¿Por qué no te callas?

José Millán Astray was the founder of the Spanish Foreign Legion and a supporter of Francisco Franco. In a famous confrontation at the University of Salamanca early in the Spanish Civil War, he is said to have responded to a statement of Unamuno with the imprecation (variously reported): “¡Abajo la inteligencia!” (down with the intelligentsia).

In his brilliant contribution to National Review’s fifteenth anniversary issue in 1970, Jeffrey Hart began his essay with the quotation. He ascribed Astray’s sentiment to opposition to the antagonistic stance of modern intellectuals to their culture and their country. Literature recalling society to its own norms — “this was the dominant conception of the artist and the intellectual until nearly yesterday: until, that is, the early nineteenth century,” Professor Hart explained.

I thought of Professor Hart’s quotation of Astray yesterday with respect to Virginia Senator Tim Kaine. In a sign of the times, Senator Kaine gave a speech supporting the Gang of Eight immigration bill on the floor of the Senate in Spanish. The Washington Post reports on Kaine’s speech in a predictably friendly article.

Why was Kaine speaking on the floor of the Senate in Spanish? According to the Post, Kaine sought “to explain aspects of the bill to the roughly 40 million Spanish speakers living in the United States.” I’m quite sure that the native Spanish speakers among the 40 million rank among the last people in the United States who need an explanation, and I doubt that they took statements such as this at face value: “Nuestro sistema no satisface las demandas de negocios que desean atraer y retener inmigrantes sumamente calificados” (“Our immigration system does not meet the demands of businesses that wish to attract and retain highly qualified immigrants”).

In the words of King Juan Carlos to Hugo Chavez at the 2007 Ibero-American summit in Santiago: “¿Por qué no te callas?” (why don’t you just shut up?).


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