the daily doyle

Press 1 for English; Press 2 for… Endless Failure
July 3, 2011, 12:21 am
Filed under: General stuff

“No bum that can’t speak poifect English oughta stay in this country…oughta be de-exported the hell outta here!” -Actor Carroll O’Connor playing Archie Bunker in All in the Family (see Note below for more info about the show)

For those too young to remember, television character Archie Bunker was a cultural icon of the 70’s. He was considered to be a bit of a bigot.

If I said, “all them dang furiners need to speak English!” you’d think I were a bigot too.

On the other hand, if I said, “immigrants from any land should have every opportunity to succeed in the USA”, you’d consider me caring and thoughtful.

Despite the difference in reaction, those two statements are essentially the same.

It’s a kind thought that each person should be able to speak any language they want. At least on the surface. But is it really kind?

The United States has long been called the “melting pot”, a good description of life here. People came from all over the world (maybe aliens from other planets too) and they “melted” to become part of one thriving, prosperous society and a uniquely American culture.

When the masses of immigrants landed at the foot of the statue of liberty to begin their adventure in this new land, many of them spoke only the language of their birthplace. In decades past, virtually all of them, or certainly all who intended to become part of the business community, enthusiastically learned English.

Now, however, there seems to be a movement aimed at making it easier for those from other lands to move here, live here and continue to live their same lifestyle, speak the same language as their birthplace. If everyone who moved here basically carried their same culture, language, custom and lifestyle here, it would be the big “salad bowl” not melting pot.

So what’s the problem? I don’t have a problem with it honestly. I’m not offended by people who don’t speak this language.

We have a longstanding tradition of immigrants bringing their culture here to add to our diversity. A beautiful thing. Chinatown. Little Italy. And if you’ve ever been invited to a Jewish family’s Friday night dinner at home, you are going to be very glad they didn’t give it up for the great American tradition of McDonald’s eaten in front of the TV. It’s adventurous to walk the streets of Miami and see mainly signs in Spanish and hear Spanish spoken everywhere. It’s very fine to walk the streets of Chinatown in any big city and see/here/smell/taste the culture of the Far East.

Should English be required to live, to work, to vote, in the United States? It’s a controversial question.

When I posed this question on Facebook, I received a few diverse opinions. One person, whose opinion I greatly admire, wrote, “hey, what happened to ‘don’t discriminate’? isn’t this a free country? I’m free to speak any language I want, no?” Of course she’s right, we are free to speak any language we want, as it should be. Another wrote, “If people want to live in this country, if anything just out of respect, they should also learn the language.”

I don’t think it’s a matter of respect. I think it’s a matter of freedom, opportunity and equal rights under the law. Basically, someone who does not speak English, the common language of business here, is stuck in a permanent underclass. They may as well be illiterate. It’s the same thing. Someone who can only speak Spanish, Russian, Chinese or whatever language has a VERY limited job market. They are sort of stuck in a lower echelon of society. Gardening. Janitorial. Or they can only work in businesses frequented by public speaking the same language. Maybe if they really stretch their opportunities they can be a babysitter or nanny for a wealthy family. It’s a kind of slavery, keeping a cheap labor pool there so that others can take advantage of them. Quite simply, they should learn English. Many do. Those who don’t will always fall short of what they could be. I’m not sure exactly how to encourage more to learn English. I don’t want lawmakers coming up with a bunch of laws that will stifle business and make everything even harder. I just want people who live here to have full opportunity to succeed. That’s all.

I don’t want to outlaw people speaking other languages. I just want to encourage, by whatever method, people (and aliens) to learn English, because it will be better for them. They will have more opportunity to grow and succeed, and to really be a part of a thriving economy. It’s a beautiful idea to let everyone speak any language they want but it’s not a practical solution, in my opinion. I’m willing to listen to others’ opinions on this for sure.

Gracias por lectura! -Doyle

NOTE: The Archie Bunker character was a workin’ man, living in Queens, conservative, Republican. His daughter was radical leftist played by Sally Struthers who lived with a do-nothing way-left-wing husband in their house. The husband part was played by Rob Riener in his first major role. Archie’s wife, Edith, was a darling lady who worked hard to keep the piece and tolerate Archie’s ways. She was very funny, so was Archie. Many of the scenes were simply filmed in a living room with Archie’s chair and Edith’s chair. At one time the who set, with the real chairs were on display at the Smithsonian as an example of American culture.

3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

As always, an intelligently written point of view. You are kind to want only whats fair and equal to all citizens of this nation. Self betterment is essential to all humans of any language.
However, I must say I don’t fondly recall Archie Bunker. Him yelling at whomever would listen while sitting on his bum…was never a selling feature to me. He complained about everyone and everything but he never had a solution or will to help fix the problems. He came home from work and expected that kind, totally annoying voiced wife of his to have his dinner on the table and then wait on him hand and foot. Bigot does not even begin to describe him.
In conclusion and on a similar but different note, please please Intuit…when I press 1 for English, could it be the English that I understand? LOL.

Comment by chris

Anyone living here should be required to learn at least basic english and become a citizen or leave. I should not receive a Spanish version of the k-mart ad just because someone lives in my home that has a spanish last name.

Comment by morena

Very well put Doyle.

Comment by Rich Byrd

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