Friday, January 27, 2012

Annals of Hypocrisy: Spanglish Edition

Arizona, surely the state sinking most rapidly into crpyto-fascism, has been in the news this week for more than Gov. Brewer's tarmac finger-wag. Namely, the Attack of the Pedants.

Per the Times, Arizona (like other states -- news to us) has a law requiring office-holders to be "proficient" in English, without quite spelling out what constitutes proficiency. One woman, running for a seat on the governing board of a small city called San Luis, has found her place on the ballot challenged by political opponents.

Indeed, it sounds as though Alejandrina Cabrera does speak English poorly -- "hesitant and heavily accented," the story describes it. We can certainly imagine circumstances under which this might be an impediment to effective governing; on the other hand, especially in a border town, so can a poor command of Spanish.

What astonishes us is that the challenge to Cabrera comes from one of her high school classmates, San Luis mayor Juan Carlos Escamilla. And hear is how Mayor Escamilla describes Cabrera's candidacy:

I do feel this opening a box of Pandora ...

Wait a second. "A box of Pandora?" Yup. That's right: Escamilla doesn't speak English all that well himself, and has said so on TV:
I feel I don’t dominate 100 percent, but I can still get by,” said Mr. Escamilla .... “I can write, read and understand it very well.”
Um, dude: glass houses?

Look, we ourselves live in a country whose predominant language we speak less than fluently. "Hesitant and heavily accented" is a goal we hope someday to achieve; we're still closer to "like a mentally deficient toddler." And we have a fellow expat here whose language skills are far superior to our own, as he lets us know whenever the opportunity arises, in a way which has probably limited the number of invitations he finds in his inbox. He's a smart guy, and seems like a very decent one, but ... we prefer to take our grammar advice from natives.

In the same way, we are inclined to think that (a) Mayor Escamilla is a jerk of the first class, and that (b) his grammatically-challenged remarks about Ms. Cabrera reveal the truth about the political right's passion for English. It's not a matter of not racism or nativism, so much as straightforward gerrymandering. They don't really care about how well a candidate speaks the language, so long as the candidate is from their own party. The "English Only" movement is just another way to weed out people who might vote Democrat.

Should have been obvious that these guys never cared about English proficiency. After all, they elected Bush.


Anonymous said...

I believe the mayor is doing the correct thing. My understanding it the law in Arizona (ARS 38-208). Father, I will sugest you get all the facts, or at least try to do some research before commenting. People like you make me SICK!!

God bless,

Father Anonymous said...

Now, Frank, that really hurts, because you know how much I value your respect. But it hurts even more because I am afraid that you have been sucked in by Anti-American Propaganda.

The Arizona Revised Statute Sec. 38-201 (D) -- not 208, Frank, please do your research before commenting! -- reads as follows:

"A person who is unable to speak, write and read the English language is not eligible to hold a state, county, city, town or precinct office in the state, whether elective or appointive, and no certificate of election or commission shall issue to a person so disqualified."

That's all fine. After all (as I said in my follow-up post, please do your research!), our public officials need to be able to understand the documents put before them. Why shouldn't American officials speak the unofficial official language of America?

The problem with 38-201 (D) is that it doesn't go far enough. It doesn't say precisely what it means to "speak, write and read the English language."

The result of this LOOPHOLE is that people who can ALMOST speak English may slip through the cracks and wind up taking well-paid government jobs away from Real Americans. Look at Mayor Escamillo, who comes right out and admits that his English isn't very good either!

Now, if the people of Arizona were SERIOUS about keeping America for the *English-Speaking Americans,* they would enact a subsection, 38-201 (D) (i), that said something like:

"Prior to election, all candidates for public office shall be subjected to an English Proficiency Exam, conducted by a team of English Professors from English Departments at English Universities, to certify that all candidates can, at a minimum,

"(a) read and understand major works of English-language literature, including Browne's "Urn-Burial" and either "Finnegan's Wake" or "Lady Chatterley's Lover," the latter to be read only in the expurgated edition approved by the Texas Board of Middle-School Libraries:

"(b) speak the English language with a sufficiently neutral accent as to qualify the candidate for employment at the BBC as either a newsreader or, at a minimum, an occasional commentator on foreign affairs; special attention shall be paid to the candidate's ability to pronounce the nasal quality in words ending "-ing," to routinely say "ask" rather than the substandard variant "aks," even acknowledging the attestation for the latter in Anglo-Saxon literature; and to say "valet" rather than "val-lay" except when speaking French; and further,

(c) display in written English a thorough understanding of standard spelling, grammar and syntax, with special attention to punctuation, including the use of serial commas and the distinction between the dash and hyphen; a list of 112 pre-designated homonyms; and the use of the conditional and subjunctive moods,"

Now, Frank, I think we can agree that a law like that would be a good law. It would spell out, in plenty of detail, the expectations that REAL Americans have of their legislators. It would, of course, disqualify most present office-holders, but that's a good thing, since they're all a bunch of crooks. Except your congressman and mine, obviously.

So Frank, if you are a REAL American, you will support my efforts to pass this subsection, and keep the Ignorant and the Foreign from abusing the public trust, as well as sign my petition to recall Mayor "Box of Pandora" Escamillo. If not, then I will have to conclude that you are a Communist Liberal who does not love America, in which case you should go live some place else -- such as Massachusetts.