Monday, May 6, 2013

Foreigners (Monday LINKS)

This weekend I had two experiences relating to people who have come to the United States from other places that are remarkable in their contrast.

The first relates to Spanish-speaking Americans living in Columbia.  I had a fantastic, eye-opening chat with a long-time advocate for the Hispanic community, focused primarily on the fact that the Columbia Association needs more bilingual employees, particularly in the admissions center.

"Whoa whoa whoa, Tom.  These people are in America.  They should speak American."

I know the debate continues, but here's the thing - CA is not a government service.  It is part HOA, part private government, and part business.  The debate of accessibility for government services can be left for another day (upon which I will advocate for bilingual access), but for this discussion - bilingual speakers just make good business sense.  The person I spoke with noted in particular that many of the areas that have under-utilized pools are areas with high Hispanic populations.  Our English-only outreach was failing to tap into this large segment of Columbia's population and, worse, alienating these residents to the point of pushing their business elsewhere (Lifetime, YMCA, etc.).

Alienation is not Columbia.  Suggesting people don't belong is not Columbia.  Putting Columbia aside, it is just not very neighborly.  I left this discussion excited about the opportunities, but disappointed that CA was behind.

My next experience was "Cinco De Mayo With My English Friends".  Over the past few weeks, Jane and I have been spending time with Claire and a group of friends that include a few other ex-pats from the UK.  On Sunday, we celebrated Cinco De Mayo, which was a mere three hours after the conversation noted above, during which I was told that Cinco De Mayo was not a real holiday, but rather was invented by Coors Brewing Company (my British ex-pat friends did not appreciate my slight on the holiday).

A shared language makes any and all differences between the countries something of a curiosity.  The conversation is spotted with "In the states, we say..." (occasionally followed up with "Yes, we call it that too").  You learn that folks in the US take politics a little more seriously than those in the UK.  You fly from moments of pride to moments of shame regarding your fellow Americans and the culture we've put together.  Underneath it all is a companionship and humanity that can only be discovered by discussing differences that don't matter.  I feel very close to people that I have not known a very long time.

Foreigner is such an ugly term.  As I've typed, it is staring at me from the top of the page.  It implies that the subject does not belong.  It sings "one of these things is not like the other."  It reminds me that I had margarita's and tacos with my friends from the UK, but I wouldn't know where to begin with those who came to the United States from Mexico and are struggling to fit in; those who must wear the term "foreigner" as a burden and not a matter of curiosity.

There is a surprising absence of empathy for those made distant by language.  It has inspired me to learn more and do more to bridge the gap.  Everyone should have the opportunity to make their differences a matter of curiosity instead of the premise of fear.


The Orioles finished their 11 game West Coast road trip going 7-4.  Pretty good.  Pre-tay pre-tay preeeee-tay good.  More importantly for fans, I'm told there will only be one more West Coast series for the rest of the season.  No more 10:00 pm games!

If you're friends with my on Facebook, you may have seen me recommend this piece regarding the use of a firearm in self-defense.  I recommended it not so much for the substance, but rather the art of journalism and the way in which this writer presented both side without staking out an ideological "middle".

The talk of the Internet political scene on Friday was this editorial  by Obama Speech-writer John Favreau, suggesting that the President's erstwhile supporters turned critics should blame themselves for not doing more to move Congress to act.  I found it to be a bit whiny and, when not whiny, condescending.  Nevertheless, I appreciate someone from the administration spending some time fighting in the trenches and pushing back on popular sentiment (as futile as that may be).  There was something very "real" here, even if I don't like what they had to say.

Baltimore City's proposed stormwater fee is getting some rough feedback from the Council and environmentalists, both of which are wondering why the proceeds are going to help fund property tax cuts instead of projects focused on clean-up of the Bay.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: Duane takes an in-depth look into the path around Lake Kittimaqundi, including some great nature shots of the lake.

That's all for today.  Have a great Monday doing what you love!