This week, KISS rocker Gene Simmons not only embraced assimilation and the importance of English for immigrants to succeed, he gave a textbook example of how to successfully–and forcefully–do so on hostile turf.
He did so with no apologies–and plenty of compassion.
In an entertaining interview on HuffPost Live, Simmons said he was “given all the advantages of native-born children” after coming to the country when he was eight years of age, which he said was “astonishing” compared to other nations.
Why? Because he learned “goddamn English” and embraced America’s melting pot instead of separatism (salad bowl).
“I’m actually saying the thing that needs to be said because the politically correct climate is bullsh*t,” Simmons said. “You don’t want to upset anybody by saying, ‘Learn to speak goddamn English.’ So, as an immigrant, I’m telling you: Learn to speak goddamn English. It is the key that will unlock the keys to the kingdom. If you make the effort, then all the possibilities of this culture will open up for you and give you all the rewards that I’ve gotten.
He said immigrants must “agree to one culture that we can all communicate with and then go off and speak Swahili and Farsi and whatever you want to talk.”
“In America I’ve learned you have an inferred fiduciary duty to learn how to speak English,” he said. “Get rid of your accent. I did. Be a legal immigrant. I’m a legal immigrant. Come to the country, just buckle your knees a little bit, make the effort to learn the culture, assimilate to the point that you can, you are all proud of who you are and where you come from… great, whatever you are proud of, just tip your hat to America. which is the melting pot that makes it all possible.”
More important than his message against political correctness, which Simmons said only prevents immigrants from succeeding, was how he did not back down from liberal host Ricky Camilleri. He even called him out on his biases and projection–and successfully used Arianna Huffington’s life experiences to hammer home his point to the host, who was left speechless and stumbling for words.
When Camilleri said Simmons was treading down a dangerous path, Simmons did not relent.
“No it’s not. No it’s not. I’m actually saying the thing that needs to be said because the politically-correct climate is bullsh*t,” Simmons countered. “You don’t want to upset anybody by saying, ‘Learn to speak goddamn English.’ So, as an immigrant, I’m telling you: Learn to speak godddamn English. It is the key that will unlock the keys to the kingdom.”
He said he was for the philosophy of, “Dress British, think Yiddish. When in Rome do as the Romans.”
“If you make the effort, then all the possibilities of this culture will open up for you and give you all the rewards that I’ve gotten,” he said. “I wasn’t born here and America’s enabled me to become a team owner… to have reality shows, to be in a rock band and to have licensing and merchandise and a restaurant chain.”
He said if an immigrant comes to the country later in life, then they should work hard, even if in menial labor like his mother, who speaks with a thick accent, did, to make it possible for the next generation to learn the culture and the language and attend the proper schools.
When the host asked Simmons if he was saying that immigrants who do not learn English are lazy, Simmons called him out, saying he had never said such a thing.
“Speak any language you damn well please,” Simmons said. “You must learn English as a prerequisite if you want to have access to wealth or an education.”
Simmons said if he only wanted to learn about Israeli culture and speak Yiddish, he would not be as successful.
“The more you learn to speak English and the more you learn about American history the more of an advantage you will have in this culture. There is no other way,” Simmons said.
When Camilleri asked if immigrants would be offended by Simmons’s bluntness, he pointed out that Arianna Huffington “couldn’t speak a word of this language. She learned the language. She educated herself. And she got 800 million bucks for the Huffington Post. You’ll get the money.”
Camilleri went speechless.
“Too bad if they take offense,” Simmons said. “So as somebody who wasn’t born here, I can damn well say that and feel righteous about it. Because nobody tells immigrants who come to America, ‘do yourself a favor, stop watching predominantly your native culture’s television… [and learn] to speak English.”
Simmons then said the “you betcha I’m comfortable” with saying the less people say “wassap” in a corporate environment the more they will get ahead. He said if he spoke like a Hassidic Jew in a corporate setting, he would not be as as successful.
“I’m on the side of you winning,” he said before noting that “political correctness is not pragmatism” and only sends the country “back to the Tower of Babel” with “complete chaos.”
When Camilleri sheepishly said Simmons was “not wrong” in his assessment, Simmons said “not wrong” means that Camilleri was agreeing with him. When Camilleri said he was not, Simmons told him he needed to “say what you mean and mean what you say” and stop playing semantics.
After Camilleri said Simmons was referencing “black culture and years of racism” by using the “wassap” example, Simmons, in disbelief, said he never said such a thing and called Camilleri out. Simmons then said a white guy who says “yo, how ya doin?” in a corporate environment would also not succeed.
“I don’t recognize it as black culture,” Simmons said, saying “Oprah Winfrey and our president” represent “black culture” to him.
“Black culture to me is aspirational. It’s succeeding. Recognizing what works and being proud of your culture. English that everyone speaks,” he said. “Oprah Winfrey and Obama and the most powerful African-Americans speak a certain way.”
In the end, Simmons was forceful in his defense of the importance of English. His message could not be dismissed because of charges of racism or natives. And he won over a reluctant–and liberal–host about how detrimental it is in America if someone cannot speak the dominant language.
“How about this: If Siri can’t understand you, you’re in trouble,” Simmons said. “You can’t argue with Siri.”