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John Boston: No habla George Orwell?

How Beige Was My Valley

Posted: February 5, 2009 11:36 p.m.
Updated: February 6, 2009 4:30 a.m.
"INTERPRETER, n.: One who enables two persons of different languages to understand each other by repeating to each what it would have been to the interpreter's advantage for the other to have said."
- Ambrose Bierce

Years ago, a government mucky-muck pal of mine retired and shared some insight about the nature of institutions. It was borrowed college theory, granted. But he reminded me that the first rule of an organization is survival and the second rule is expansion.

Notice I didn't use the kinder word, "growth."

In the last 30 years or so, I've seen the robust expansion of government for the sake of expanding the government. Eric Arthur Blair wrote chillingly on the topic under his pen name of George Orwell. One of the ugly stepsisters of Big Brother is Political Correctness. She is the one who shames and tut-tuts.

I was disheartened to see that the citizens of Nashville a few weeks ago voted against making the city's official language English and English-only, thank you.

In an editorial before the count, The Nashville Tennessean lobbied against the municipal measure, using the dreaded "D" word: discrimination.

In these climes, one need not discriminate to fry. Joe McCarthy accusation is all that's necessary. Playing the "D" card is a marvelous smoke screen.

The good newspaper on the other side of the continent noted that non-English speaking folk would be excluded and marginalized if the measure passed. Quoth TNT: "How can they (non-English speakers) assimilate if they cannot first get basic services - deeds, permits, driver's licenses, police and fire protection?"

It's sort of asterisk-backwards logic.

The very art of not learning how to speak English is the very thing that is keeping non-English-speaking people from assimilating.

Still. In English, the good folk from the Country Music Capital of the World spoke. In a vote of 41,752 to 32,144, they defeated the proposed law. If passed, Nashville, at about 600,000 population, would have been the largest city in America to enact such a bill. Currently, 30 states have statutes limiting the use of other languages in government business. Many smaller cities have enacted English-only rules.

Opponents of the measure sprinted for the moral high ground, commandeering the word, "compassion."

The strategy on the Left is that if you tag "compassion" first, any other argument is - well - obviously coming from an insensitive, planet-destroying, giant carbon-footprinted, running-dog imperialist dupe and probably a middle-aged white male racist with a 24-inch-high forehead.

And who wants to be called that over morning grits?

I have a friend from the Middle East who speaks four languages fluently. He is just a darling of a man and I was so humbled by a recent conversation. He was struggling with a word and the two of us laughingly snapped our fingers, trying to find it. The silly fellow - he apologized to me for his English, which save for an accent was flawless. He said he felt self-conscious and while he has been here for years, that he didn't understand English and was still learning the culture.

I just shook my head in amazement.

I grabbed my buddy by the shoulders and lightly scolded: "You speak - and think - in four different languages. You braved unspeakable dangers and protected your family across 12,000 miles to get here.

On a good day the best multilingualism I can muster is ‘french fry' or ‘giant monster taco combo, please.' You have a world-view matched by few. I'm the guy who should feel embarrassed."

We both vote in English.

Surveys show that in most Hispanic households, the parents want their kids to be taught - in English.

But the government, with its ever-expanding waist size, tut-tuts. In Orwell-speak, it means: "We, the government, who are growing bigger than the people, know better than the people."

For the Left and proponents of a Bigger Big Brother, non-English speakers - and they don't even need to be citizens or legal aliens - are victims, victims requiring heroic aid. It's not even about helping. It's about creating, maintaining and expanding turf. The more people who can't, or won't, speak English means more public servants, more forms to be printed, more useless administrators to oversee that paper clips are going into the right bilingual bin and that the bilingual bin complies with the latest federal useless guidelines.

The Tower of Babel isn't just an answer in Trivial Pursuit.

It's a wonderful metaphor about bureaucracy.

From the Book of Genesis, it's a tale about how a bunch of folks built a big useless tower dedicated to, well. Themselves. To fix their wagon, God made them all speak different languages so they couldn't finish the project. The word, "babble" - to speak in a confusing, nonsensical matter - comes from Babel or Babylon.

Putting aside any religious connotations, the Tower of Babel depiction is an important metaphor for the division of the country today. We're becoming Balkanized and our governments are just giddy about that because they now get to create more mind-boggling confusion that only they can allegedly unravel.

Except they can't.

But paychecks and departments grow. It's one reason why the state of California is in such a pie-throwing fiscal mess.

My friend and hero, Ruth Newhall, wrote of the absurdity of double-language ballots in her gossip column, "Mimi" back in 1983. Ruth chided the bureaucrats, noting how expensive and useless it was to have ballots in two languages. As proof, she pointed out how the county sent a woman to help Spanish-only speaking voters at the Vista Hills polling place in tony Valencia.

Uno problemo, por favor.

No Spanish-only speaking voters showed up. Not only that, the precinct worker ONLY SPOKE SPANISH, not English.

"Some help," noted Ruth.

The former editor of what was called then The Mighty Signal finally asked: "How many English ballots do you find in Mexico and points south?"

This from a woman who spoke Spanish better than most Hispanics.

Mark my words.

Some day, someone silly will successfully sue a city and claim their rights were violated because a "no parking" sign wasn't displayed in Baby Talk.

John Boston has earned 117 writing awards. His work appears Fridays and Sundays in this paper. The views expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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