Thursday, November 20, 2008

Nashvillians are already opposing English charter change, with or without campaign

Hundreds write letters, blog posts, join new Facebook groups

Nashville residents are increasingly urging an "Against" vote on January 22, in opposition to the proposed English charter change (also described as English Only, English First, or a language ban).

With the ballot box little more than two months away (and early voting starting even sooner), the grassroots opposition has been simmering for months on blogs and in letters to the editors of local newspapers, and it has now spread to Facebook groups and a number of organizations around town.

There is still no public campaign being waged by the group called "Nashville for All of Us," which has filed with the Election Commission for the purpose of opposing the measure (story here). The lack of any public movement by the group has been lamented by the Nashville City Paper in this editorial.

But ordinary Nashvillians are speaking up, with or without a formal campaign.


Four new groups on Facebook, for example, are only days old but have drawn hundreds of members:

Blogs

On local blogs, there are a number of comments advocating defeat of the measure, for various reasons excerpted below.

Aunt B.:
Pushing an anti-immigrant agenda–with your “English-only” nonsense and your 287(g) programs and your raids–makes employers, especially international employers leery of locating here. It’s not just a matter of whether they want to hire “illegal” immigrants. It’s that we look hostile to people who are different than us. If an employer in, say, Japan wants to set up a technology-based industry in the U.S. (perhaps to save on shipping), he’s going to want to send a core group of people over here to set up the business and run it, at least for a while. If you’re going to send your best and brightest, most trusted employees half-way around the world, you’re not going to keep those employees if you send them to a place that openly hates them.

...makes employers, especially international employers, leery of locating here.

Jay Voorhees:
The only want that we can overcome this movement is to make sure that the turnout to vote against his legislation is so overwhelming that they dare not bring it for consideration again.

So Nashvillians, it’s time to get the network moving. Contact all of your friends, your family members, anyone who thinks that this election is a waste of time and money and that that this legislation is inhospitable, and get them to vote against this proposal.

Contact all of your friends, your family members, anyone who thinks that this election is a waste of time and money and that that this legislation is inhospitable...

Rosanne Ferreri-Feski:
Nationwide negative press has also followed Nashville in the wake of its desire to spread "English only" throughout metro government offices. USA Today, among others, has written negative reviews about our city, a city which touted itself on being inclusive and diversity-forward in its marketing. The nation is watching Nashville and we are giving them plenty to discuss.

The nation is watching Nashville and we are giving them plenty to discuss.

Mike Byrd has an entire series of posts on the topic, including this one:
[The] English Only charter referendum, coming for a vote in January, will live or die on the votes of the African American community, just like California's Proposition 8 resolution did last week. It will be ironic if Eric Crafton wins his fight against Nashville's immigrant community the same week we commemorate the contributions of Martin Luther King, Jr. to the American civil rights struggle.

...the same week we commemorate the contributions of Martin Luther King, Jr. to the American civil rights struggle.

Erica Well:
As it stands, the amendment removes instead of clarifies, and diminishes Metro instead of strengthens it. If enacted as is, it means Metro government will not allow itself to translate any of its government business paperwork into any other language. So (just for starters) DMV forms, car registration forms etc., -- all that ancillary government paperwork translated out of courtesy to new immigrants so they can conduct their proper business as they learn English -- will no longer be in other languages other than English.

So what's wrong with that, you say? They have to learn English, you say. It makes no sense, I say. English is not absorbed by osmosis, it is learned. (And on a larger scale, anyone remember being taught about the Rosetta stone back in High School?)

It then makes no sense that Metro should cut back on its authority over its new immigrant citizens by not providing translations for certain services. Why would we cut back on our authority? Metro has to make this basic paperwork available in other languages so people can do the right and legal thing when they get here.

It then makes no sense that Metro should cut back on its authority...

Nathan Moore:
No rationale for pushing for this charter amendment, either substantively (which I have discussed before) or procedurally, can be taken from a conservative political philosophy. It is too late to pull back now - the signatures are in. But we can take a lesson about this before January, and realize that just because this snipe is on the ballot, it doesn’t mean we have to pass the Metropolitan government equivalent of the Third Amendment.

No rationale for pushing for this charter amendment, either substantively ... or procedurally, can be taken from a conservative political philosophy.

Rob Robinson:
Surely there is a better way to serve the public than preying upon people who already have uphill climbs ahead of them.

...preying upon people who already have uphill climbs...

Nathan Day Wilson:
My family and I lived outside the United States for a short period of time. The country where we lived does not have English as a primary language.

For us, going to the grocery store or sending a letter back home or helping our children meet and play with other children at the park or finding our way to church the first time were all challenges. Many times our saviors were people patient with our very limited abilities in their language and people who were willing to try their little bit of English to help us understand. Their generosity allowed us to survive.

And now a part of my country -- a part of the country that I, in fact, used to enjoy -- is not going to return the favor. I'm ashamed of those in Nashville who pushed this effort, and I hope and pray it is soundly defeated in November.

Many times our saviors were people patient with our very limited abilities in their language...

Letters to the editor

The Tennessean and Nashville City Paper have also published letters to the editor against the English charter change, including these:

Johnny Ellis:
[P]our money into primary education services that will teach all children to read and write in English and to love Tennessee.

It will be cheaper, easier and does not slap the face of your neighbors and future citizens.

...neighbors and future citizens.

Bill Wright:
I agree if someone chooses to live in a country and is not fluent in the language, they should make every reasonable effort to learn the language but that doesn’t mean we should expect them to be proficient in it from day one, or not provide any assistance to help them along the way.

I have to believe the people pushing these agendas have never traveled outside our own country and would have a different attitude if they “walked a mile in their shoes.”

...they should make every reasonable effort to learn the language but that doesn’t mean we should expect them to be proficient in it from day one...

Todd M. Liebergen:
[T]ake the time and money that you’d like to use for the petition campaign and actually help those wanting to learn English. Encourage all those that mention it to you to also step forward with their time and/or money.

In many cases, it’s not the motivation to learn English that is lacking, it’s the resources of having classes available at the times the learners need (some people actually work), at the levels that the learners need (some know no English and others know some and others are mostly fluent), in the format the learners need (some need individual tutoring while others can use a lecture hall size class).

Take the time and money ... and actually help those wanting to learn English

Brent Andrews:
It is only good service and good manners to speak to people in their own language when possible.

...good service and good manners...

Photo by Josh Hunter. Licensed under Creative Commons.

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