Jun 4, 2007

The Other Asian American Senator

While doing some research on English-only or English as the Official Language, I came across Senator S.I. Hayakawa. I've never heard of this dude, and he was elected to the U.S. Senate to represent California in the mid-70s. WHAT? Yeah, that's right. So along with Sen. Akaka and Sen. Innouye, whose names are well known in the community as the API Senators, there's this dude, and he was elected on the mainland.

But he was a Republican. And even though I think his record is pretty shameful to the left-leaning folks who talk about representation all the time, it's crazy that I'd never heard of him. It's interesting, because his omission from the list of elected representatives makes no sense when advocates make a big deal of listing "firsts." Is that what will happen to Bobby Jindal too? First Desi Republican to be elected, and first from the South. I mean, I don't care a lick for the tool, but will we forget or omit them from the lists? If we're so willing to omit people in that way, why aren't we more conscious about how we support people and build new candidates that better represent our communities?

Anyway - Senator Hayakawa was a real character. Read more about his story
, on the website of the group he helped to found, that focused on the promotion of English as the "Official language" of the United States. He has the dubious distinction of being the first to introduce the "English Language Amendment." Good to have second generation North Americans (he was born in Vancouver) who feel so strongly about killing the use of other languages. I guess he wouldn't have had a chance in Canada - so he found a good home in Cali.

You know - if it's a matter of semantics, I don't really have an issue with English as the "official" language, if that means that it's just a recognition in case someone doesn't get that from living in gringoland for more than 10 minutes. I think it's more a question of whether that cuts off funding for translation and interpretation in government services. It's just so funny that people focus on this issue as a matter of budgetary constraints and practicality, when it's really a question of not feeling comfortable with other languages spoken around them and the supposed "threat" to American national identity that comes from the introduction and use of other languages in the nation. Does it really cost a lot of money to provide services in other languages? Say, compared to all the pork that politicians throw around, which everyone seems fine with?

And you know, if taxpayer money comes, at least in part, from non-English speaking people, don't they have a right to services in other languages? But of course, the perception is that if you speak other languages better than English, you must not be an American citizen, or you shouldn't be. Which is ridiculous, of course. It presupposes what people think "should be" for what is. Idiots.

Anyway, now you have another famous Asian American to pin to your wall and your calendars.

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