Saturday, January 24, 2009

Nashville remains diverse & welcoming

Oops! I meant to compose this posting yesterday (Friday the 23d), and I was even online for a significant time in the afternoon. But I guess I was distracted (read, "engrossed in whatever") -- and I guess that I forgot. Oh, rot! I know that I forgot!

The BIG news in Music City, a.k.a. Nashville, is the special elections held on Thursday, 22 January A.D. 2009. And it was the news given yesterday concerning the voting results that I had intended to report. And report them herein I do.

Two issues were on the ballot. Once concerned amending the Metro charter (combined Nashville City-Davidson County government) to make changing that charter easier. It failed.

The more newsworthy issue was English-only. A certain councilman here, Mr. Crafton (who is - alas! - an alumnus of Vanderbilt) has been agitating to get Metro government to conduct all its business (except emergency) only in English, to the exclusion of all other languages. When he couldn't get that done as a member of Metro Council, he led a petition drive to include the issue on the ballot for the US Presidential Election of last November. Failing to meet the deadline due to a procedural problem, Mr. Crafton pushed for a special election, with all the added expense that such entails.

So Mr. Crafton got his wish. I would certainly agree with him or any other native-born American, that immigrants and residents whose first language is other than English, should be strongly encouraged to take ESL courses and get familiar with the majority tongue of these United States. However, for some learning another language is more difficult than it is for others. A nd it takes time for anybody to learn another language. So for the many who haven't yet mastered English we who have must make some accommodation. Especially if we wish to be considered welcoming, helpful and friendly. Nashville has always had a reputation of being high on hospitality, good ol' Southern hospitality.

So I was dead-set against English-only. First thing I did Thursday morning was ascend the mountain of the adjacent Trevecca Nazarene University campus to Trevecca Towers and cast my vote. Alas! the voting room was almost empty -- and would have been had precinct workers and one other voter not been there. This contrasted strongly with the crowd present when I made that mountain climb back in November for the Presidential Election!

In vain that evening I tried to learn how the vote went. I didn't know 'til Friday morning, when I read the results splashed across the front page of the Tennessean, Nashville's daily newspaper. English-only had been soundly defeated! Hooray for common sense and for Southern hospitality!

A couple of additional notes regarding this issue. When I lived in Nashville previously (1984-91), English was about the only language one heard being spoken. The Hispanic element was small; it began to grow noticeably by 1990. And there were few if any immigrants from overseas. It's all changed now. As I've mentioned in earlier postings, Nashville is now an African-majority city. Not just African-Americans born here but also evacuees from Hurricane Katrina's destruction of New Orleans who have made this their new home. And many immigrants from Somalia and other African countries, whose first language is Arabic or an African tongue. Nashville also is having a huge influx of Southwest Asians such as Kurds, whose language is also Arabic. Most times when I ride the Route 15 MTA bus into downtown on a weekday morning there are a dozen or more hotel workers riding to work and conversing with one another in Arabic or reading pamphlets printed in Arabic. So this city has pointedly diversified since the Eighties of the past century! It's no longer simply a white majority and a large African-American minority. We need to remain hospitable to the newcomers and just say "No!" to English-only.

As for the vote itself, alas! my own precinct, where the turnout was so uncharacteristically low (uncharacteristic both of the prior Presidential election AND of the city-wide turnout of Thursday), voted overwhelmingly in favor of both issues. English-only got over two-thirds "yes" votes. What's wrong with my neighbors here on Murfreesboro Road?

Well, I guess this means I'm a minority twice over now. Minority race/ethnic heritage and minority in voting. But so be it. . . . at least Metro citizens overall are still wise and hospitable.

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