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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

AJC notices, applauds Purcell's veto

Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial page editor Cynthia Tucker has a great column in today's paper regarding Mayor Purcell's veto of the Metro Council's English-first bill:

Profiles in political courage are rare, indeed, but there's an early contender for the awards Caroline Kennedy hands out every May: Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell. On Monday, defying the xenophobes, know-nothings and nativists, Purcell vetoed a local ordinance that would have enshrined "English-only" as official city policy and dictated that virtually all government communications be in English.

"This ordinance does not reflect who we are in Nashville," the mayor said at a press conference. Wow. Rather than taking the easy path to cheap acclaim, Purcell took the high but rocky road of leadership. Will his gesture be widely emulated? Probably not. Politics is too much about popularity, and Purcell's stand against the nativism that has taken hold among so many Americans certainly won't be popular.
I have no issue with continuing to monitor how our country is changing as new residents arrive and begin to contribute to our culture, but I do have a problem with passing legislation that accomplishes little except increasing divisiveness, which is one thing we don't need to encourage. Tucker goes on to note that this is not the first time that xenophobia has been an active force in American politics:
Some demographers believe that widespread access to TV and the Internet is helping current immigrants learn English faster than immigrants of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The immigrants of yesteryear — Italians, Germans, Poles — often lived in contained neighborhoods where granddad and grandma never learned English. And they, too, were resented by WASPy native-born Americans who thought they'd ruin the country. They didn't. Neither will the current crop of immigrants. We need more courageous politicians such as Purcell to say so.
Some pundits argue convincingly these days that media, technology and industry together have made our country more homogeneous, not less so. The regional differences that used to distinguish one part of the country are not as pronounced as they once were. That sounds a lot like a melting pot to me, and I see no problem with celebrating the unique elements of our culture while welcoming new arrivals. Thanks again, Bill. Your actions on Monday are already paying dividends.

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