Isolating cultures for poll points

Published 6:22 pm Monday, May 3, 2010

Tim James’ commercial about language — his common-sense approach to having everyone speak English — comes as close to xenophobic as as been witnessed in a long time in any gubernatorial race here in the South.

This son of former Gov. Fob James has hired a Hollywood producer to design this slick campaign advertisement. Even the producer has said the chief reason for the television spot is to have people talk.

Name recognition. Get up in the polls.

Email newsletter signup

But what is more scary is the message this commercial sends to the voters of Alabama and anyone else who might see it on the Internet.

James draws a line in the sand, saying folks speak English or they don’t get along in Alabama.

A history lesson is in order. The first people on this continent did not speak English. Neither did the Spanish conquistadores who landed in Florida and had already explored large portions of North America (especially the South and Southwest) long before the English began active colonization.

After the French Revolution, more immigrants poured into the United States because of population pressure and famines. In the 19th and 20th centuries the U.S. saw thousands of German, Chinese, Italian, Polish and Irish immigrants.

At one time, the United States was considered the melting pot, the land where everyone could become assimilated into the culture. But that didn’t work.

Now the melting pot label has given away to mosaic, where immigrants aren’t blending but keeping a portion of their cultures and contributing to the diversity of the country.

The numbers of hispanics, especially Mexican-Americans, coming into this country has frightened many. But those fears are unfounded. These Spanish-speaking immigrants can’t consolidate themselves into a single cultural, linguistic and economic self-reliant group within this nation. There’s no structure to allow them to do so.

And anyone who fans those flames of fear should go back and read what was written of the Irish and other immigrants in the 1920s. Same song. Another verse.

We share cultures. That’s why we have bagels and spaghetti. That’s why words like klutz, hoolighan and casino have broken into our language.

We are richer for the mixture.

James would isolate our culture for the sake of a few polling points in the Alabama governor’s race. That’s just goofy.