Lo más que miramos los representantes del pueblo, lo más que admiramos nuestros perros.
Dude, you’re a smart guy—a Vanderbilt alum who’s fluent in Japanese—so look it up. It came to mind because of your most recent Metro Council shenanigans, about which we’ve been thinking: have you maybe OD’ed at Goten? Your wife is Japanese—like Jackie Chan!—so you must go there a lot. Right? There, or one of those places where they chop up and cook your food right in front of you. You know, just like home. Speaking of which, why are those folks so short, anyway? Man, I could really use a pedicure. Can you recommend someone?
Oh, sorry—do I offend? Lumping an entire continent of people together and confusing them with one another, making broad assumptions about them based on cultural stereotypes—is that considered bad form?
It’s akin to what you’ve been doing, brother, with that English-first bill. Though it’s been relegated, for now, to the trash bin of embarrassing legislative maneuvers, you’re gunning to get this purely symbolic piece of putrid public policy on the August ballot so that—well, we’re not sure why it’s so important to you. You’ve stipulated that the legislation would have no meaningful effect on life as we know it in Nashville. And others (including the mayor) have worried that it could expose the city to costly, drawn-out legal challenges.
“This bill says we’ll simply do the governmental business in English,” you said. “If we shouldn’t do it in English, I’d like for somebody else to stand up and tell us what language we should conduct our business in.”
That’s just it. We do conduct our business in English and always have. Not once, as editor of a newspaper that makes frequent requests for public information—and roots around daily in the recesses of government offices for documents and other city goings-on—have we encountered an arrest record, a legal filing, a personnel file, an interview with a bureaucrat, or any other manifestation of municipal business in a non-English format. Well, except for the usual Metro-mangling of the English language—e.g., “let me have him to call you,” “you can quote me per beta,” or the classic plea for secrecy, “I need this to be unanimous.” (And there’s always the Metro Council favorite: “I have a qwerstion….”)
So what reasonable conclusions, then, can we draw from your thick-headed resolve to proclaim English the official language of Nashville? First, you want to make non-natives squirm. You’re putting them on notice that we’re going to make life as hard on them as possible, just in case they think about sticking around. Second, you want to play bad-ass elected official, presumably to stake your cred as a legislative tough guy. For whatever reason, you’re sucking up to those with little interest in nuanced social understanding or the value of an integrated population.
That said, you have accomplished wonders in uniting some of the city’s most fragmented factions. There could not be a more widely assorted, contradictory cast of characters who find your intention repulsive. The Scene and Bishop David Choby…on the same side? Liberadio! and the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce? Bizpigs and African American clergy? The list of multifarious hand-holders who have come together for what may be the first and last time goes on and on—a testament to how spurious and ill-motivated your scheme truly is.
Had you taken your medicine like a man—and conceded that your bill-peddling was a purely symbolic, ultimately divisive effort that died with the stroke of the mayor’s veto pen—we could muster an ounce or two of respect for you. Actually, strike that. We already had an ounce or two of respect for you. And that’s where the Valentine portion of this piece comes in. While you’ve never been a favorite of the “progressive” contingent or the good-government types, we’ve always kind of liked you. You are, after all, a pleasant enough guy (most of the time) who says what he means. You’re well educated, graduating Vandy magna cum laude and later studying at Keio University in Tokyo. You were a lieutenant in the Navy who served during the Persian Gulf War. You married a Japanese bride and made a point of learning a difficult language.
Perhaps that’s the reason your role in such a mean-spirited piece of legislation disappoints us so much. Here you are, assuming that others who find themselves needing to learn a new language don’t have the same willingness and eagerness you did. It’s unfounded. No doubt when you were in Japan you tried to speak the language the best you could, but you probably needed a little sympathetic assistance from time to time—a stranger recognizing your effort, and reaching to meet you halfway. That’s all your mob of critics is saying.
Instead, by saying you’ll back the effort to put the measure on the August ballot, you’re assuming the worst of people in (or off) the same boat. And by trying to create a law where none is required, you’re diluting the good nature of Nashville’s citizens.
Your wife would probably say you’re not the grade-A ass you’re portraying so convincingly. So before it’s too late, you should relinquish the role. It doesn’t suit you.