En français, s’il vous plaît

One thing that has always bothered me is having election materials in both English and Spanish. After all, to vote one must be a citizen. So far. And, to become a citizen, one must understand English, n’est-ce pas?

When faced with English and Spanish signs at a store, I usually ask them why they don’t also have signs in French. After all, we’re not that far from Canada, where French is one of their two official languages. And, to my ear, a much more pleasing language than the rapid-fire-marbles-in-mouth Spanish as spoken by many from Central America. Ah, well, the answer is that there aren’t enough French-speakers to make it worthwhile for our political whores to pimp themselves out.

Which brings me to a current example of ethnic vote-pandering here in Arlington. One Democrat running for Commonwealth’s Attorney (that’s “District attorney” for those of you not blessed to live here in Virginia) had this on his website:

I am committed to hiring Spanish speaking prosecutors so that all citizens, regardless of their ethnicity or heritage, feel safe. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 17.1% of Arlington County residents are Hispanic and 33% of Arlington residents speak a language other than English at home.

I can appreciate the need to “feel safe.” Especially among our criminal class; it’s a rough world out there. But what if you’re among the (at least; surely some Hispanics speak English at home?) 16 or so percent of Arlington County residents who “speak a language other than English at home” yet are not Hispanic?

One may infer that these folks speak foreign languages other than Spanish. Such as Cambodian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Arabic, Hindi, Urdu, etc. Will they “feel safe” if they are arrested and hauled into court to face criminal charges? While I don’t especially care if those arrested for crimes “feel safe,” it does seem unfair that only a preferred minority will get that extra special attention from a Spanish-speaking prosecutor. If only, of course, this particular candidate wins office.

Actually, I don’t really want to pander to those who live here yet don’t understand English. Let the court appoint a translator if one is needed to ensure that the accused understand and are able to respond to the charges against them.

To promise to hire speakers of one foreign language, for the obvious reason that there are a lot of potential voters who, for some reason, don’t speak English, is, well, pandering. I expect nothing less from most of our politicians.


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