Written by Michael Whitehead Michael Whitehead
Category: News News
Published: October 17 2020 October 17 2020
Created: October 17 2020 October 17 2020
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Shall We Balkanize America, or Unify Her?
Dear readers. Allow me to recount two seemingly-unrelated experiences that clearly reflect two antithetical attitudes towards America’s linguistic unity as demonstrated by two residents of my home town, Irving, TX.
Let’s start with the attitude of a Mexican national who resides in Irving.
At Home Depot one evening, a man approached me and asked for advice on which brand of caulk to buy. I told him that I was not a store employee but that I could give him my own personal advice, if he was interested. Yes, he was interested.
I immediately noticed his heavy Spanish accent. He was struggling to speak to me in English and was having great difficulty understanding my responses. Being a fluent Spanish speaker, I continued discussing the merits of certain brands of caulk over others, in Spanish. He immediately warmed up to me when he saw that the language hurdle had suddenly and unexpectedly been removed. We continued conversing pleasantly in Spanish for several minutes. His wife joined the conversation, too.
He complimented my Spanish repeatedly and effusively. My response, translated into English: “And you, my friend? How about your English?”
He smiled and made the typical excuse that he can’t afford to take English classes and doesn’t have time. I told
him, “You are surrounded with English; there is no excuse. You owe it to America to learn it. This is a matter of respect for the country that is offering you a chance at a better life than you have found in your home land.”
He smiled, again, and heartily agreed, as did his wife.
As we parted ways, I said, with a smile, “¡Unase con América!” which means, “Join America.” His response: “Yes! That’s a great idea!” understanding that I was speaking linguistically, not politically. He even reached out and took hold of my elbow, smiled enormously, nodded his head vigorously, and repeated, “Yes! That’s a great idea!” (in Spanish, of course.)
He gets it!
Now, let’s take a look at a very different attitude.
Here in Irving, TX, a lovable, grandmotherly lady is running to replace our current mayor Rick Stopfer. Her name is Olivia Abreu. In response to my questions to her about why we should vote for her, how her values differ from Mayor Stopfer’s, and how she is more qualified to be mayor than he, this is the most salient qualification she proffered.
Mr. Stopfer has no background, to my knowledge, of having lived extensively in another country, trying to fit in a different society and a foreign language. As Irving is growing more diverse, I can better serve the city by being multilingual and knowledgeable about world cultures.
My oh my! Doesn’t that sound pretty! I grant it does, but only cosmetically, only superficially.
Read more: Shall we Balkanize America?