Thursday, May 6, 2010

Us versus Them in Alabama

I registered this blog page years ago, and have never really had a good reason to use it. I'm not a political activist by nature, but something very unnatural has happened recently, which has drawn me out of hiding.

Dear Alabama,

Tim James is trying very hard to be your next Governor. Recently, he's been running ads which are aimed at making you think that he's packed full of this rare commodity called common sense. No doubt, by now you've seen one of these ads, where he says that if he's governor, our driver's license test will only be given in English. I'll get back to this in a minute, but first let me point out what's really going on here.

Mr. James is relying on a time-tested political ploy to get your vote. That's all. If I could give it a name, I would call it the "Us versus Them" ploy. Of course, by revealing this to you, I am being a bit hypocritical. I'm telling you that you should not be subject to his ploy against you and me. In my case, I'm right, however, and since I'm not running for public office, I do not share his guilt for using it. :-)

I said this was a time-tested ploy, and it is. It's the same thing that Roy Moore was doing when he refused to remove the Ten Commandments monument from the state's supreme court building. Mr. Moore wasn't doing what he thought was right. He wasn't bravely standing up to overreaching federal judiciary who were hell-bent on making this state more accepting of atheists. That's what he wanted you to believe. He was running for office -- though not officially, of course. He had pulled the same exact stunt in two other courthouses earlier in his career. He built his successful bid for Alabama's Chief Justice around those instances. It was a shrewd move, especially in this Bible-belt state, but completely and purely political. Give him points for being smart. Take away those points for using God to gain votes.

Why are you so suckered by this ploy, Alabama? If I may be so bold, I think I know why. We're suckers for a fight. When the President says, "You're either for us or against us", we're too fired up about having an adversary we can all rally against to think the statement through. What? France doesn't want to join our war on terror? Let's burn those (tongue-in-cheek) anti-American French frogs at the stake! When people rallied behind Roy Moore's cause, it was the same thing. People acted like it was a fight between the federal and state government. But it wasn't. It was a well-rehearsed stage act, directed by Roy Moore himself. In Mr. James' ploy, it's US against foreign-speakin', don't belong here, ummm, farreners. (Insert the sound of someone spitting chewing tobacco on a dog, here.)

What's important to understand is the issue itself is not important. If it creates a passionate fan base, that's what counts. I never realized I hated foreign-speakers so much until Tim James insinuated that I should. I hadn't actually noticed what a threat that Japanese man in the next lane was, until Tim explained to me that if he can't read English, he's a threat to my safety. Never mind the Japanese-speaking GPS device that he has attached to his windshield. And the Japanese-to-English translator on his iPhone should not count! If he can't speak to the police officer directly in English, he's a threat not only to our safety, but to our very way of life in Alabama! After all, "in Alabama, we speak English. If you want to live here, learn it!" One of the twelve languages that the test is given in, is sign language. We must not allow deaf illiterates to join the ranks of the driving! What a menace they all are!

Oh, and the drain these tests are to state resources. To hear Tim James talk, we must have to hire translators to read the answers to all the essay questions on the driver's test. What? There aren't any essay questions on our driver's test? What? The scanner doesn't care if the test is given in English, Polish or pig latin when it looks for filled-in circles? Obviously, Mr. James had a reason for telling me that it was expensive, right? Maybe the original translator gets an outrageous royalty payment each time someone takes one of her tests? Please.

An even bigger point, which should appeal to the "businessman" in Tim, is that this state has spent tens of millions of dollars attracting new businesses to this state over the past fifteen years. Businesses that come from places like Japan, Korea, Germany and many other countries. We have successfully convinced these companies that we're not the same Alabama we were back in the fifties and sixties. We no longer kill children in church bombs and spray down African Americans with fire hoses. These companies have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in this state. They routinely send consultants and employees to Alabama for a period of time -- perhaps a year or more. Fortunately, most of these people understand the English language, because it was taught to them since grade school. (By the way, some of them read and speak English better than we do, but that's another post.) The point is, by making a state law which forces them to take our driver's test in English, we're more likely to give them yet another reason to choose to locate their business in Georgia, Tennessee or anywhere else. Hospitality is not just a word, Mr. James. It's also a tourist attraction. Let's not lose it.

So, I for one will not be swayed by your divisive ploy, Mr James. And if you can't talk about real problems, and real solutions, you have lost more than my vote. You've also lost my respect.

In summary, no. It doesn't make sense to me.

(Insert a really long, annoying pause here.)

Does it really make sense to you?

You want to know something else that doesn't make sense? Tim James is leading the polls among Republican candidates.

My two cents' worth,