Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Yesterday's Bumper Stickers

Drove behind a car yesterday with bumper stickers sharing the following slogans:


My grandmother's grandmother, Bertha Wilcken, had a master's degree in English and spoke fluent Spanish (and possibly some of her father's German) as well. She would probably have pointed out that any single person who claims to be "a minority" probably doesn't speak English in the strictest sense--which actually puts the driver in a worldwide majority: people who struggle with their own native language.


Let me get this straight: you feel such a strong sense of entitlement that the added effort you have to take to press a button is more important than the question of access for an entire subset of the larger community? (That is actually a fairly standard historical approach to minority accommodation, I'm afraid.) Or is it that you believe such businesses to be active in a plot to destroy the United States by selling stuff to recent immigrants and their grandparents?

I wish people would realize how much we benefit from living in such an interconnected global community. For those who feel that the prosperity of our country is based on solely on native, English-language influences, I suggest the following:
-Refuse any medical treatments originally developed in other languages and countries or administered by doctors whose relatives don't all speak English.
-Boycott all states with Iroquois-inspired two-chamber legislatures.
-Stop using any foreign terms that have polluted the English language to avoid the insidious Latin influence inherent in words like "insidious," "influence," and "pollute."
-Don't buy anything. Somewhere along the line, virtually every product available on the market has been touched by someone who doesn't speak English. If you want something, make it yourself.

Alternatively, of course, you could just suck it up and press one for English. (Or press two for Spanish and see what that feels like.)


  1. I think you're missing the point of the bumper sticker - America has become great because the immigrants have been willing to assimilate into our country while still retaining their unique culture. It seems that there are many immigrants today that are coming (Many illegally) that aren't willing to learn our language and become American's in the true sense of the word - and that is what people are objecting to.

  2. Yes, I would agree that that is the underlying sentiment. The bumper stickers are overstating their own case, though, so I figure I'll overstate it back.

    I also think the sense that immigrants are not willing to assimilate is a) not very accurate and b) often leads to anti-immigrant sentiment that only makes the problems worse.

    In terms of inaccuracy: no previous immigrant group learned English as quickly as we like to remember. The wives and parents of working male immigrants of previous generations seldom were successful in learning English if they tried at all: the children were the ones to do so, and the overwhelming majority of immigrant children today do learn English.

    In terms of consequence: people who feel like immigrants aren't assimilating as quickly or fully as they would like often exert political pressure to deport immigrants or reduce the flow of legal immigration, without addressing the underlying economic reasons why immigration persists. What you get then is immigrant uncertainty: will I be allowed to remain in a hostile country? That kind of fear sort of discourages the investment it takes to invest more fully in assimilation.

    So the post does bypass a legitimate concern that is probably one of the driving factors behind such bumper stickers (get it? driving...bumper stickers...sometimes I make myself groan...) but I think fairly taking issue with a counterproductive impatience on the part of many Americans in terms of the speed of scope of assimilation.

  3. May I offer an alternate interpretation? Perhaps you should boycott businesses that make you press 1 for English because they are those dreadfully annoying help lines that never get you anywhere! You go around and around in circles searching for a human voice to help you but instead you constantly have to listen to options 1-9 that aren't exactly what you are looking for but 3 or maybe 5 related to what you wanted. Of course you just pick 5, then figure out that it was really 3 so you have to go back through the labyrinth of messages again so that you can push 3 only to find out that your problem probably isn't covered, then you start pounding 0 hoping to get to an operator.

    I think that businesses like that not only have terrible customer service, but hurt the job market because they could just hire people to help you. Instead of trying to replace workers with dreadful machines.

    Or perhaps it was someone who speaks Spanish who wishes that they could press 1 for a change :-)

  4. I'm confused. When I first read the bumper sticker, I thought it meant that the person was a minority--i.e. not white, but that they did speak English, unlike the stereotype of certain minorities. Now I'm wondering if the sticker is trying to say that white native English speakers are become a minority in this country. It could read either way.


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