A Mouse Roars

This is a comment that was posted in response to a little article about a tiny town in NY.  The tiny town, Jackson NY, recently passed a law that made English the official language.  Well, when conducting town business anyway.  So of course you have a rash of people now having a fizzy fit in moaning that this is racist.  Huh?  And how does this mirror the Arizona law thing going on now?  How is conducting town business in English racist?  What specific race does not speak English anyway?  Can they not learn?  Is it because of their race that they will never be able to learn?  What?  So, until someone can trot out an entire race that for whatever genetic reason CANNOT learn English at all, ever, this sort of thing cannot be declared racist.  It’s too damned bad that Americans are so ashamed of themselves as to always look for a hair cloth shirt to be shimmying into.

So I pulled this comment out of the bank because I found it to be balanced and make some very good points.


May 13th, 2010
8:48 am

Not too long ago I was in a packed courtroom that was hearing foreclosure cases. A case was called that turned out to involve two people who didn’t speak any English. While they hung their heads and looked like poor, sleepy-eyed cattle, the court came to a standstill as officials scrambled to find a translator. Calls were made, radios were used, and even the lawyers in the court room were asked to help. (The response of the lawyers was to look even more bovine than the two non-English speakers, which was, when you think of it, probably wise.)
Finally, when no translator could be found, the people were made to understand – through pidgin English, a lot of gesturing and loud talking – that they would have to come back after lunch.
I felt sorry for the two people, who obviously were having difficulty on a number of fronts. Then I thought to myself: if I was in court in say, France, I would not go to foreclosure court and assume that a translator would be made available to me. I would not own property in France and assume that my ignorance of French would be accommodated. Similarly, I would not go to the hospital, or to pay a utility bill, go to school, or out to eat and assume that those establishments would provide someone to assist me in transacting my business in anything else but French.
In this instance, the court wasted time and money, and, after lunch, it would expend more time and money.
People use Europe as a model – as in, why can’t America be more like Europe – but the fact of the matter is that European countries are the size of our states. It’s not surprising that many people in Europe speak several languages. If the good folks up in Georgia spoke Georgian, and we Floridians spoke Floridian, there’d be a likelihood that many people in this part of the country would speak both languages. The other thing about Europe is that they listen to American music – it’s ubiquitous. Combine small countries with a serious exposure to English through our music, and you do end up with people fluent in more than their own language. Interestingly, when Europeans immigrated to the States, guess what? By in large, they learned English, and they did it right quick.
With Spanish-speakers, what are we saying? Are we saying they can’t learn English? Or, by thinking we’re being kind, are we hobbling their opportunities and limiting their horizons? I’ve always thought we weren’t doing Spanish-speakers any favors by allowing them to continue to speak Spanish in our country. It is anti-American to allow a two tier citizenry to spring up, further marginalizing Spanish-speakers. I also think it is unreasonable of Spanish-speakers to insist that government provide an extra layer of services strictly for them. Police, courts, schools, bureaucracies large and bureaucracies small: the more often a non-English speaking person arrives at the counter and finds that his/her lack of English skills will be accommodated, the more we as a society are weakened. Let’s put it this way: if there was a war, would we have to have two armies?
Our common language is the glue that binds us. It’s what makes us Americans. If you don’t speak English you can’t call yourself an American. Period. It is what it is. We have a huge country, and it is essential that we are able to communicate with one another.
No matter how well (and on my dime) the people in foreclosure court were eventually accommodated, they were ill-served by not speaking English when they came to court. That’s their fault. But, as a society, it’s our fault, too.

Watch the first part of this, when King is questioning Holder.  Guess you can not get a straight answer out of a crooked guy.


~ by ladysforest on May 13, 2010.

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