Tuesday, September 16, 2008

IPOPA's Random Political Thoughts That Might Surprise You - Part II

Monday Night Football broadcaster Tony Kornheiser has been called out for being insensitive. After ESPN showed a replay of a game clip in Spanish, Kornheiser said something akin to that he took Spanish in high school, and the comment either meant “the guy would not be touched” or “would you get my laundry tomorrow.” Kornheiser apologized, but the idea he would have to apologize for making a flip comment shows how hypersensitive we’ve become as a country. Because of that sensitivity, I fully expect somebody to call me racist for the following comment, but that won’t stop me.

I don’t care about ESPN Desportes, nor do I have any interest in seeing an NFL replay broadcast in Spanish. It is almost as if ESPN is trying to orchestrate a nationwide acceptance of Spanish through cross-linguistic promotion, and frankly, it irritates me.

While I’m ambivalent about a “path to citizenship” (which is basically backdoor amnesty), the one thing I believe without compromise is that if you come here, you learn English. We don’t make concessions or accommodations for you. Every time I see “entrada principal” next to “main entrance” on an IPS school, I cringe. Knowing a second language helps people, but that’s ONLY after you know the dominant language, which is English. (In fairness to illegal immigrants, many American citizens need to learn English. Sarah Palin and George Bush: “nuc-u-lar”?!?)

But seriously, think about how well received you would be in France if you said, “Hey, I’m coming to live in YOUR country, but I’m going to need you to give me English TV stations and all my government forms in English, m’kay?!? Even if the country were willing to do it, boy, it would still take unmitigated gall to even ask. Isn't this like going over to your neighbor's home uninvited and then asking them to change their wallpaper to your tastes?

People think opposition to illegal immigrants is just racism. There is undoubtedly that component for many. But for many, including me, it's all about linguistics and pressing cultural change, not race. I don't object to changing the skin tone of America if it STAYS American, and the main signifier of any culture is its language. The American language is English, folks.

Now, my party, by virtue of a brazen vote grabbing war with Republicans, tries to cozy up to American citizens who are Latino who have family members here illegally. That's just plain wrong, morally and politically. It minimizes that fact the much opposition to illegal immigrantion is based on the American notion that you don't reward people who ignore the rules and punish those who play by them.

What we need to do is allocate more money to VISA processing so people can get here faster, and for every illegal immigrant we deport, we need to bring one over who has been waiting. In other words, we keep the same skin tone of America, but we do it with a different kind of person. We should also increase the numerical quota for all countries while letting everybody know now, if you want to come to America, you better know English. If I were dictator of the universe, I would make an English test be part of the immigration process. If you can communicate in English better than others in your country, you move to the head of the line!

A lot of people might be more comfortable believing that immigrants to this country actually want to be American if they did not expect linguistic accommodations. You see, the notion of “wanting to be American” and adapting to America’s language and customs is decidedly different than wanting to come to America to exploit its favorable wages (and send then out of the U.S.) and its free health care with no intent of “melting” into the melting pot.

People will say, "These concerns are raised every time there is an immigrant wave." That's true. Every new influx at Ellis Island has caused consternation about the changes. But the difference between now and the early 1900s is that almost all of those immigrant wanted not just the American benefits, but also the labors needed to be American. That’s very different now, which is why until the Latino community got some PR people to trouble-shoot, you would see rallies of people seeking to stay in America carrying the Mexican flag.



stAllio! said...

i'm having trouble comprehending this sentence:

But the difference between now and the early 1900s is that almost all of those immigrant wanted not just the American benefits, but also the labors needed to be American.

what is "american labor", and how is it different than, say, mexican labor?

stAllio! said...

okay, i'm tired of waiting for a response, so here goes: this post is racist. really, really racist.

walk into any irish pub in this country (they're everywhere; you can't miss 'em) and look around for irish flags. chances are good that you'll see one. now go to an italian restaurant (or pizza place) and look for italian flags. hell, i got a slice of pie at castleton mall the other day and there was an italian flag on my cup! but i haven't read any ipopa posts bitching about how the italians and irish don't want to be americans. (irish immigrants don't even need to learn a new language! how can they prove proper fealty?)

latin immigrants do learn english by and large. but that's not really what you're asking of them. you're asking them to stop speaking spanish. you seem offended by the very existence of ESPN deportes, offended by the idea that someone who grew up speaking another language might be more comfortable with their native tongue than with your tongue. to extend your france example, by your standard, an american who moved to france would forfeit their right to ever watch friends again (unless they watched it dubbed into french, naturally).

shorter ipopa: i don't hate all latinos—just the ones who, you know, act like latinos.

Wilson46201 said...

Our current 1851 Indiana State Constitution was published in 50,000 copies to inform Hoosiers of the new laws.

However, there were a whole bunch of pig-headed citizens of Germanic-origin who simply wouldn't learn English! They were hard-working and clean (but often drunk)(they brewed great beer). They were notoriously pigheaded and resistant to change too. They kept speaking Deutsch. Damn pig-headed krauts!!!

Knuckling under to political correctness, State government was forced to issue 5000 copies of the Constitution in German. Gott in himmel! If only those thickheaded (but clean and thrifty) people would learn English like real Americans...

Anonymous said...

As a local high school teacher, I know that the students desperately want to learn English. This is something that you do not do overnight. In the meantime, you need to survive and need assistance in your native language while you are doing so. I think you have misread the desire to speak English. When I travel in foreign countries, any time there is a gathering of Americans, the conversation is always in English. I wonder if that offends the native language speakers. I am amazed that when the Spanish speaking students do learn English, they speak better English than the students who were born here and never even been out of Indiana.

John M said...

Yeah, this post sucks. My numbered points, because I'm too tired for transitions:

1. I don't think anything Kornheiser said was offensive in intent or effect.

2. ESPN Deportes isn't a government program. It's a TV channel developed by a profit seeking enterprise that might be enjoyed by a number of people, which might include anyone from Mexican-Americans of various recency as well as the hundreds of millions of Spanish speakers residing in this hemisphere from our southern border to the south pole.

I have a friend who is first-generation American-born of Greek parents. His parents are US izens and speak fluent if heavily accented English (his grandmother spoke none despite living here for several years). Still, they have a big satellite dish that allows them to get lots of Greek TV. Even those who are perfectly functional English speakers might take enjoyment from entertainment in their native tongue. BFD.

3. Studies show that immigrants learn some English, their children are fluent in both languages, and the third generation is fluent in English but not necessarily Spanish. The "same as it ever was" defense may annoy you, but facts are stubborn things. Even so, very few 19th and early 20th century immigrants, other than the Irish, spoke English upon arrival, and as Wilson and others note, there were German and other language enclaves in this country well into the 20th century.

3. Have you ever been to Europe? Practically everyone in the service industry in major cities speaks passable English. CNN International is on every cable system. Lots of concessions are made to English speakers (Americans, mostly) in practically every first world country.

4. What's wrong with accommodation? Yes, I suppose that Spanish-speaking immigrants of today have it easier language-wise than, say, Italian/Polish/German immigrants of 100 years ago. One of the differences is that most immigrants of that era were from a wide range of countries, while most non-English speaking immigrants of today speak one language, Spanish. I don't necessarily think such things are required, but to the extent that a business or a local government or a school district elects to do something of the sort, what's the problem? The "entrada principal" signs that you deride help recent immigrants get their children educated--in English! That's what kills me about your post. Such relatively minor accommodations make it easier for immigrants to be integrated into our institutions and make it more likely that they and their kids will learn English.

5. No, not all Democrats who disagree with your "speak American, dammit" platform are posturing. Some of us actually believe that we've built ourselves a pretty nice country with the dregs of England, Ireland, Italy and the like and don't put much stock in the paranoia about changing our culture. I believe in enforcement of immigration laws, but sorry, I don't consider someone who risks his life for the honor of washing dishes for less than minimum wage is a criminal.

6. Making English proficiency part of the immigration process would favor elites looking for an adventure over the improverished who are willing to do anything to improve their station in life. You seem to have an odd view of immigration. Do you fancy these folks sitting in high rise condos in Cancun, plotting their next moves? If they could afford English lessons, they wouldn't need them.

7. The "sending wages out of the country" canard is bullshit. Do you really think no money flowed back to Italy and Ireland and Poland back in the day? When my great-grandfather finally had the opportunity to visit his native Italy in the 1950s, he bought his sister a cow. He probably didn't know that was anti-American.

8. Yeah, the flag thing is stupid as well. Italians, Greeks, Poles, the Irish, the Scottish--lots of people try to preserve ethnic languages and customs and colors. For my money, it makes this country more interesting than it would be otherwise.

I won't call your post racist, but it's angry and incoherent.

legaldiva said...

I like that we are seeing more diversity in the midwest. Outside of this region there were always people from different cultures that spoke different languages. The reason it's so "in your face" now is because Indiana was devoid of anyone that wasn't black or white--for the most part--until about ten years ago.

My experience is that most immigrants speak some English, but they are more comfortable speaking their own language. This is no different than how we operate when we vacation/live abroad. Stay open minded. A true melting pot isn't homogenous, even with respect to language.

Kelly said...

Legaldiva makes a good point. My mother is Hispanic and grew up in a bilingual family in VERY south Texas. After marrying my father over 30 years ago, she moved here to Indy to live with him and raise her family. 30 years ago there were precious few Hispanic or openly Spanish-speaking people in this city. She often felt out of place and there was on one with whom she could communicate in Spanish. It didn't occur to her then that her children would later lament the lack of exposure to their Spanish-speaking heritage.

My cousins on my mother's side of the family all grew up in Texas and are all bilingual. My sisters and I are not. (Actually, one has become bilingual. Despite my best efforts in school, I can barely be considered conversational in Spanish). I used to give my mother a hard time for not speaking more Spanish to us in our home when we were growing up, until I realized she feels true sorrow about not having passed that piece of our heritage on to us, and that 30 years ago, she didn't feel comfortable being a Spanish-speaker in this city.

The fact that over 30 years later you seem to be advocating that we make even MORE people feel that way is almost beyond my comprehension.

Anonymous said...

We are struggling to teach our own children to speak English.....

Vox Populi said...

How about Puerto Ricans, who are American citizens and therefore "American" yet speak Spanish as a primary and sometimes only language?

Anonymous said...

Christ, Chris...considering your own educational background (you and I attended the same college at the same time), I would have thought that you understood immigration history better than this. Playing the "today's immigrants deliberately don't want to learn English" card is something out of the Know-Nothings from the 1850's. Maybe you posted this just to be a contrarian, or to get a rise out of your readers, but man alive, this couldn't have been any more boneheaded a post if you had consciously TRIED to do so. Any more posts like this, I'm going to ask Wabash to revoke your degree.

Wilson46201 said...

See what happens when you say a kind word about Gary Welsh's scribblings? It addles your pate and you end up sounding like Tancredo-Lite. Sad!

Anonymous said...

I see that Barack Obama's education policy is that everyone should learn a foreign language, but which one should it be?

The British learn French, the Australians study Japanese, and the Americans prefer Spanish.Yet this leaves Mandarin Chinese out of the equation.

Interestingly nine British MP's have nominated Esperanto for the Nobel Peace Prize 2008.

Detail can be seen at http://www.lernu.net