Sprechen ze American, Part Deux

Here’s the for. What follows is the against, that is, against this measure by the Nashville city government:

“English is the official language of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County,Tennessee. Official actions which bind or commit the government shall be taken only in the English language, and all official government communications and publications shall be in English. No person shall have a right to government services in any other language. All meetings of the Metro Council, Boards and Commissions of the Metropolitan Government shall be conducted in English. The Metro Council may make specific exceptions to protect public health and safety. Nothing in this measure shall be interpreted to conflict with federal or state law.”

It should, perhaps, be noted that English is already the official language of Tennessee. Just sayin’.

So the basic argument against English-only measures relates to hospitality and respect for the foreign-born. An English-only proposition would send a message to the world that we’re not really interested in making people feel at home in our country. That we don’t respect difference or sensitivity to other cultures. It tells people that we’re concerned with people assimilating, and not interested in broadening our horizons. In terms of many different faiths (Christian, Muslim, Jewish) who have injunctions to treat the foreigner in a respectful way, it doesn’t exactly send a message of welcome.

English Only also tells the world that we’re not interested in their business. Tourism and enterprise will just have to talk American, y’all. Recruiting foreign investors? Only in Americanese, thank you very much.

Another side is financial. While you might argue that it would actually save taxpayer dollars by not requiring multiple tedious foreign-language versions of government documents, there would still be a considerable expense dealing with the many court battles that would inevitably ensue. Court battles in English, mind you.

Are we really wanting to send such a prejudiced, racist message to the rest of the world? How can we say “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”? Give us them, just make sure they don’t breathe too free…

The special election is on the 22nd.

Thoughts?

(NB: I’m still on the fence about this one. What about you?)

 

 

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6 Responses to Sprechen ze American, Part Deux

  1. KathyB! says:

    Everything is so tricky. I long for the days of my youth when things were either right or wrong.

    I can argue both sides of this debate. I lean towards being in favor of this, though. It only pertains to government business for starters. So the argument that we appear unwelcoming to tourists and business people is thin. Any tourism centered business that hopes to survive in the growing climate of globalism is going to be multi-lingual on some level. Same goes for global businesses.

    If we’re going to have a national language I think it best if everyone makes an effort to speak it. I’d be supportive of offering immigrants English classes. It’s hard to welcome a fellow human into the fabric of my community if I can’t communicate with them.

    I’d rather see a greater emphasis on foreign languages and cultures in our schools in the hopes that maybe we can greet some of our new citizens in their language, and meet them half way.

    Everything seems like a spider web to me these days. The harder I try to untangle myself and find the truth, the more tangled I become.

    Thanks for the thought provoking posts.

  2. syzygus says:

    I came across your blog after seeing your comments and profile on Beggars All. Hope you don’t mind if I jump in.

    I’m curious why we should actually want to welcome all those tired, poor, huddled masses to settle among us without insisting they assimilate. We don’t want to welcome them to the point where the (allegedly) “proposition nation” ceases to exist. Besides, those lines are from a poem on a statue (written by a socialist materialist, I might add), not from any official government manual. Neither are we required by Scripture or ecclesiastical authority to encourage immigration, especially that which would not have otherwise happened. I have felt quite welcomed in the foreign countries I have visited, even where they didn’t speak English. Besides, if I had gone somewhere with the intent of becoming a citizen, I would have incurred the responsibility of adopting their customs.

    Why should we not rather send missionaries, and, privately, charitable relief and educational efforts so that their own homes are raised to a decent stature, if that is your real concern?

    Your presupposition that insisting foreigners use our language is “prejudiced,” or “racist” is false. The natural belief (universal to every cultural group or linguistic subset) that one’s own culture is better than at least some if not most or all others is not inherently bad, and we should stop acting as if it was. In fact, it is a sort of cultural suicidal tendency to adopt that multiculturalist rhetoric.

    My two cents.

  3. evenshine says:

    KathyB- I know, it’s a twisted web and all that. I don’t think the complexity should keep us from the discussion, though, so thanks for commenting.

    syzygus- welcome! Let me first ask if you saw the “for” post I did- you’ll notice this is the “against”. I argue *both* positions.

    To answer your specific points, from the viewpoint expressed in the above post:

    “I’m curious why we should actually want to welcome all those tired, poor, huddled masses to settle among us without insisting they assimilate..etc.”

    The prevailing answer to this would be that America has always been a nation of immigrants, and, as such, a certain level of respect for their chosen identity (language, place of birth) is a sign of welcome.

    “Neither are we required by Scripture or ecclesiastical authority to encourage immigration, especially that which would not have otherwise happened.”

    Sure, but any of the Biblical passages on making the foreigner feel welcome would surely be applicable here, don’t you think?

    “I have felt quite welcomed in the foreign countries I have visited, even where they didn’t speak English. Besides, if I had gone somewhere with the intent of becoming a citizen, I would have incurred the responsibility of adopting their customs.”

    Debatable. You would certainly retain some vestiges of your home culture, be it eating peanut butter or whatever. Adopting custom is only as important as is one’s desire to assimilate.

    “Why should we not rather send missionaries, and, privately, charitable relief and educational efforts so that their own homes are raised to a decent stature, if that is your real concern?”

    Not sure what you mean by this- raising homes to a decent stature?

    “Your presupposition that insisting foreigners use our language is “prejudiced,” or “racist” is false. The natural belief (universal to every cultural group or linguistic subset) that one’s own culture is better than at least some if not most or all others is not inherently bad, and we should stop acting as if it was. In fact, it is a sort of cultural suicidal tendency to adopt that multiculturalist rhetoric.”

    Here I’m going to agree with you inasmuch as I don’t think it’s prejudiced to ask people to use the language of the country of their residence.
    I will, however, respectfully disagree that it’s not inherently bad to think of our culture as superior. Biblically I don’t see this supported- we’re enjoined to practice the exact opposite.

    Thanks for your comments. Interesting discussion!

  4. syzygus says:

    Thanks for having me. Yes, I’ve seen the “for” post. If you don’t object, I’d like to add your blog to my sidebar. I’ll put my URL in this time so you can look it over and make sure you don’t mind having the association.

    As to your courteous reply, I have some thoughts.

    “The prevailing answer to this would be that America has always been a nation of immigrants, and, as such, a certain level of respect for their chosen identity (language, place of birth) is a sign of welcome.”

    America has historically had periods of immigration, but these were conducted legally, and they were done with encouraged and enforced assimilation. Also, these were times when the poverty of the masses of immigrants was not nearly as inimic to said assimilation, nor did it separate them from their hosts nearly as much as is the case with the abjection and illegality we currently see on so unprecedented a scale.

    As an amateur linguist who has studied German, Korean, Russian, Irish, and now Latin in various settings ranging from academic to professional to hobbying, I have tremendous “respect” for people’s identity, chosen or inherited, including their languages, but this in no way means I think the government should “welcome” those characteristics. Neither should it discourage them, I hasten to add: the country has functioned in a fine manner without explicit codification. It simply is not “the government’s” role to do that.

    “Sure, but any of the Biblical passages on making the foreigner feel welcome would surely be applicable here, don’t you think?”

    Welcoming and extending hospitality to the sojourner or the potential future citizen are duties, yes; encouraging the sojourning or migration are not. In any event, it was not Israel’s duty to accomodate strangers by producing Hittite, Amelekite, or Cushian scrolls of Scripture.

    “You would certainly retain some vestiges of your home culture, be it eating peanut butter or whatever. Adopting custom is only as important as is one’s desire to assimilate.”

    The first part is true as to (if I may utilize an analogy) adiaphora. Peanut butter does not equal participation in civic functions or responsibilities. Extending the point, even if I continue to think in English and use it at home with my wife, I will exert the effort to use the lingua franca, because, as I said, I would be there with a certain intent: to become a citizen. This gets to the crux: the desire for assimilation. A far greater percentage of the immigrants with whom we are now dealing have little to no such desire. Isn’t it, in the final analysis, too much of a burden upon us to enact these measures for transients? I submit that it is.

    “Not sure what you mean by this- raising homes to a decent stature?”

    I’ll restate it; sorry I was unclear. Why should we not rather send missionaries, and, privately, charitable relief and educational efforts so that their reasons for coming here are rendered moot, if that is your real concern?

    The social doctrinal encyclicals have given me much food for thought in this regard. I commend them to you, presuming a certain level of familiarity with them and bearing in mind your situation (one I share with you; my wife is a Campbellite Protestant). Some discussion about this is starting to take place at my site. I hope it develops, and you’re welcome to participate if you’re inclined.

    As to your penultimate paragraph, let me ask you which of the surrounding cultures did God ask the Israelites to adopt and emulate? Which particular forms of paganism did St. Paul adjure his congregations to consider as better than theirs?

  5. syzygus says:

    Oops, forgot the URL:

    http://syzygus.wordpress.com

    Thanks again.

    Michael Burgess, aka Syzygus

  6. evenshine says:

    I’d be honored to be added to your sidebar, though I doubt that your readers would find my blog cerebral enough. I’m more of your wife’s ilk! :)

    To respond to your points:

    “America has historically had periods of immigration, but these were conducted legally, and they were done with encouraged and enforced assimilation. ”

    Yes. The question remains as to whether forced assimilation is the policy best suited to our current immigration issues. And think of the ramifications- do we really want to have to enforce language ability?

    “Also, these were times when the poverty of the masses of immigrants was not nearly as inimic to said assimilation, nor did it separate them from their hosts nearly as much as is the case with the abjection and illegality we currently see on so unprecedented a scale.”

    Agreed.

    “in no way means I think the government should “welcome” those characteristics. Neither should it discourage them, I hasten to add: the country has functioned in a fine manner without explicit codification. It simply is not “the government’s” role to do that.”

    I don’t think the proposed legislation can be seen as “welcoming” other languages. I think it’s a symptom of the pervasive “tolerance” we’re expected to profess as relativistic materialists.

    “Welcoming and extending hospitality to the sojourner or the potential future citizen are duties, yes; encouraging the sojourning or migration are not. In any event, it was not Israel’s duty to accomodate strangers by producing Hittite, Amelekite, or Cushian scrolls of Scripture.”

    Not sure that the absence of this kind of legislation is “encouraging” illegal immigration- that might be going a bit far, don’t you think? In any case, where do you stand? You seem to argue both sides.

    “Peanut butter does not equal participation in civic functions or responsibilities.”

    Agreed. But that wasn’t my point. Your next sentence IS- the issue of assimilation.

    “Isn’t it, in the final analysis, too much of a burden upon us to enact these measures for transients? I submit that it is.”

    But these measures are not enacted FOR the transients, but AGAINST them. Explicitly, in some cases, to reinforce the “us” and “them”. To define groups.

    “Why should we not rather send missionaries, and, privately, charitable relief and educational efforts so that their reasons for coming here are rendered moot, if that is your real concern?”

    I’m still not sure what you mean by this. I don’t think that the reason for charity work overseas is to keep people from emigrating, if that’s what you mean. I DO, however, think that steps can be taken to make the golden apple a little less shiny, or at least the walls a bit higher. The only time in our history when we had a wholesale exodus was during the Great Depression. Still working on that thought, but I hope to post about it soon.

    “The social doctrinal encyclicals have given me much food for thought in this regard.”

    Any particular one? I’d be happy to read up on what The Bride has to say, especially on this issue. We’d probably agree that social doctrine is an area of commonality.

    “As to your penultimate paragraph, let me ask you which of the surrounding cultures did God ask the Israelites to adopt and emulate? Which particular forms of paganism did St. Paul adjure his congregations to consider as better than theirs?”

    Hmmm…I’m trying to find where I suggested that welcoming has to mean adoption or emulation. And we are to consider ALL others better than ourselves, though of course I was referring to language and culture, rather than theology.

    Thanks for the interesting convo. I’ll jump in soon on your site.

    Cheers.

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