Thanks for your comment, Dr. Bacchus. I've been thinking about this all day (while doing many other things, of course) and I noticed something.
Out of these four things that allegedly bind Americans together (shared ideals, appreciation of history, respect for the flag, and ability to speak English), only one can be objectively tested.
Shared ideals - pretty nebulous. As you pointed out, Dr. B., American people have many widely divergent ideals. And how do you determine what people's ideals actually are in practice? They make lists of them - most include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness - but the way they interpret them varies widely. Do a Google search for "American ideals" and you find some strange bedfellows.
Appreciation of history - you can't test for that either. You can test how much people know about their history (hint - not much), but whether or not they appreciate it is another question. (Of course, you could also argue that it's difficult to appreciate something you know next to nothing about.)
Respect for our flag - well, you can watch people to see if they say the pledge or burn flags. But people in every country respect their flag - that's not unique to the United States. And it's still a bit of a subjective way to judge people.
But language! Ah! There you have something you can look at objectively! Now we can tell whether someone is one of us! The only slight problem is that there's a wide continuum of speaking English. Are we to declare someone unAmerican if he or she makes grammatical errors? (No, I won't go further with that one - it's just too easy.) How about someone who's learning English? American enough? How about someone with a thick accent?
We've never had an official language before in the United States, and wave after wave of immigrants have learned English anyway and assimilated to our society. Why, all of a sudden, does it become imperative to have a law making English the official language?
I think people are bound together by kinship and friendship. I think people come to the United States because they value our economic wealth and because they like those "American ideals" insofar as they allow people to be, excuse the jargon, self-determined individuals. I think that making English an official language can only exclude these people, many of whom want to be part of America and what it stands for, and achieves no good end. I assume that one of the results would be to stop providing interpretation services and printing official documents in several languages. This would deny "American ideals" to many who need them most.
So am I wrong?
29 minutes ago