Non-Democracy in Action on Tape

An original version posted on 9/19/2009 as "The Town Halls on Health Care Shout Again: Speak English" @ AMMMO

We now return to...The country that won't let you speak if you want some kind of health care reform. And even less if you speak Spanish.

During a town hall meeting on health care in Connecticut, Bishop Emilio Alvarez asks a question in Spanish and gets booed, yelled at, harangued by anti-health care people.

Some people might retort "I could understand why he got heckled. He should've spoken English, he was addressing an English-speaking audience."

Just because you speak a certain language doesn't mean you shouldn't have a voice in a public town hall meeting in a so-called democracy. Believe it or not, other people who speak other languages other than English have opinions too! Perhaps with even more insight.

The purpose of the town hall is to give individuals floor space to speak with politicians and dialogue in a civil manner with politicians and fellow civilians.

'Civil manner' is something that the anti-health care people in the town halls seem to interpret loosely and/or altogether ignore.

Not sure why exactly the bishop asks his question in Spanish because he seems perfectly fluent in English, but sometimes it's just more comfortable to speak in the native tongue.

As a grant-writer, it's important to use language as carefully and precisely as possible. You don't want to mince words.

Perhaps Bishop Alvarez had the same concerns when speaking Spanish. And perhaps his question wasn't necessarily for the audience, but instead for the Representative.

When speaking a non-native language it's not as easy to convey the emotion, the drasticness of your speech, and/or to be taken seriously. You can be more incisive and specific in your native tongue.

I can sort of speak Spanish if given a paper, and Tagalog, but I wouldn't feel comfortable at all asking any sort of question in those languages. I can talk about basic, functional items, like asking where the bathroom is or how much something costs. But if I had to make a nuanced, educated respected point in somewhere like China or the Phillippines, and I had the green light to speak in English, I'll take that opportunity and hope that the message gets across to the important people.

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