Monday, January 26, 2009

Nashville’s “English Only” Law: Unconstitutional?

When Nashville, Tennessee voted their “English Only” law for local government transaction, did this decision put non-native English speaking immigrants at a disadvantage?

By: Vanessa Uy

Long known as a country of immigrants, but is it unconstitutional when a city on American soil chooses to pass an ordinance that allows only the use of the English language when it comes to local government transaction? But the city of Nashville, Tennessee home of the largest Kurdish community in the US fleeing persecution from war-torn Iraq has recently legislated and enacted such a law.

Even though there has never been a “strong” legal precedent specifying English as America’s foremost official language. Many linguist and educators cite this specific example of provincialism-leaning xenophobia the reason why most Americans – especially those long-established American citizens of European Anglo-Saxon descent – had very deficient linguistic skills when it comes to languages other than English. Because of this, the various branches of the US military had a very hard time finding translators that could speak the "enemy's language” – i.e. Arabic, Korean, Russian and related Slavic languages, Pashtun and related Hindustani-based languages. This is primarily the reason why former US President George W. Bush’s “War on Terror” had made most US troops became de facto terrorists themselves because of a lack of language skills other than English.

Given that the Bush Presidency has raised provincialism and xenophobia to a very high art form with the Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin being the “example par excellence”. The lack of social conditions that could make America into a largely multi-lingual society has largely arrested the intellectual development of America in the first part of the 21st Century. And given the primary reason why an overwhelming majority of immigrants in America are fleeing persecution from their country of origin because they are discriminated against in the name of patriotism for their use of language not adopted by the majority in those despotic states.

Shouldn’t the US Government fulfill their promise when it comes to immigrants because it is not only part of the US Constitution, but also written on a plaque on the base of the Statue of Liberty? If the Muppets of Sesame Street took time to learn a little Spanish, shouldn’t American troops learn the colloquial language of the “colonized” territory in order not to shoot first then ask questions later?