Definitions of Hate: More on the “English Only” Controversy

A guy in Pennsylvania is being investigated by the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations for having a sign in his restaurant.  Joe Vento, owner of Philly-based Geno’s Steaks posted a sign saying, “This is America.  When you order, speak English.”  Simply put, Vento didn’t want to hire somebody specific for every non-English language spoken throughout parts of the US.  English is the preferred language of the US, and the language spoken by most citizens.  But, he says, he was noticing a larger and larger amount of people who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, order in English — and it was slowing down the productivity of his shop.  So, why does Joe have to defend himself before a city commission over this sign?

Apparently the signs, (two of them, barely larger than bumper stickers) offended some liberal sensativities and the commission saw this as being discriminitory.  Vento’s attorney argues the case should be dismissed, citing the “legitimate business purposes,” graciously allowed by Charlie Gonzales.  The attorney for the Commission (who, in spite of the commission’s claim that no judgement will be rendered for at least two months, seems to have his mind already made up) says this particular hearing is not about free expression, but about “intimidation,” suggesting that some peoples’ business is not wanted.

Another lib with no real connection to the situation, but plenty to say on the subject, testified at the hearing.  Camille Charles, who teaches sociology at UPenn, calls Vento’s signs a throwback to Jim Crow-era “Whites Only” signs.

Wouldn’t it be great of a connection to reality was a requirement to having any sort of special commission take you seriously? 

These signs are not about race.  They aren’t about intimidation.  They aren’t about giving “a feeling of being unwelcome and being excluded,” as Charles suggests.  And, even if they were, I submit, it wouldn’t matter.  The great thing about America is, you have the right to be an asshole.  The market cleanses itself.  If this were a problem for people, they would stop spending money there.  But like most liberals, people don’t want to actually do anything about it.  They want the government to do it for them.

Back to the point, though.  These signs aren’t about any of those things.  The shopowner isn’t asking people to change something about themselves that they can’t change.  He’s asking them to order in English.  It’s his establishment, and he’d prefer if people spoke his language if they wanted service, rather than wasting his time speaking a language he doesn’t understand (and has not responsibility to).  I bet Joe would even be okay with somebody else doing the ordering for you.  Just so long as somebody speaks English.

The thing that really irks me about this situation — okay, everything irks me about this situation — another thing that bugs me is the protesters with the “No Hate in Our Town” signs.  Libs have invented this new definition of hate, and it’s being embraced by a wider and wider audience.  And it’s time for it to stop. 

According to libs, “hate” means, depending on the situation, “you disagree with me,” “you disagree with my lifestyle,” “you’re a Republican,” and now, “you want me to speak English.”  This is not hate.  It never was. 

What we’re looking at is, in fact, an assault on free thought.  We see it in “hate crime” legislation.  We see it in the ever-expanding definition of “hate.”  It’s thought control, riding around in the Trojan Horse of “good intentions.”  We think to ourselves, “You know, hate is bad.  People shouldn’t do that.”  This leads to, “yeah… I think if somebody commits a crime based on hatred, they ought to be punished more” (a dangerous road by itself, as I commented during my myspace days).  But then you have this whole definition of “hate” thing.  Once we outlaw hatred, and we then begin to soften the definition, where does it end?  Who gets to decide what constitutes “Hatred,” and what is “political speech”?  Who gets to decide who it’s okay to hate?

This should bother more people.



2 Responses to “Definitions of Hate: More on the “English Only” Controversy”

  1. andyfetter Says:

    You’re absolutely right. In America you DOhave the right to be an asshole. And in this circumstance, that’s precisely what this guy is. It is unfortunate that the constitution allows this. Maybe “unfortunate” is too strong of a word, so let’s just go with annoying.
    However, you are right about the implications of having his actions punished on a leglislative level. An all around boycott of the establishment would prove slightly more effective, and might actually gather more support. Egging the building or bricking the windows might also get the point across (only joking, maybe). The problem is, yes, MOST people of a somewhat similar mindset to myself would prefer to involve authoritarian entities to solve the problems. All it does is tighten the already painful grip the American government (on all levels: federal, state, and local) has on our daily lives, in more ways than just this circumstance.
    As far as defining “hate” is concerned, I have no idea if this guy had his signs up because he hates non-English speaking people. Or if it was based solely on the effect of miscommunication on his business’ productivity and effeciency. I suppose if it were the former, the signs could have just said “No Mexicans allowed in this establishment.” However, maybe from a business standpoint, he could have used a bit more tact in confronting this problem. Sure, it’s hard to serve customers who don’t have a good grasp of the English language. It’s also hard to do so with assholes who have their cell phones glued to their ears, people with strong accents who actually speak English fairly well, etc. Was that on his sign too? Nope, just a complaint about those who don’t speak English. So, his only beef appears to be with foreigners. Maybe if those other concerns had been on his sign, he wouldn’t have been percieved as a racist prick. Whether he is or not is not really my point (as long-winded as it is). The point is, this guy is a moron, which is constitutional. But on top of that, he’s also not a very smart business owner, which I guess is constitutional too.

  2. I don’t know. Don’t you think if he was racially motivated (or anti-foreigner) he’d be against acccents, too? If the guy had done it just to do it, I think you’d probably have a point about his being a jerk. But it appears that he was reacting to a growing trend, rather than just putting signs up to irritate people. And, I don’t know that I think he was wrong — in fact, I do know. I don’t think he was wrong.

    If he loses business because of it, he may want to change his approach, but I don’t think an expectation that the language of the establishment be used in ordering food is over-the-top. If I was vacationing in France, I’d either learn enough to get by, bring a french-english dictionary, bring along somebody who spoke the damn language, or else all three. If I moved to France, I’d make learning the language my first priority. It’s courtesy.

    I don’t know that this guy expecting the same courtesy for himself and the rest of his patrons (because, if waitstaff has to stand there for 20 minutes trying to decipher whatever language the customer is using, other customers are having to wait) makes him a jerk.

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