Once in awhile, something in the day’s news catches my attention, makes me so mad my teeth ache and … POW … the next “Second Thoughts” is born on the spot. This is one such time.

You’d hardly expect someplace like the little Mormon community of Hyrum, Utah, to rile your consciousness. But such is the site and cause of my anger.

The good folk in Hyrum have their little Fourth of July celebration each year. Normally, it’s a festive affair resulting in good patriotic feelings and lots of fun. And, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s dubious decision removing prayer from most public ceremony’s, the program in Hyrum this year and every year starts off with … a prayer. Not just any prayer this year. This time it was in Spanish. The resulting fracas put the city’s fireworks display to shame.

Local Pastor Maria Montalvo was invited by the city council to open the festivities with a blessing. Though bilingual, fearing her English was not up to the occasion, she asked, in advance, if she could pray in Spanish with instant translation. Just fine, she was told.

She prayed. It was instantly translated. And much of the population of little Hyrum, Utah, came unglued. The newspaper was inundated with letters of outrage. One guy, calling himself a veteran, wrote “the city council should be impeached and sent to Mexico.” The council caved, apologized, and claimed members “would never disrespect veterans.”

And therein lies the source of my angst. If any apology is due anyone it is from the city council to the Rev. Montalvo. She did what she was asked to do the way she was permitted to do it. In advance. Whatever wrongdoing occurred in Hyrum, she was not part of it. In fact, even during the Mormon “high holy time” known as “Pioneer Days” in Utah, you’ll see many Spanish-speaking participants. And their flags. Very inclusive.

I’ll admit. I’m rankled when buying products with bilingual labels and instructions. I get angry when told “press 1 for English” when using the phone. And I believe, as a matter of general safety, all states should offer driver’s license exams in English because that’s the language used on signs and printed instructions for abiding by our driving and other laws.

In a moment of extreme honesty, I sincerely believe people living in this country should be able to basically converse – if for nothing more than necessity and courtesy – in English. While no one should be required to give up a second language, native or not, respect for our laws and for the opportunities others come here seeking, should demand at least an understanding of the common language. Were I to go to any other country where English is not the primary language, I would expect the same.

So saying, the fact is Spanish-speaking minorities within our borders are the fastest growing population segment. Leaving federal immigration failures for another discussion, there is nothing wrong with the legal immigrant’s participation in that growth. But, as we who are native move our chairs over to accommodate those who want to sit beside us to share our blessings, I believe we should be met with an corresponding accommodation: learn at least the rudiments of the host language.

To inject racism into any discussion of this sort … as was done in Hyrum and most other times this subject comes up … is wrong. Racial diversity is a hallmark of this country and we used to consider it a strength. Christian, Jew, Hindu, Croat, agnostic and all sorts of others from all manner of countries formed this mongrel republic and brought with them every conceivable language and custom.

To me, one major trait that has kept all that diversity going the same direction since those early times has been a common language. No one should be asked to … and no one should be expected to … give up native language, custom, dress or practices. That would be racist.

But if a nation is to be greater than the sum of its parts, there must be commonality of more than mere residence. Especially now, when we are so rooted in opposition to so many areas, we need even more strength in those things that connect us one to the other. Some of the basics that have traditionally bound us are being frayed by opportunists, outliers, obstructionists and outright liars. Our common language can and should be our common strength.

My apologies to Rev. Montalvo. As for the Hyrum city council, shame on you!

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