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Feb-03-2008 14:26TweetFollow @OregonNews
Respecting Heritage Means Multiple Languages and CulturesPerspective by Tim King Salem-News.com
Spanish was spoken in the United States long before English.
(SALEM, Ore.) - Some people believe that politics are more important than quality of life. Isn't that what the debate about illegal immigration is about after all? Isn't it about the lines on a map overruling the importance of a child's hunger?
You have to truly be OK with people's suffering in order to justify anger over "illegal immigration" in my opinion. The only reason people come here is to work and improve their lives and my heart can't condemn a man for trying to feed his kids, not as long as I live. To the contrary, I wish every good hard working man and woman in this world great success.
On the subject of language, I discovered a riveting fact the other day that made sense in this raging debate. Around the time of the Gold Rush and the Mexican American War, the Spanish community in Monterey, California was dealing with the anger of the Caucasian settlers. A sailing vessel was driven onto the beach during a fierce storm and among the wreckage there existed a cannon.
But the next day the cannon was gone and the questions quickly turned to a cast of guilt as the white people reasoned that the Spanish people had stolen the cannon in order to wage war on the non-Spanish population. The entire notion was preposterous as the ship based canon would never have fired properly in a mobile land based configuration.
The local U.S. Army commander was a close friend of the man who was the leader and spokesman of the Spanish community in Monterey. They attempted to bring calm to the people there as all of the problems were self perceived by the white settlers. The Spanish community, established long before the Caucasian settlements, had no desire to attack anybody, they were ranchers.
That Army officer exercised his diplomacy to restore the spirit of the community and even made the Spanish people pay a fine- even though the cannon had not been discovered among their possessions.
The other thing that officer did was remove a printing press from the wreckage of the sailing vessel. It was used to print the first newspaper in what is now the state of California. That publication was printed in two languages; English and Spanish.
To me that is extremely significant. Long before the pilgrims came to the east coast, before James Town and Pocahontas, western Europeans lived on the west coast. My Spanish ancestors here are the first Europeans to have come to this land. I am directly descended from one of Hernando Cortez' lieutenants. We were here first and we spoke Spanish.
A year later during another storm the beach, sand shifted and guess what was there? The missing cannon that had washed up previously with the ship's wreckage. It had been there the whole time but was quickly covered by the beach.
My great grandmother, many generations in the Los Angeles/Southern California area, spoke Spanish and only learned English later in life. She was born in the Avila House on Olivero Street, the city's oldest street in downtown that has been a tourist draw for over a hundred years.
So I am sorry that people are so afraid of things that are a little different from them, like a culture and a different language. I grew up in gangland Los Angeles and I know racial discrimination from the perspective of a white person, which is somewhat rare in the greater sense. But I do not see the problem of illegal immigration as anything but a smokescreen to direct attention away from the other mistakes of a nation that was founded by people from other countries who now want to lock others out.
If there was a reasonable program to allow citizenship I know people from south of our border would seek it, but instead, like other games played in this country constantly, it is the privileged and those who already have money who can afford to become so-called "legal citizens." It isn't the poor and the indigent, instead they are jumping from one stone in this raging river of life to the next, and they are slippery.
As far as learning to speak English, there is a huge void in opportunities. In Salem, Oregon, for example, waiting lists of up to two years await those who seek to learn English. So people who are intimidated and poor don't always get on those lists and it isn't like anybody is trying to help them.
Perhaps it all boils down to the simple fact that some people believe in a birthright and others don't. I align that with other "entitlement" issues from this American entitlement generation that are shared among the weak and needy, clamoring to any advantage they believe life owes them, shutting out those who are of far higher character but are born in "other places" and branded as "illegal" which is a joke and a sore and another sad view of the face of the ugly American who only rears his head out of fear and has lost sight of what compassion means, as well as their actual purpose here on earth.
No amount of crying or whining or fear mongering is going to change the fact that this is a multicultural society.
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