We have now hit rock bottom. In the annals of utter stupidity and in the dark depths of political desperation, we can now crown a champion in the current smear campaign against Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor. That person’s name is Mark Krikorian.
That’s K-R-I-K-O-R-I-A-N, and pronounced
”Krik-O-Ree-An”, and it may well be a variation on “Kirkorian”, like the old dude who used to own part of Chrysler and married the young trophy wife.
Why all the fuss about how this person’s name is pronounced? Because Mr. Krikorian, the president of the august body known as the Center for Immigration Studies, has railed against the very pronunciation of Ms. Sotomayor’s name. He has chastised all those who deign pronounce it as all the talking heads in the media have been doing, or even as the President did last week in his eloquent speech at the White House when he introduced the 54-year-old Second Circuit judge to the world.
That doesn’t cut it with Mr. Krikorian. He would plainly prefer that Ms. Sotomayor not pronounce her name the way she prefers it be said, in a way that is close to the correct Spanish form of “So-to-may-OR”. As the head of a think tank that studies immigration issues (read: they hate it), Mr. Krikorian feels that by allowing a second-generation immigration from Puerto Rico to dictate how we say her name, that the tentative threads that hold this American nation together are eroding day by day.
We must take a stand against this encroachment. We must, in his view, fight against those who resist the need to assimilate. The way she pronounces her name is just too “unnatural in English” and thus a burden on the white folk in this country who have a culture to defend. In his words:
Part of our success in assimilation has been to leave whole areas of culture up to the individual, so that newcomers have whatever cuisine or religion or so on they want, limiting the demand for conformity to a smaller field than most other places would. But one of the areas where conformity is appropriate is how your new countrymen say your name, since that’s not something the rest of us can just ignore, unlike what church you go to or what you eat for lunch. And there are basically two options — the newcomer adapts to us, or we adapt to him. And multiculturalism means there’s a lot more of the latter going on than there should be.
This demented comment appeared last week in the National Review, noted right-wing screed, for which Mr. Krikorian writes a regular column. And he has justifiably received a litany of attacks, calling him all sorts of things, “fascist” among them. “I don’t think people who descend from swarthy, terror-loving Middle Eastern-Muslamo-Nazi countries have any right to tell us how to pronounce their names.
It’s not just that “Krikorian” is an Armenian name, one that he mentions himself, but that Armenia has had a long-standing beef with the communist despots that once ran the Soviet Union.
So it isn’t a question as to whether the judge’s Spanish pronunciation is ethnically-correct; that isn’t the point, since the word “Krikorian” actually has three syllables, not our Anglicized four. Krikorian feels that it is incumbent on us to submit to the majority class or prevailing culture and language here and that those in the media who choose to –respectfully—follow what the judge or the President said themselves are somehow caving in to these fussy demands.
Who decided how we should say “So-to-may-OR”, anyways?
To this idiocy we say this: we tread a dangerous path if are dictating to immigrants in this country precisely how they should say their own names because it breeds resentment and worse, commits a particularly sinister and paternalistic attitude that stigmatizes people for their differences, instead of celebrating them. Those immigrants who settled in this country in the 18th and 19th century –the Irish, the Italians, for example—are fond of saying that when they came here, it was “sink or swim” –assimilation was simply not a choice. You could opt out of not speaking English but you did so at the risk of not getting an education or a job. People like Mr. Krikorian would probably tell you countless stories about those who sacrificed this personal characteristic to help them achieve their American dream, which those like him still bask in today.It’s those who choose to be different that are the problem, and so too are those amongst us who tow that line and allow them to have this right. They call it being “politically correct” as if it’s an epidemic.
More importantly, since when did it become acceptable to tell someone who is not only a second-generation Puerto Rican-American (called “Stateside Puerto Ricans) but also a minority in this country how to pronounce her name correctly? What, she isn’t a minority? Last I checked, minorities were still defined in this country as people who have been historically denied socio-economic justice and status and who haven’t earned the spoils that assimilationists like Mr. Krikorian extol so much about their own experiences and countless generations of others.
It’s not simply a matter of telling people to “get with the program” when the program is not the “level playing field” that this country’s justice system is built on –yes, equality under the law. It’s a matter of respecting people as human beings, regardless of where they came from and not appreciating that every person, no matter their creed or color of their skin, has something of value to add to this country. By targeting her, Krikorian assails her culture and her people as illegitimate, and by extension, those in the media who continue to say her name properly are sell-outs to those who deign opt-out of this system. This is flat-out wrong because there is no prevailing language that can be legislated in this country. “It’s the culture of freedom” that unites us, some say, as if to suggest that we all enjoy these benefits each and every day.
Not only is all this patently silly, and frankly unrealistic, but we suspect that this is all just a diversion anyways. Struggling to find some kind of united opposition to this Supreme Court, Republican hacks have become desperate, allowing non-elected boobs like Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh to spout the most asinine things about the nomination. Former Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado, a noted anti-immigration nutcase and “honorary chairman” of “Youth for Western Civilization” charged that Sotomayor was a member of the “Latino KKK”, a comment so revolting that its purpose was simply to get his outfit (probably the PR work of his boss, Bay Buchanan, she the brother of another loon, Pat) some media attention.
And by the way, what is wrong her saying something about bringing her experience as a Latina into her decisions? Don’t we all, as even Samuel Alito said in his confirmation hearings, bring those experiences that we live as human beings happens everyday no matter what we do? Shouldn’t a potential judge be evaluated on their judicial record, their rulings and philosophies, instead of how they pronounce their names?
We’re not even going to go into another aspect of Judge Sotomayor’s ethnicity –her food choices—but even this has come up!
Can you imagine that when she said in 2001 that “For me, a very special part of my being Latina is the mucho platos de arroz, gandoles y pernir — rice, beans and pork — that I have eaten at countless family holidays and special events”, that, according to some Republicans, that this too may color her partiality?
Curt Levey, executive director of the innocuously-named Committee for Justice, didn’t quite go there but did offer this: “…it’s almost like she’s proud that her biases and personal experiences will cloud her impartiality.”
It’s those like Mr. Krikorian and his ilk who don’t want to see a palette of different colors and backgrounds to upset what they see as a stable status-quo. The very first Latina to possibly ascend the marble steps of the Supreme Court! The third woman, the first of Latino descent! It’s not just a chance at history but look how long it took for a person to do this, and then, in the most ignoble and degrading way, criticize that person for having the nerve to be herself.