There is a distinct though often overlooked connection between language and politics. In our world of post-colonialism and globalization, the inherent bias of language and the rift it creates among us all becomes more and more clear.
In Homebody/Kabulthe character Khwaja talks about learning Esperanto. When I read this I was skeptical that this was a real thing and not just something that Kushner made up, but it’s not, www.esperanto-usa.org
He says “It was created by a Polish Jew, Zamenhof,” (Kushner, 58). By designating him as a “Polish Jew” he is lending cultural and social implications to him, and he loses all neutrality. Esperanto is supposed to be a “mother tongue which draws from us our common humanity” (58). There are two main problems with this language. The first is that almost no one knows what it is or how to speak it. The second which is highlighted in the description of the creator of the language is the ethnic, racial, and (most importantly) cultural groups that we place each other in.
There are some dangerous implications for not being able to communicate. There are two general examples of the inability to communicate in Act 1. The first is the Homebody’s inability to communicated with her daughter, her husband, or her audience. Early on in her monologue she apologizes to her audience. “My parents don’t speak like this; no one I know does; no one does” (13). Alienating her audience is not her worst problem, it simply sets up the tone for the discussion of language. We need to be apologized to for not understanding her, not the other way around, because we are a majority. Language therefore turns people into others. It is more obvious when their is the cultural and geographical element involved, but the disassociation of language can exist anywhere to create others among those we could consider being a part of the collective “we.”
The other example of the dangers of language barriers is a more violent one. When Priscilla almost gets beaten in the street by the Munkrat, the confusion and terror is highlighted by the fact that it is impossible for them to communicate with each other. The sense of otherness between them is born out of their collective ignorance of each other, their ignorance born out of the inability to communicate ideas. This is the politics of language. This is how language turns us into the feared and hated other.
Kushner, Tony. Homebody/Kabul. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2007. Print.