Monday, August 28, 2006

The nativists are restless.

Bilingual voter-guide pamphlets, according to the Tucson Citizen, have outraged the usual suspects.

    To sample some of the razor-sharp reasoning behind this:
  • "'This is AMERICA not Mexico and our language is ENGLISH not Spanish,' Mike and Judy Lairmore wrote in a July 27 letter. 'We resent our hard-earned tax dollars being wasted like this.'" I, too, don't think the state should issue a voter guide. It ought to be up to campaigns to get the message out. Oh wait, they're referring to the Spanish content. This is AMERICA. Our language is ENGLISH. Now I see.
  • "'This is really irritating,' letter writer Ira Larsen of Tucson said during a telephone interview. 'To me, to print those things in Spanish is . . . unpatriotic in a sense that English is our primary language and our Founding Fathers determined that.'...Larsen's July 24 letter said it doesn't make sense to print the pamphlet in Spanish because voters must be citizens, and naturalized citizens must be able to read and write English. 'It's time we get real and quit bending over for people who don't qualify for full participation in this democratic process, which seems to be fading, I'm sorry to say,' Larsen wrote." Yes, being more proficient in Spanish than in English clearly disqualifies one from participation in the electoral process. And the determination of English as the country's official language way back in the 1780s has been left out of the history books in what must be a liburul conspiracy.

The Voting Rights Act, in one of its non-anachronistic provisions requires that official election materials be provided in the language of any sizeable (>10,000/jurisdiction) language minority. The nativists--because this is AMERICA and our language is ENGLISH--clearly take issue with this. I wonder if they'd say the same about provision of Indian or Cajun materials on reservations and in south Louisiana, respectively. I wonder if there'd be a gripe about Polish materials on Chicago's Southwest Side.

Sufficient argument for bilingual or multilingual election materials can be found in the history of the language minority provisions of the Voting Rights Act. The argument that Spanish speakers aren't eligible voters falls flat; naturalization does not require fluency in English, and quite a few natural-born citizens from rural communities in these parts grow up learning Spanish. This was, after all, a part of Mexico.

Why not issue Spanish-language election materials? Word on the street is that some groups--who've alienated Latino voters--are afraid of how they'll vote, but for the most part it's just part of the "stick it to the spicks" mentality that's been going around.

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