Monday, July 12, 2010

Please Press "1" for Peace, Love, and Understanding

Ginger returned home from Bahrain on July 4th.  Everyone had a wonderful time.  The team even had a swimmer who made it to the finals.  But the International Children's Games aren't really so much about competition.  The Games were started by a gentleman (more like a "gentle" man) over 40 years ago who wanted to promote peace and friendship through sports.  The participants are children ages 12-15 from around the world.  These kids learn to communicate with, listen to, and understand each other.  They learn that differences aren't so frightening, that peace and friendship across national, racial, gender, and so many other lines are much more important than letting those differences foster hate and prejudice.  I have faith that these children will not grow up to start or join groups like "THIS IS AMERICA...I SHOULDN'T HAVE TO PRESS 1 FOR ENGLISH."

"THIS IS AMERICA..." is a group on Facebook.  This group has every right to exist and I support its right to exist.  Freedom of speech is very important to me.  Without it, I couldn't write this blog.  But this group makes me sad.  It makes me wonder how we Americans have become so haughty, so arrogant, that we think our country and our world exist just for us.

There's no doubt in my mind that this group is aimed at the immigrants living in our country, legal or otherwise, and specifically those of Hispanic descent.  When I phone in my prescription refills, I'm advised that I can press "9" if I need to converse in Spanish.  That doesn't bother me a bit.  It takes about 2 seconds for me to listen to that little message.  For me, it's just a blip.  But for someone who only speaks Spanish and needs medication, it's a lifeline.  When Ginger and I were in Italy last October, we went to an outdoor restaurant on the plaza in Florence to have dinner.  I opened the menu and my chin just about hit the table.  The menu was written in Italian.  Turn the page and the menu was written in English.  Turn the next page and the menu was written in German, and then in Japanese, and then in Spanish.  You get the idea.  The menu was written in 9 different languages.  Signs around the city were posted in Italian and English, and oftentimes other languages.  Store employees could converse in lots of languages.  One morning, we had breakfast with a little girl and her mother.  The little girl (maybe 7 or 8) was learning English in school.  She could already speak Italian, German, and another language (I can't remember which one).

European cities, Asian and Middle Eastern cities, many countries do everything they can to make a visitor's stay memorable and easy, especially for those of us who only speak English.  Would it hurt us so much if we did the same and returned the favor?  "HEY!  IF YOU'RE GOING TO LIVE HERE, LEARN THE LANGUAGE!"  That comes out of the mouths of so many smug American faces.  English is one of the hardest languages in the world to learn.  Can't we give people a little time?  Can't we give people however long it takes?

This group makes my heart hurt.  As Anne Lamott so accurately wrote, it makes me "want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish."  She's also the one who wrote, "You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do."  I don't believe that God hates the immigrants in America, not even the illegal ones.  I do believe that "THIS IS AMERICA..." has created God in ITS own image.  I hope no one I know or love buys into this group.

Please press "1" for peace, love, and understanding.  Let there be peace on Earth.  And let it begin with me.

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