Friday, January 23, 2009

Se Habla Espanol?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Contrary to popular opinion, English is not the official world language. And, try as some folks might to make it so, English is not the ubiquitous language of the United States. America, long regarded as the world's melting pot, has a rich variety of languages, including several, such as Spanish and the languages of the native Americans, that pre-date the arrival of the English.

Our nation is, however, very ego-centric, and emanates an almost religious belief that anyone of value is necessarily Caucasian and speaks English as their primary language. Those who speak in another tongue, or multiple tongues, are automatically suspect.

As anyone who has ever channel-surfed past a Lou Dobbs broadcast and caught even a few seconds of his bombast knows, Hispanic immigration into the United States has increased markedly over the past two decades. While some see this as ultimately strengthening our society and culture, Dobbs and his ilk use this phenomenon to stir up fear and reactionary measures.

One way that these knuckleheads have been trying to keep the invading brown hordes in their place is through "English Only" ordinances, particularly with regard to government services. They argue that allowing people to deal with their government in a language that they can actually understand creates unnecessary expenses for the government, and that those new arrivals would be better served in the long run by learning English.

In fairness, there is something to be said for learning a second language - even English. But learning a language, especially for adults, is not an easy or quick task. It is often the children of immigrants who first learn to use English in a competent and comfortable manner. Does that mean the parents don't want to learn English? No, it means that they are struggling to support their families, often with multiple jobs, and doing those innumerable other tasks that come with any relocation.

But back to the knuckleheads: The Metropolitan Council, a local group out of Nashville, TN, had a measure put on the city ballot this week that would have required that all governmental business in the city be conducted in English only. Tennessee is not the most progressive of states (think Fred Thompson, Bill Frist, and Bob Corker), but somehow commonsense prevailed with the good citizens of Nashville - and the jingoistic measure was solidly defeated. Good work, Music City!

Several years ago I had a long talk with a school board member of a large rural school district in extreme southwest Missouri. That district had elementary schools that were fifty-percent Hispanic. I suggested, quite innocently, that it would be a wonderful opportunity to begin teaching Spanish in the very early grades - where it could be taught and learned much more easily and effectively than attempting to accomplish the same objective in high school. The board member told me succinctly that the board and the community did not want their kids learning no Mexican!

So the kids in this nameless school district will grow up being safely protected from the horrors of being able to speak more than one language. In time many will end up working on the line at their local chicken processing plant - if, indeed, they work at all. And when they are busy plucking those birds, they will quickly discover that their union reps, government inspectors, line supervisors, foremen, managers, and other assorted honchos are the Mexicans who were their classmates years before. Those children of immigrants will have the "good" jobs for one basic reason - they will be fluent in English and Spanish and can resolve issues as they arise. The young bi-linguals will also have many of the teaching and government jobs, and will be the ones most likely to succeed in every endeavor.

But for the time being the good people of southwest Missouri can rest easy, because their kids ain't learning no Mexican!


xobekim said...

We are in an era of global competition. If our children are going to be able to compete they must be able to communicate.

I recall when the knuckleheads threatened an elderly woman who came to America with her husband from Italy.

Alone in their small grocery store in Kansas City she’d occasionally let the Italian lingo slip out. The knuckleheads said no more or violence and arson would visit them.

Back then we called the knuckleheads the Ku Klux Klan.
Hate mongering is hate mongering and learning is good. You are on point.

Pa Rock's Ramble said...

The Klan has a very limited formal presence in the Ozarks, probably due to a lack of clean sheets, but the bigotry is still pervasive. Education is the best medicine to combat hatred, but those folks stubbornly refuse to take the cure.