial capital of the nation, and since our country is deeply in debt to China for lending us enormous amounts of money for many years, it would seem only logical that China would want to work some kind of deal in case they don’t get their cash back. Welcome to “New Shanghai Bank.” No more Albany in upstate New York. It would be “New Beijing Corp.”
The biggest financial windfall, the biggest jackpot, will be the state that gets to be “The Marijuana State.” Marijuana is the biggest cash crop in the world. A few years ago, I was making a movie in Vancouver, Canada and on the day I arrived, the headline of the Vancouver Sun read: “Marijuana, British Columbia’s biggest industry.” Bigger than oil, the logging industry, the computer industry, manufacturing, bigger than anything. And it’s illegal!
When marijuana becomes legal, there will be a gold rush like you’ve never seen before. Everybody will try to capitalize on it, especially me. Who wouldn’t want a pack of Cheech and Chong Menthol 100 Lites?
But who will be the official marijuana state and have “Marijuana is for dreamers” on their license plate? Well, wait a minute. Hold that roach. There is also a very big fly in the ointment. Those of you who have been paying attention have already spotted it. MARIJUANA IS A SPANISH WORD! Hello! We can’t even call it marijuana in our new English-only world. Our savior is our enemy. Que bummer! Oh sorry, Spanish again.
There is also another component to this whole process that nobody is talking about and that is pride. For the most part, people are proud of the place from which they come. Whether it’s from the biggest, most powerful city, or from the dinkiest little Podunk town, there is a certain attachment and connection, and yes, pride about where you came from. It’s where your roots are. If the names of our states, cities, and towns keep changing, there will be no “there” there. We will become a rootless country with no place to root for and no place to be proud of. Just look at what free agency has done to professional sports. I’m not saying that we should go back to pre-free-agency days because that was essentially slavery. I’m just trying to make a case for permanence and stability.
At the end of the day, we are a multicultural country — always have been, and to our credit, always will be. It is something that we should be very proud of and embrace. I’ve always wanted to be able to say that I come from Los Angeles, California and feel quintessentially American – even if I said that in Spanish.
~ Cheech Marin
Originally published in the Huffington Post on August 29, 2012. This is the second part of the two-part article “English Only” written by actor, director, and art advocate Cheech Marin.