Monday, June 05, 2006

What's Wrong with this Country - Part Deux

..For those of you who only speak English, that's Part Two.

It's my turn to weigh in on the immigration debate.

One of the reasons I love living in Buffalo is its proximity to international locales. OK, that really means proximity to Canada, but Canada is international. Canada is diverse, Canada is tolerant, Canada is laid-back, Canada is smart. Canada also has the best radio stations ever (at least in Toronto) and I am thankful to be within reach of CFNY.

I was listening to the DJ on my way to run errands today. She was talking about an item she had read in a newspaper about a business owner in Philadelphia. Her comments started with, what's wrong with these Americans and their immigration issues? In addition to questioning immigration, she questioned our policy toward tourists. Tourism, as many know, is a huge industry that generates millions of dollars for our country - hell, perhaps billions. It's more money than I will see in my lifetime, at any rate.

She said, what do people go to Philly for? I thought, Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Betsy Ross, cool cemeteries and other noteworthy historical points. She said, Philly cheesesteak sandwich. OK. Normally I think of food, but instead I thought of history - further proof I am a goober. For instance, if you mention New Orleans, I think of Cajun and Creole cuisine and my mouth waters. Coastal Maine and I think of fresh seafood, particularly lobster. Philly? Um, the Liberty Bell. Whatever.

She said there is a dude in Philly who owns a cheesesteak shop who has now passed an in-store "law" forbidding customers from pointing to the menu to order. If customers want to order food, they are to speak English and order the food. This bothers me on so many levels many of which I bullet below:
  • What about tourists? What if a tourist is visiting and wants to try this sandwich? I haven't checked many foreign language to English dictionaries but is there a translation for Philly Cheese Steak? I don't know. So instead of being tolerant and friendly to those who are visiting Philly - a lovely city - we are going to send them on their way with a wonderful impression of us.
  • What if you are unable to speak - English or otherwise? Am I not welcome in your establishment because I have a disability? Nice job, moron.
  • I love capitalism for this reason - you are "taking a stand" (a horrible, intolerant, anti-American stand) which leaves the floodgates open for other entrepreneurs not so willing to discriminate against customers. Guess who makes more money? Guess who sells more cheesesteaks? Guess who is considered welcoming and thought of when Americans are discussed? Guess who doesn't have karma come bite him/her in that ass?

I say that the stand this man is taking is anti-American, but I feel I need to explain that. It is anti-American the way America was set up, lo so many years ago. It is hardly anti-American under the present regime. This would be considered American, I am sad to say.

What is even more disturbing - this business owner is an immigrant himself who recently learned English. What?

Our neighbors to the north (and I love Canada - hell, my mother is from there - yes, she's an immigrant) got it right. They have two predominant cultures - English and French - and are tolerant of both. In addition, they welcome diversity. I have never been in Canada and seen any kind of discrimination. Of course, I could just have been on a good day, but you don't see it or read about it the way you do here. Toronto, in particular, embraces its diversity with ethnic centers of all kinds in addition to festivals. What is wrong with this country?

Please don't misunderstand. I do think that if you are moving to this country, you should learn the language. I also do think that it isn't practical to expect that it happen overnight. And why shouldn't we be open to and tolerant of those who are here because they want a better life? Isn't that why our ancestors came? Do I agree with illegal immigration? No, I prefer legal measures be taken. However, if we have such a problem, perhaps we need to reevaluate our immigration policy and laws. If it's this broken, why don't we try to fix it?

Any time I think of those who came here illegally, I think about what they must have been going through that taking measures like this would be a better option. I can sympathize with illegal immigrants but I cannot emphathize with them. I have no frame of reference for the intolerance, cruelty, death, and other such atrocities they must have endured to try to make their way to the U.S. I welcome them and wish them luck. I also look up to them in a way. They gave up everything for a better life. Would I do the same? Would I have that courage?

We also seem to forget that not all people in this country who are foreign are illegal immigrants. Many are legal, but many are also tourists. If I visit Germany, should I learn German before I go? Or French when in France? Or Italian, and so on? Certainly I should learn some key phrases but I think it's unrealistic to expect everyone to learn all languages in order to get around. Nor do I think that tourist destinations in other countries expect it. At least they don't expect it of Americans. I am reminded of a joke - those who speak two languages are bilingual, three languages are trilingual, one language - you are an American. Funny...But not.

Intolerance of any kind should not be tolerated. Sometimes a move to Canada doesn't seem so out of the question.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Welcome to Canada!
Actually we have some people with strange ideas here as well - like our new Prime Minister who was recently caught with GWB sitting up in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g...
Of course practically all of us north Americans are illegal immigrants, the aboriginal folks not having set up any proper entry procedures for the early explorers and their families. I suppose we should all return to our country of origin and re-apply... I suspect our countries would be a lot different if we did!