English-only plan rewrites meaning of 'un-American'
Arizona Republic
Jan. 18, 2005

I understand the words that come out of the mouths of people like state Rep. Russell Pearce, but I don't know what language they're speaking.

Pearce is one of several politicians in Arizona who have transformed English into a foreign tongue by using the kind of mumbo-jumbo that's spoken in totalitarian states. Places where politicians create laws designed only to punish citizens who have committed no crime other than being a little different from the people in power.

Rep. Pearce and others have introduced House Concurrent Resolution 2030, which would allow voters to require that most government business be conducted in English, essentially preventing cities and counties from printing such public documents as water bills in any other language. The really important documents, like ballots, are governed by federal law and would still be available in, say, Spanish. The only reason to create a statewide English-only law is spite, which my English dictionary defines as "a mean or evil feeling toward another."

"We're an English-only nation, and our records should reflect that," Pearce said. I'd agree with him if only our records didn't reflect something entirely differently. Near as I can tell, none of this land's native inhabitants were speaking English when they were invaded by Europeans. Americans eventually adopted the language of Great Britain, but it was never ours. It is the mother tongue of a country from which we freed ourselves with the help of American patriots who spoke French, German and other languages. At least, that's what they taught us, in English, in grade school. Perhaps Rep. Pearce has forgotten. Or perhaps (as we used to say in pig latin, the universal language of American schoolkids) Rep. Pearce and those like him ailedfay istoryhay.

That also would explain why others in Arizona are promoting a proposition that would punish people only because their sexual orientation is different from their own. We're told that there must be a constitutional amendment keeping such people from getting married in order to defend more-conventional marriages, although they can't explain how the unions of people they don't know pose such a threat. At least they can't explain it in a language that any true American could understand.

It reminds me of that curious dialect spoken by politicians who said that it was wrong for Gov. Janet Napolitano to change the name of Squaw Peak to Piestewa Peak. They disagreed, they said, not because they were prejudiced against native people but because the governor didn't follow the rules. Curiously, these same critics then attacked the National Football League for threatening to fine quarterback Jake Plummer for wearing the number of his friend Pat Tillman on his helmet.

The league said that it agreed with honoring Tillman, a fallen solder like Lori Piestewa, but that Plummer wasn't following the rules. Only in the incomprehensible vernacular of politicians are there even different rules for breaking the rules.

Likewise, only in the jargon of politics is a person's value as a citizen determined by his or her ability to read a water bill.

Luckily for us, and for the world, the Japanese military couldn't break the Navajo code spoken by some very brave U.S. Marines during World War II.

Hopefully, we'll have enough Arabic speakers to see us through the dangers of today's world.

If the backers of English-only laws can't appreciate the patriotic value of such diversity it doesn't matter what language they claim to speak because they don't understand American.

Reach Montini at ed.montini@arizonarepublic.com or (602) 444-8978