If someone were to ask certain conservative Vermonters “What’s a motto with you?” they might respond by saying, “Go home, you foreigner.” Right now, certain citizens of the state of Vermont are angry about a suggested change to the state’s motto and proving that they do not know what Latin is in the process. A shocking display of xenophobia is going on at the WCAX Facebook page over a story about giving the state a Latin motto as many commentators apparently thinking that Latin is the language of Latinos.
The background to this story starts with a middle school student who was studying Latin in school. She wrote to state Senator Joe Benning about her idea for a new state motto in the ancient language of the Romans. Her new motto was “Stella quarta decima fulgeat,” which translates into English as “May the 14th star shine brightly.” The suggestion refers to Vermont’s place as the 14th state to enter the union and mirrors the many Latin mottos which the United States enjoys, including the national motto “E Pluribus Unum” which appears on the nation’s money. It famously means, “Out of many, one.”
WCAX, a news station based out of the city of Burlington, posted a quick report on the proposed change on their Facebook page, linking to their story. The station was probably not expecting to receive the volume of outraged comments from Vermonters who were angry about the change. They really were not expecting the comments to be outraged about Latinos.
The blog Vermont Political Observer broke the story about the furor. People were mad not because of the change in motto, but because they believed that Latin was the language of Latinos. In an uneducated and xenophobic series of Facebook comments, Vermonters had varying reasons to be outraged, including English as a national language and illegal aliens taking over their area. Overall, none of these angry Facebookers had any idea that Latin was the dead language spoken by the Romans since the time before Christ and from which English actually derives much of its vocabulary.
One commentator even made the egregious error of calling Latin Spanish when they wrote that the motto could be “deport illegals” in Spanish instead. The comments that were reprinted by the Vermont Political Observer follow much the same vein as this one, including one which said, “no cause vt[sic] ain’t no Latino area.” So much for the melting pot of America.
Facebook comments are a generally reliable source of stupidity. No one really expects Facebook comments to be smart or even to contain correct grammar and punctuation. It is the internet, after all. What is astounding in this is the level of ignorance on display by certain people in Vermont and the prejudice that goes along with it. The xenophobia directed at foreigners, particularly Latinos, is heinous. As a nation founded on immigration, it shows a lack of historical awareness of what actually made this nation’s existence possible. The racism against Latinos is equally if not more shocking. Nevertheless, it is a relatively common thing to hear across the United States and not just in Vermont. Sadly, Americans are all too used to hearing these sentiments.
The silly side of this and the reason why these Vermont citizens are laughable is the fact that they do not know what Latin is. Latin: the language of the Romans; an ancient language that is not currently spoken anywhere in the world, but is studied as a classical language and from which English derives many of its vocabulary words. For instance, the term “agriculture” has roots in the Latin word “agricola,” which meant “farmer.” It would probably be best if no one told that to the outraged xenophobes of Vermont. They might have to stop using most of English if they knew.
Opinion by Lydia Bradbury