Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Of Contests and Martyrs

I am at the beach right now on St. George Island, Florida, just off Apalachicola. We are staying in one of these amazing $4k a week beach houses that my grandpa is paying for with the money he got from selling his swamp. The house sleeps 15. It has a private baordwalk down to a private beach. It is perfect.

Yet, I am not having the best time that I could......I know why, but I'm not sure I can effectively articulate just why without offending someone. Allow me to attempt to explain.

We're actually renting two houses. My house contains my grandparents, my Aunt Connie and Uncle Tommy, My family, my cousin Jenny and her 6 kids + her oldest daughter's friends, my cousins Carrie's 3 boys. It's crowded, to say the least.

My family are almost all Mormons. Mormons, in general, are fairly conservative politically. Being Southern Mormons, my family are especially conservative, with just enough racially and misogynistically tinged comments to make many of them inappropriate.

Last night, we started a conversation about health care, and it evolved into a rant against Hispanic abuse of the health care system, and then into why English should be the official language. I tried to explain to my relatives that no matter what they might think, within three generations all the great grand-children of this current wave of Hispanic immigrants will not speak Spanish. I possess a B.A., an M.A., and a PhD in Spanish. I have taught university level Spanish for 8 years. I am as close to an expert on the subject as anyone in my family has come into contact with, and no one even considered what I was saying. I tried to point out to them that in the late 1800s, reaction against immigrants carried the same rhetoric as it does today.

Some great quotes about immigrants (taken from this webpage:http://www.watzmann.net/scg/german-by-one-vote.html):

1) "Why should the Palatine Boors be suffered to swarm into our Settlements, and by herding together establish their Language and Manners to the exclusion of ours? Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion?" (The papers of Benjamin Franklin. Ed. Leonard W. Labaree. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1959. vol 4:234).

2) "English should and must be the only medium of instruction in public, private, denominational and other similar schools. Conversation in public places, on trains, and over the telephone should be in the English language. Let those who cannot speak or understand the English language conduct their religious worship in their home." Governor Harding of Iowa (New York Times, 18 June 1918, p. 12).

3) In Meyer v. Nebraska, the court ruled that "the protection of the Constitution extends to all,--to those who speak other languages as well as to those born with English on the tongue." (262 U.S. 390).

We could go and delve deep into the newspaper archives and find letters to the editors of various papers decrying the "damned" this or that group of immigrants during different decades of the previous two centuries.

Yet, regardless of what I say to my relatives, the won't listen to me. You can show them the proof of this phenomenon across hundreds of years, and they will still only think of the present. I guess it's like the Bible says, a prophet is never respected in his home.

Another reason why I'm not enjoying myself is that my family turns everything into a contest. Marley threw a hellaciously bad temper tantrum today. I tried to take care of it as privately as possible. When I came back upstairs to make lunch, the asked me about it. I explained that she throws tantrums sometimes, to which my Aunt, my dad's twin if ever there were one, says, "you think you know about tantrums, I raised Jared (my cousin)." I responded, "It's not a contest" though I don't know if she heard me. Everything in my family involves comparing oneself to everything else, and no matter what, you've done it better, for twice as long, at half the price. It gets really fucking old after awhile. It's not a competition.

5 comments:

karie said...

Mac,
I can tell that you are feeling frustrated right now. When a man as articulate as you are uses that word, I tend to believe that you cannot even form words to describe your feelings. I am truly sorry.

About your family...if you think your family is bad....no I'm kidding. I understand your sense of frustration. I love my grandmother dearly, but cannot have a conversation with her that has any real substance without going crazy. I don't know if it is that I will always be her granddaughter who doesn't have the life experience that she has or what, but my opinions are not very valued by her either. I have a number of relatives that haven't ever lived outside of the small farming community in which they were raised, yet they believe that they have a real grasp on world affairs. What can we do except love them despite the fact that we obviously know more than they do.
Good luck!

brent said...

"...within three generations all the great grand-children of this current wave of Hispanic immigrants will not speak Spanish."

But does that answer what we do with the first two generations, particularly if they're illegal? And is language the only concern we have about Mexican immigrants?

"When a man as articulate as you are uses that word..."

What word are we talking about? "Misogynistically"? "Apalachicola?"

Ryan S. said...

You might appreciate this...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning-Kruger_effect

I stumbled across it on another blog I frequent.

Sorry- I can't remember how to link with HTML and I don't have time to look it up. Enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Mac,
I love reading your blog. Believe it or not I would have been on your side. With both Castillano and history I would have supported your stance. Any group will mix in due to the almighty power of the buck. We were at Walt Disney World last week and a mom was talking to her daughter in accented spanish and her 5 year old was giving her all the answers in American (I sometimes don't like calling it English since I might offend a UKer). But now to the real story, you have all of those degrees and you still went to the beach.;) When you hit your thumb with a hammer do you blame the hammer, the nail, or the wood?

Again, always a good read,
Robby Craig (Un viejo loco con hija y hija y hija y hija.)

Mac said...

Touche, Roberto, touche.