Nashville mayor Bill Purcell has put the smack down on an ugly and unnecessary piece of legislation that would have made English the official language of Nashville. And along the way, he makes some points I wish everyone could hear:
It is the language we use to conduct the city’s business. In order to get ahead in Nashville a person needs to be able to speak English.
This has been the case for more than 200 years. It is not going to change.
We don’t need a law to tell us what language we are already speaking.
This is not who we are. At the heart of this ordinance is the issue of immigration. We are dealing with that issue by supporting the deportation of illegal aliens who commit crimes. But this ordinance goes beyond illegal immigration to put at risk our community and its ability to welcome and work with those people who come to our city legally and want to be a part of our city.
These English-only bills pop up once in a while because they tap into resentment of ‘furriners’. But it’s a bit harder to legislate prejudice so overtly these days, so try to accomplish the same thing by pulling support for other languages. Once again, right-wingers try and hit the people who have it the hardest, just so insecure Anglos can feel safe and superior.
It would have been easy for Purcell to go along with this, reasoning that it’s a meaningless symbolic gesture that wouldn’t have any real impact. Instead, he chose to fight the hatred, xenophobia, and small-mindedness represented by the English-only movement. And so I’m naming Mayor Bill Purcell my Hero of the Week.