The debate over the Spanish translation of the Star Spangled Banner is one of the dumber arguments I’ve seen in a while. I mean, geez, people, it’s been almost 100 years. Yeah, that’s right, the anthem was translated into Spanish in 1919. Whenever I read about this, the emerging viciousness and the progressive use of the term “illegals” as a group label, I think about a quote from Umberto Eco’s essay, Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt:

  1. To people who feel deprived of a clear social identity, Ur-Fascism says that their only privilege is the most common one, to be born in the same country.

This is the origin of nationalism. Besides, the only ones who can provide an identity to the nation are its enemies. Thus at the root of the Ur-Fascist psychology there is the obsession with a plot, possibly an international one. The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia. But the plot must also come from the inside: Jews are usually the best target because they have the advantage of being at the same time inside and outside. In the United States, a prominent instance of the plot obsession is to be found in Pat Robertson’s The New World Order, but, as we have recently seen, there are many others.

The obvious correction I’d make to Eco’s tenet here is that it clearly doesn’t have to come from the inside – instead, merely over a border.