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May 20, 2004

What’s The Matter, Hon? No Speaka de English?

David 'Kip' Koontz

There has been much ballyhoo lately about multiculturalism in Maryland. Seems, State Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, in a big hurry to get his Big Mac and fries, had difficulty understanding the woman taking his order.

Could it be, that maybe, with his propensity to use obscure “Bawlmerisms” that make it difficult for others to understand his version of the English language, that maybe she couldn’t understand him either?

Whatever the case, Willie Don got his hackles up over the multiculturalism we see more and more often today…to the point he was even livid over McDonald’s use of bags that have other languages than English on them.

His chum, Governor Robert Ehrlich jumped on the “anti-multiculturalism” bandwagon, calling it “bunk and crap.”

Not to be nitpicky, but is the use of bunk and crap in a sentence, really the best use of the English language?

Of course, our own State Senator Alex X. Mooney hopped into the fray as well, supporting Governor Ehrlich and Comptroller Schaefer who stated that “he is 100% with him… that teaching multiculturalism amounts to having no guiding values.” (Guess his preaching hatred toward so many others is a great set of guiding values to follow).

Well, that just smacks of hypocrisy, for whenever it is convenient for the senator, “Viva la Cuba!” is his chant of choice.

One has to wonder how he can crow about his own multicultural background, yet condemn the multiculturalism of others.

Well, it is the same man who, during that last election, sent out a fundraising letter with a picture of his father in full military regalia praising his fathering skills and championing him as his hero, only to have the senator announce two weeks later that this same father was an abusive wife-beater.

For the senator it is contradictions and hypocrisy abounding.

The saddest part of this is that there is condemnation at all.

First of all, let’s face it, in today’s workplace, it is very difficult to get certain folks, mainly born and bred Americans, to do what many in society deems to be “menial work,” like serving in McDonald’s or working as sales clerks, janitorial work, landscaping and construction, for instance.

Many people in retail management often complain about the sense of entitlement they are met with from many of their applicants.

Most frustrating seems to be that many youth or young adults apply expecting to be in management — even for a summer job, they inform the interviewer what their hourly wage will be most often over $10 plus per hour, and then they tell the interviewer what hours they will work — none of which include weekends, as that would conflict with their socializing time.

In turn, these same people are met with people of various color, émigrés to this country during whatever recent past, who do not have the same illusions of grandeur we “natives” have seemingly embraced.

Therefore, it is - most times - easier to forego the attitude and hire the person with some English impairment, because at least they are willing to do the work and fill those jobs we seem to have found we should no longer do.

Why are we only criticizing the immigrant?

Why are we talking about passing laws such as “English only?”

Of course, anyone who comes to this country should learn to speak English, yet if we pass laws stating that people can only speak English, that we will only teach in English and so on, how will people be able to assimilate?

Take, for instance, the notion of an English teacher attempting to teach Spanish speaking immigrants English, but not being able to talk to them in their native tongue so they understand what is being taught, how will the immigrant learn?

Also, if we do not hire people who are not fluent in English, won’t that just compound many other problems as we potentially have more people on welfare, WIC and other assistance programs until they hopefully learn the language? That is if they can learn to use the programs as the staff will only be able to speak to them in English, which they do not understand.

Guess it would just be preferable to have more unemployed and homeless people in our midst to give the same anti-multiculturalism crowd something else to complain about.

Or maybe we should just not let any more immigrants in?

It is funny that Governor Ehrlich and Senator Mooney are so up in arms about multiculturalism and Spanish-speaking folk specifically, as currently President George Bush is doing everything possible to accommodate them this election season.

You just can’t keep up with whose on first.

Instead of being mean-spirited about multiculturalism, why not look at what we can do to help immigrants assimilate more quickly and easily as possible?

Why do we not look at ways to make programs to help immigrants learn our language, and so on, more accessible and attainable?

Why do we just not do a better job at teaching English to everyone…including those who are not immigrants to this country?

It just seems the problem can be solved more readily if we look for solutions and not just take cheap shots for political expediency.

Oh, and Mr. Schaefer, all have me one of dem der number twos, large sized, wif a coke, to go, cause I’m on mah way downey ocean for Memorial Day, hon!

Yellow Cab
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