Why I’m glad that we don’t have an official language

One thing that I’m glad about, as an American citizen, is that we don’t have an “official” language.

This country, from long before the end of British rule in 1781, has attracted one of the most extreme varieties of peoples from all over the world. Despite the rise of xenophobic and/or racist movements from the descendants of immigrants, despite the fears and electoral stump speeches about the Irish, the Jewish, the Asian, the Central- and South American and the Middle Eastern menaces who “threatened” to “change our culture”, each one of these groups manifested enough interest in integrating into our society, and many of their descendants came to demand more for their lives than what was offered to their forebears.

We integrated, and continue to integrate, those who integrate into our society, and those who may leave this country for other shores are not left without the influence of the American experience.

So what helped us integrate so many people?

  • First, our separation of religion and state, and non-establishment of a state religion.
  • Second, our non-establishment of a state language.

If the signatories to the 1787 Constitution had privileged English as the official language of the United States, I think that our experience with immigrants would have been made worse than what the current historical record shows. It would establish English-speakers as a more politically-privileged class of people over those who don’t speak English, only certifying and empowering the prevalent bigoted attitudes against fellow human beings simply by way of linguistic history, and no doubt antagonizing those who lived in territories formerly colonized by Spain or France, or those who were indigenous to the land and spoke languages prior to interaction with European settlers (i.e. the former Kingdom of Hawai’i).

I also look at the experience of Canada, which has integrated almost as wide of a variety of human beings from all inhabited continents from the moment of European colonization as our country. In Canada, English and French are established as the state languages, and politicians and civil servants are expected to learn both languages in order to hold their jobs. Despite the integration of French as a first-class language in Canadian federal politics, Quebec separatism still runs strong as a political force among those who feel that the minority-status French language is not treated with equal dignity in the Canadian public. This sentiment jeopardizes the relationship of minorities who are not English- or French-speaking nor entirely aligned with either linguistic structure, including Canadian people of color, with Canadian identity.

This is why I would rather that no language would be declared “official” in this country. Once we begin to pick a state language, or a state religion, or a state socio-economic ideology, we begin to ostracize those who don’t fit so neatly within the categories set by such state favoritisms. We begin to favor the stronger over the weaker, some over others, when we would gain more from negotiating with such parties at some point in their integration.

And I say all this from my own favoritism to English. It is more adaptable and assimilative of any “foreign” word than most other languages known to the human species, very much like a creole or a pidgin language. That makes it a highly-useful language in trade, education and diplomacy.

I would rather that English, as a language, defend itself on its own merits in the marketplace of languages. The state, in my opinion, does a greater service in integrating our society beyond our languages, our religions or the ways in which we think.

E pluribus unum.

No immigrant, no matter whether they’re from Mexico or Lebanon or China, threatens this creed. We only threaten it when we loose sight of this creed and all that it entails.

An “official” language, like a state-favored religion, threatens this creed. Let’s maintain this “separation of language and state”, a key tool in the stirring of this “melting pot”.

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California Will Start Granting Licenses For Driverless Cars In September

Ohhhh yes!

TechCrunch

You need a license to drive a car. But does a robot?

For now, yes.

Come September, the California Department of Motor Vehicles will begin granting licenses to select driverless cars and their human co-pilots, which will make it a bit less legally iffy as to whether or not they’re actually allowed to be on a public road.

The good news: The license will only cost $150 a pop, and that covers 10 vehicles and up to 20 test drivers.

The bad (but probably actually good) news: You probably can’t get one, so don’t go trying to make your own Googlecar just yet.

The terms of the license are (as you might hope, in these early days) pretty strict.

Some of the terms:

  • Only designated employees of select autonomous vehicle manufacturers can apply
  • The car needs to be insured for at least $5,000,000 against personal injury, death, or property damage.
  • The…

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“I Had No Idea…”

A good post regarding Macklemore’s jarring appearance in a “Jewish costume”, and why the costume has a long and highly-bigoted history in Abrahamic religion. On point:

The Accidental Theologist

macklemore2 There’s a back story to this post.  I was asked to write it yesterday by Seattle’s alternative paper The Stranger .  Specifically, they asked for some “historical perspective” to singer Macklemore’s perverse twist on wardrobe malfunction onstage last Friday night, when he decided it’d be cool to perform in what’s sold in variety stores as a “ Sheik/Fagin mask ,” huge hook nose and all.

When the shit hit the fan, the Seattle-born Macklemore said his get-up was merely a “witch mask” and there was nothing anti-Semitic about it.  This morning, Tuesday, he finally issued an apology: “I had no idea,” he said.  And later this morning, despite huge numbers of comments on its coverage, The Stranger decided that “this story is over.”

I disagree, so am posting what I wrote right here:

———

For years I thought of myself as a wandering Jew. I moved not just between cities…

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BigMinds Media now has a formal Facebook page! Please feel free to contact me through Facebook for my services.

I provide website design and maintenance services, video recording and production, and can also provide photography services if you so need.

For a free consultation, call me at 478-334-1330 or by email/private message. I look forward to working with you!

“They will say we are not here”: Choices, From Uganda to Arkansas

David Kato’s murder in January 2011 was a brutal footnote in the ongoing attempt to fully criminalize homosexuality in countries which are heavy in Abrahamic religion and light in liberal arts education. U.S. President Barack Obama’s statement of support for same-sex marriage in May 2012 was a touchstone in the history of LGBT people’s relationship with the U.S. electorate.

Two events in LGBT history involving two men of color of renown in two different political climates, in two years.

But I think that they, both Kato and Obama, are examples of what can happen when someone decides not to hide, but to stay, come out and fight.

Some time before his murder, Kato told filmmakers Malika Zouhali-Worrall and Katherine Fairfax Wright this:

So if I run away, who will defend the others?

And defend he did, even to his last breath, even as the threat of the upcoming Anti-Homosexuality Law continued to enshadow so many LGBT people in Uganda. It has gotten worse since his death, with the bill now law and more Ugandans seeking asylum in neighboring Kenya or elsewhere.

By contrast, Obama was one of countless beneficiaries of those in the United States who did not run away from their home communities, but stayed and fought for better conditions. By the time he stated his support for marriage equality for same-sex couples, tens of thousands of couples had already gotten married and challenged other states’ prohibitions on their marriages. Several more jurisdictions – state, county, city – had placed non-discrimination laws into their books. But none of these laws would have been instituted had the LGBT residents of these jurisdictions had ran away or focused on their vacations in more LGBT-friendly destinations rather than sought change in their own neighborhoods.

California would not have overthrown Proposition 8 had safer conditions had not been fought for in the 1960s and 1970s by the likes of Harry Hay, Harvey Milk and Jose Sarria. New York would not have gained marriage equality in 2011 had the Stonewall riots not happened against gross police brutality. No anti-discrimination laws would have been sought to the present without a bunch of activists getting them put into law in Ann Arbor and Lansing, Michigan in 1972.

People stuck it out and fought for their posterities when their own sexualities and gender identities were proscribed under state law, when they were subjected to police abuse, when there was nothing to protect them from violence or discrimination.

And now, you have marriage equality in freakin’ Arkansas! South of the Mason-Dixon Line!

So if someone stuck it out here in the Southeast, if someone waited for all these years somewhere in a region which tends to be the last to do anything that is politically inclusive and progressive until after every other region has written such legislation into law, then why can’t I?

My friend Edric from Macon, who runs PFLAG Macon and MaconOUT, tells me often about how so many LGBT people in Middle Georgia would rather indulge in Atlanta Pride every year rather than have a pride festival in Macon or Middle Georgia. But is there nothing in Middle Georgia that is positive for LGBT people?

Nothing at all?

This is why I’m torn right now. I will put myself more into website design, make some money, pay for my expenses, and spend the rest on LGBT-related or UU-related work. But when I have the opportunity to leave for a greener pasture, will I leave? Or will I stay and fight?

Politically, I want to stay, whether it is in Columbus or in Macon, but I want to stay and help the LGBT community here in Georgia.

I want to help build a better, more inclusive community for HIV+ people in the community, LGBT people, women, people of color, organized labor, secular atheist, etc. – in Middle and West Georgia.

By the day, I revisit my interest in going to places like California, with its enticing tech sector, but right now, it’s only half a place I’d want to live in and half a place to visit. The people there are leaps and bounds ahead of where we are here in Georgia, but their experience of equality is only one experience by people who already have a lot more going for themselves.

I think these two regions of Georgia, if we pulled hard and long enough, can go much further. I think this place can be much more inclusive. We can have non-discrimination ordinances, and domestic partnership registries, and more pride/diversity events, and LGBT people being elected to office, and less homeless or destitute LGBT adults and young people on our streets.

I hope to help with that, just as I’ve already helped as President of a Gay-Straight Alliance in college. I plan to stay and fight, whether in Columbus or in Fort Benning, until more people are awakened to the possibilities and can fight for themselves.

David Kato stated “If we keep hiding, they will say we are not here”. That can accurately describe the present situation in Middle and West Georgia.

Edric, let’s not hide. Let’s stay and fight. For Middle Georgia and West Georgia.

My weapon of choice will be this blog.

List of non-Christian Roku religion channels

Because I have a strong interest in seeing devices like the Roku and Chromecast allow for cheaper access to television distribution (both on-demand and live), and especially in seeing greater religious diversity on television (even though I criticize religion on a regular basis), I’m making this list of non-Christian channels on the Roku platform that I’ll continually update with more information in the future.

This list involves channels which fall under the Religion and Spirituality section of the Channel Store as well as similar subchannels on Nowhere TV, plus private channels found through Rokuguide and other guides. I also include “Alternative Health”, “Occult” and “Conspiracy theory” channels because they also tend to involve religious woo.

Paranormal/Mystical

Alternative Medicine

Jewish

Muslim

Buddhist

Humanist/Atheist

Interfaith

Other sects

On Guns and “Stand Your Ground”

My stance on #‎StandYourGround‬, in reply to an insulting comment under 13WMAZ.com’s story:

I have lived most of my life without needing or using a gun. I have lived with the expectation that 1) the police are supposed to give the proper reaction to a criminal act and 2) disrupting the conditions which lead to violent cultures lessens the need for both police and handguns.

And for the record, I lived as a civilian in Warner Robins‬ with my mother from 1992 to 2013. Even when we lived in a troubled low-income neighborhood for part of that time (Oldtown), we never had a gun in the house. I didn’t end up getting trapped in what so many other families found themselves, so I never needed a gun for self-defense.

What separates me from those who ended up going to jail for gun-related or drug-related crimes, the type that is supposed to be addressed by this expansion of gun laws? They didn’t have a support network to draw upon during their turbulent years, they were easily drawn into violent cultures, they weren’t engaged in their youth, they were in poverty-driven homes. This is a perfect breeding ground for petty violence in defense of self, of “honor”, of one’s gang, or of one’s trade in drugs.

I saw the cycle with my own eyes while a teenager, and I’m sick of the cycle. Why aren’t we addressing the instability and poverty in our neighborhoods? SYG only reacts with fire when we should be healing our neighborhoods, our schools. SYG, in the longer run, makes no sense, and only adds more guns to the violence and instability.

So I see no part of my comment as being “stupid”. I’m 27, I lived without needing to defend myself with a gun in the house or pocket, and I managed to make it out OK in the heart of Georgia. Your anger at me is unjustified.

I say “Yes” to “Fix Our Neighborhoods”. I say “Yes” to “#‎RaiseTheWage‬“. I say “Yes” to “Two-Year National Service“. I say “Yes” to “Affordable Healthcare“. I say “Yes” to “Decriminalization of Marijuana“. I say “Yes” to “#‎BanTheBox‬“. I say “Yes” to “Banning Discrimination in Employment, Rental Housing, Public Accommodations and other aspects”. I say “Yes” to “More Youth Centers”. I say “Yes” to measures that break the cycle of violence and poverty.

I say “No” to “Stand Your Ground” and the further weaponization of our neighborhoods.