mbranesf (mbranesf) wrote,
mbranesf
mbranesf

Missouri Legislators Too Ignorant to Know that Road Signs Are the Same Everywhere

One of the downsides of listening to two hours of NPR's Morning Edition every morning while I am getting my workday started is that they break periodically for local station news updates, which here in St. Louis means news of the alternately deadly dull and utterly enraging shenanigans in our state capital. This week, our heavily GOP-dominated state house of representatives passed a dumbass piece of legislation requiring all driver license exams to be administered in English only. As it stands now, such exams can be administered in eleven different languages. This is just one manifestation of the English-only craze that GOP bigots have added to their stock-in-trade in the last decade or two, but it's also one of the very dumbest, and this is the very dumbest justification for it: To paraphrase the bill's  proponents, "it will make the roads safer because if we know that everyone can read and speak English fluently then we will know that they can read and understand the road signs."

What most Missouri Republican state reps (most, not all: 11 of them crossed over to oppose the bill) and five Democratic reps obviously do not know is that road signs are pretty much the same everywhere on the planet! And pretty much anyone who knows at all how to drive a car--even functionally illiterate drivers in any language!--can read and understand them. I have been to a bunch of different countries in my life, and I have driven cars in some where English was not the native language. And I am not fluent in any other language. Yet I was somehow able to master the feat of safely driving in this scary furr-eign language environment, in part because all the goddamned signs looked pretty much like all the equivalent ones in the Good Ol' You Ass of Ay.

I don't know much about the history of traffic control, but evidently at some point after the advent of the automobile, most of the planet agreed on the same basic concept for road signage. Also, the very fact that a lot of new Americans in Missouri--the people from Vietnam and Bosnia and Mexico and Honduras and Afghanistan and many other places who do a lot to make my city a diverse and interesting place to live--have been able to pass driving tests and get licenses while taking tests administered in their native languages proves that the other side's argument is legless. It's about bigotry and political opportunism, using a disfavored group of people--in this case, recent immigrants--to trump a phony threat and use the law the "correct" it and, in doing so, drum up voting fervor among their base and driving wedges between people who otherwise have no reason to quarrel.

It's so obvious, it's almost a cliche to even say it, but almost everyone here is the child of an immigrant. But in Missouri in particular I wonder where the hell any of its white-folk get off bringing up language when so few of them are more than a generation or two or three away from foreign-speaking forebears. This city is chockablock with Euro-descended Catholics, not one of which likely had grandparents hailing from England. And there's plenty of them in the neighborhood in which I work who speak English--when they choose to speak English--with a lovely and obvious Italian accent. And they drive just fine, too. (Well, at least as well as most people in this town do.)

As state rep Chris Kelly D-Columbia said, “This bill has no purpose, except jingoism. I hope the body will rise above its lowest common denominator and defeat this ill-advised piece of legislation.” But the body did not defeat it. Now it rests with the Senate, which will hopefully end it. And if not, our Governor will probably veto it. But even if so, and it dies there, what a waste of time and what an exercise in exposing our state's ugliest underbelly. They do it to the immigrants, they do it to the gays--they are bullies. I hate bullies.

By the way, that image up there is a Chinese stop sign. I have no idea what it "says" but I sure as hell know what it means.



Tags: politics, real world crap
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