Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Si Se Puede

Well, tomorrow is election day here in Metro Nashville. At stake: whether the Metro government will be considerate or obnoxious to people who don’t speak English.

The typical argument for being obnoxious is that it’ll force people to learn the language. And if everyone speaks the same language, we’ll be more unified and prosperous as a city. Plus, it’ll save the government some money in translation services.

These arguments are stupid.

For one, it won’t encourage anyone to learn English. They’ll just have a harder time dealing with the city government--schools, libraries, permits, etc. They’ll learn to avoid them and they’ll make due without.

Which means they’ll have less privileges, less opportunities, less prosperity. They’ll stay poorer, longer. They’ll also be more isolated. So that unified and prosperous city thing is out the window too.

And any money we save in translation services will be overwhelmed by other costs associated with the “English First” amendment, not the least of which will be trying to defend it and losing miserably in court.

(Here’s the thing: Councilman Eric Crafton has a Constitutional right to say anything he wants in any language he wants when he’s on the job in a Metro Council meeting, and no one can take that Constitutional right away from Councilman Crafton -- least of all some pissy, fear-mongering councilman like Eric Crafton.)

Furthermore, those arguments aren’t just stupid; they’re crap.

No one supports the “English First” amendment because they think it’d be good for the immigrants and Spanish speakers. That’s spin and happy talk. The real reason is that the demographics of Nashville (and the U.S.) are changing. You don’t have to be racist to think that sucks.

You do have to be ignorant and shortsighted, but racist – no, not necessary.

Either way, get over it. Demographics are changing, technology is changing, culture is changing. You can’t stop it no matter how much it all scares you.

You can’t write modern American culture into law so that future generations have to live just like you do today. It’s obviously a fool’s errand. And that’s all this “English First” stuff is. It’s a bunch of people wanting the future to conform to the past, and it’s never going to happen -- whether this stupid amendment passes tomorrow or not.

All “English First” is going to do is embarrass us and cost us a lot of money until it’s finally thrown out.

But, having said all that, there’s something bigger and more important at stake here. Our government should serve all its citizens equally. No one is a second-class citizen, no matter what language they do or don’t speak. This is America.

So please, vote NO tomorrow.

Vote NO on Amendment 1.

Vote NO on Amendment 2.

It’s a weird mid-January election so turnout is going to be low. Whoever turns out the most people wins. Don’t let it be fear and ignorance that wins tomorrow.

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