So here I am in Canadia (yes, I KNOW it’s not called “Canadia”–it’s a JOKE!) and so I am rushing to get this done while visiting with some people who are very dear to me . . . but here’s the thing . . . Here in Canadia, even in the western part of the country, everything you see is written in both English and French. The Beckster explained to me that when you go to a government office, the person behind the counter will always greet you with “Hello/Bon Jour” and will wait for you to answer before continuing in either French or English. It struck me as an extremely hospitable way to conduct business, in contrast to the near- (or total) hostility that people who speak Spanish face in “the States” (apparently, I am from “the States”, or at least that is how it is referred to by folks here).
Beck was quick to point out that both French and English are “official” languages here in Canadia, but it still strikes me as a general issue of courtesy and human respect. Also, I was really surprised to see so much French in use even in Alberta, where there is not a substantial French-speaking population. I have been in government offices in the US, not only in Michigan, but even in NYC, where Spanish-speaking clients have been treated with everything from indifference to total disdain . . . and have been subjected to people’s “why don’t they learn to speak English?” tirades more often than I care to recount . . . but here’s the thing–there really ISN’T an “official” language in the United States, and more to the point, Spanish speakers are quickly becoming the majority in the US. Yet we somehow think that “they” should adapt . . . and RIGHT NOW . . .
wouldn’t it be great if we were more like Canadia? (wow. I can’t believe I wrote that!) if we were actually welcoming of people, rather than scornful and distrusting? If we treated people who speak a different language than we do with compassion and kindness, rather than with impatience and racism? And please don’t reply with, “but they’re ILLEGAL . . . ” at least, not before you read this.