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Sticking up for Boston

This is a very, very painful post for me to write. I have to defend Boston.

Last week, the US Department of Justice filed suit against the city of Boston, alleging violations of voters' rights. The Justice Department says that Boston has deprived people with poor English skills of the right to vote by not having enough translators and multilingual ballots available at polling places. They say that this is in accordance with the Voting Rights Act of 1992.

(I need a stiff drink to get me through the next part.)

I have to side against the Bush Justice Department on this one, and stick up for Mayor "Mumbles" Menino and the City of Boston.

(Man, that was painful. I think I need another belt.)

While not enshrined in law, the language of the United States is ENGLISH. The Constitution was written in English. The Declaration of Independence was written in English. Every single law passed is written in English. If you want to be a part of America, and take part in that most fundamental right of being an American and vote, you NEED to learn the language.

Now, I'm no linguist. I took a couple years of French, and a couple more of Latin. (It was a small high school in northern New Hampshire. We had a hell of a lot more French speakers than Spanish speakers up there.) The sole benefits I have left are 1) the ability to pick up something written in French, after a moment, read it aloud almost perfectly, with proper accent (without having a clue what it means) and 2) knowing a couple of dirty Latin jokes.

But I know and accept my limitations. I would never dream of travelling to another country and insisting that they accomodate me and my English-only ways. On top of everything else, it's just plain rude.

So I'm (painfully) pulling for Beantown here. Hasn't anyone ever heard the cautionary tale of the Tower of Babel?

(Dirty Latin jokes in the extended section for the incorrigibly curious)

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi
Coito Ergo Sum
Vidi, Vici, Veni


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Comments (20)

I'll even go as far as to s... (Below threshold)

I'll even go as far as to say if they had 1 translator or 1 multilingual ballot, it was TOO MANY!

What's odd about this is th... (Below threshold)

What's odd about this is that they would only be needed by native-born people. Unless I'm mistaken, a basic level of English knowledge is needed to become a naturalized citizen. Those folks might PREFER a ballot in another language, but don't really NEED one. But people born here are citizens automatically, and in certain communities might manage to make it to voting age knowing only Spanish or Chinese or another language.

Ballots should be in plain English. Good arguments can be made for making the ballots as simple as possible, but it is not too much to ask for someone to vote in English.

If I became a Mexican citizen, I would vote and conduct business in Spanish. If I became a Greek citizen, I would vote and conduct business in Greek.

Despite my almost absolute ... (Below threshold)

Despite my almost absolute ignorance of any foreign language, I managed to 'get' the last two.

Had to do a "google" on the first one, though...

Results 1 - 10 of about 79,500 for Semper Ubi Sub Ubi.



I agree... 'Commando style' chafes!

Great points Jay, I ... (Below threshold)

Great points Jay, I agree on all counts.


I agree with you, too, Jay ... (Below threshold)

I agree with you, too, Jay Tea. The "voter's rights act" or whatevertheheck is one of those monstrous bugaboos that a liberal mindset miscast against prior legislation -- as in, requirements for citizenship for starters (learn English).

I can understand providing civic, social tolerance for any immigrant and visitor to the country as to them not speaking English either natively or as a secondary language - most people in the U.S. are pretty understanding about functional expressions and communications and getting around and all that, but with citizenship and civic responsibilities and privelegs, such as voting, obtaining licenses and using services that require licensing, things of that nature, it's a requirement of citizenship to be able to conduct oneself in English.

As it is now, these various newer laws that demand the rest of the country make special and elaborate acccommodations to other languages just to function as a country, these other laws are working to deplete what citizenship actually is...as in, it's a responsibility to vote. If you're a citizen (and therefore CAN vote), you're supposed to already have displayed an ability to communicate in English.

I always find it interesting that some people in the grocery store aisles, for instance as occured earlier today for me, start talking very.LOUDLY in Spanish right after they look up and see me on the aisle. I walk past and away, they fall silent again.

My point here is that it IS a cultural imperative by mostly Spanish speaking persons in the country to subject everyone else to Spanish...they really are trying and make a big point of a lot of loud Spanish, loud car radios in Spanish, the minute obviously Caucasian Americans are near. I think what they want is to recreate their homelands here in the U.S. but my question is, then where will they go? Japan? Iceland? Norway? Russia? They're in for a huge surprise, if so.

Seriously, it's very important as a country to speak and share one language and because we've been founded in English -- precedent's there already, it's the official language of our documents and legislation, much less signage nationwide as to streets, etc. -- the least new arrivals can do is respect their new country (supposedly) and get with the program. The Spanish thing is insulting to their promise of citizenship, and yet of course I'll be called 'racist' regardless. At this point, I know I'm not, so, so what.

Its another sign that our p... (Below threshold)

Its another sign that our policy has been one of colonization rather than immigration.

Small point however, a larg... (Below threshold)

Small point however, a large portion of our country, not Massachusetts however, belonged to Spain or Mexico before we acquired it by various means peaceful and not so peaceful. Our attempts to Anglicize these relatively indiginous folks could be seen equivalent to Soviet efforts to Russianize the republics stretching from the Bering to the Baltic and Black seas. Look where that got them.

We won't carry on too much ... (Below threshold)

We won't carry on too much about what Spain did to acquire the Real Estate in question however :-)

Every time I hear this sort... (Below threshold)

Every time I hear this sort of thing, it makes me want to scream. If a person eligible to vote is registered, how'd they do that without being able to read/write English? Shouldn't they be able to understand what it is they're signing? No fair having someone translate!

Second, bigger point: If you can't read/write/speak English well enough to vote, how the HELL do you know anything about the person you're voting for? Relying on television/radio alone isn't going to get you the whole picture (and I've noticed speakers tend to slam the person they don't want the audience to vote for). One needs to READ. A LOT. Oy.

BorgQueen...it's a requirem... (Below threshold)

BorgQueen...it's a requirement for citizenship...to learn the language that is spoken and is written as standard of the country and that language is English, not Vietnamese, not Chinese, not various dialects from the Phillipines, not Russian, not French, not Spanish...not anything but English.

You learn to COMMUNICATE IN THE LANGUAGE OF THE LAND and that's English.

As to what epador wrote, yes, BUT, the U.S. was not founded, imagined nor created by Spain, nor wayward Spaniards, but by people fromthe British Empire/England (as known at that time), with the entire body of imagined and then realized and written into reality concepts born out of the minds of those from that culture.

Had it been a Spanish creation, we'd be speaking Spain, our Constitution would be in Spanish, and all the rest. But Spain and Spaniards did not create the country as it is, but Englishmen and women did. That's just the way it happened, and this is what we've got.

Like I wrote earlier, to BorgQueen again, people are very tolerant of anyone's native languags and whatever and most of us have learned secondary languages to native American English and enjoy other languages. HOWEVER, for everyone to understand everyone else and have a chance at productive lives all headed toward the same civic goals, it is important that everyone have a common language.

Which is why it's an aspect to legal citizenship, to learn English and be able to communicate with your new-found fellow citizens in the U.S. in English, to read the signs, to understand the civic requirements, to be able to be as less taxing as possible on your fellows and all that, which is, again, just good citizenship.

People today with the "it doesn't matter what language you speak/read/write" readily exemplify just why it is important and how little you understand what citizenship is conceptually and practically expected to be. You don't get the importance of a "group" communication, of a shared language. However, since most people who think that way DO think that Spanish is important for the very reasons I've just explained that English is, I remind you that this isn't Spain and Spaniards were not our Founding Fathers, didn't write the Constitution nor the Declaration of Independence, as a majority authority in concept. That's important.

You can always move to Spain, otherwise, or Brazil or Venezuela and relish as much Spanish as you want...it really is a symbol of a country, when you consider the language differences in a vice-versa scenario is my point. Just try insisting after immigrating to Spain/Brazil/similar that everyone must/should speak English and see what the reaction is.

The point is that countries/nations as an organization (not a racial nor geographical thing but a civic, a social, organization) need a common language so that everyone is generally communicating with everyone else, or at least able to.

If you don't think it matters, go to the Phillipines and see what several hundred dialects do to one land mass...people from one village to another can't understand each other, trade is limited and a lot of arguments and inefficiencies are born out of all that unwillingness to share a language with one another. Not to mention their general standard of living... witness a socieity that does not understand the importance of working together through one shared, mutual language and yet insists on an "anything goes" dialect difference from one acre to the next. As in, stoneage troubles.

Had it been a Spanish creat... (Below threshold)

Had it been a Spanish creation, we'd be speaking SpainISH...

You're preaching to the cho... (Below threshold)

You're preaching to the choir, S. I was merely expressing my frustation...sarcastically. ;)

Witness all the added confu... (Below threshold)

Witness all the added confusion by having to prepare basic voter ballots and instructions in a myriad of languages....then it becomes someone misunderstood/was misled because of a problematic translation...then someone else translates something else that someone else has a problem with, then another language and another translation and then and then...

We already have something like fifteen or twenty languages in translation for voting in CA, including several different dialects of Vietnamese and some varieties of Chinese and a few languages from Africa...

Once you start that sort of thing, it becomes so confusing to everyone, not just some but everyone because again, no one understands anyone else, to any certainty. So, there's no end to possible arguments about misperceived concepts and names, all that...

Which is, again, why I cite the Phillipines as good example of one country with dozens (someone I know who was born there swears there are hundreds) of dialects in only one country...same thing on continent of Africa and even in China to a degree...people from one area cannot understand the people from other areas and there's no unifying form of communication.

It just makes for the very real possibility, if not ensures it, of an inefficient, disparate people all comingling with one another and yet not at all understanding what any common purpose is.

It matters what language you speak and all I'm saying is that the precedent is English and that's the way it happened and why English is still the language of the U.S., in all due respect to every other language. It's a little unrealistic to asssume that everything should be/will be/ought to be translated to Spanish and English abandoned. Or any other language. If we'd been founded by Russians or Chinese, we'd have that precedent, but we weren't and we don't.

I think it's really foolish to try to reinvent the wheel as to such a huge country as we have now, with such appreciable founding principles at that. Born out of idealism that was largely Northern European and Meditteranean, whether or not later cultures like it or not, they're here because those concepts from those cultures are more appealing to them than what Spain wrought in, say, South America. I mean, just look at the state of affairs there and be glad that you want to reap the benefits of people who arrived with ideals born out of cultural lessons and struggles from largely Britain and the British Isles.

It just happens to be fact, reality, what's made the U.S. what it is in FOUNDING PRINCIPLES. And those principles are more easily if not more accurately comprehended in the language they were authored in: English.

Just look at all the problems us native English speaking folks have understanding what they intended, as to challenge of language. A lot is lost and even altered in translations to other languages...

Well, for instance, even sa... (Below threshold)

Well, for instance, even saying my nickname, "Suzy" to someone who is native Spanish speaking and they think I'm referring to myself as "dirty" of a pornographic sort. Something to Mexican native Spanish speaking, a word that sounds similar means in Spanish something vulgar.

I mean, I can't begin to relate how many very significant things that some Spanish speaking persons cannot understand when you try to explain in English, as to very important things about the country.

Illegal immigration, also, has deterred for many even comprehending why they should learn English, and same as to many from China. Because, had they immigrated legally, they'd have been required to (1.) pass a health screening and (2.) learn enough English to prove they can understand what they're agreeing to when they swear allegiance and in English at that, among other important aspects to legal immigration.

Unfortunately, many who bypass legal immigration also bypass the important information that is expected to be learned when you legally immigrate, and worse, allows often that illegal immigrants never do learn those aspects to the country...thus, you get a general recreation of their original cultures here along with all the problems here that existed in their lands of origin.

I'm just trying to f... (Below threshold)
B Moe:

I'm just trying to figure out what the hell relatively indigenous means.

Perhaps the Justice Departm... (Below threshold)
Manny Ramirez:

Perhaps the Justice Department should spend more time investigating Ohio's voting system instead.

Oh, and the name is Tom Menino, the guy's been head of the Mayors Conference, hosted the Democratic Convention and is regarded by his peers as one of the most innovative mayors in the country.

"Perhaps the Justice Depart... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

"Perhaps the Justice Department should spend more time investigating Ohio's voting system instead."

I agree. The Democrat-controlled voting areas are rife with voting fraud, but nobody seems to care.

My maternal grandparents ca... (Below threshold)

My maternal grandparents came from Finland. Neither spoke English when the arrived here, but they learned it quickly because they knew that in order to get ahead and make something of tyhemselves in America they would have to speak it.

I remember on more than one occasion my grandmother lamenting the move to bi-lingual education - "They should learn to speak English, yoost like me!"

Glad to see I could spark a... (Below threshold)

Glad to see I could spark a bit more debate.

I'm all for English only.

Our country came from many European roots (besides the English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish folks who all shudder except the English when they get lumped together) of Dutch, French, Portuguese, Teutonic, Scandinavian and Spanish (not to forget the many others) blended with a touch of the "real" indigenous folk. You still find remnants, like the Melungeons and the Jackson Whites, with persistent dialects and culture (relatively indigenous ;-) ) that could be considered little snapshots of where our country was in the 18th century.

The English speakers won out when the dust settled. Now folks are stirring up the dust again.

Imagine if all posters had to be as literate as -S-.

Sorry Manny but this is utt... (Below threshold)

Sorry Manny but this is utter fucking bullshit

'is regarded by his peers as one of the most innovative mayors in the country.'

Mennino's big innovation is having city workers campaign for him during their work hours and intimidating supporters of his political rivals. His big accomplishment is raising residential income taxes by 40% in the last two years and decreasing city services.






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