2.11.08

Evaluation of Missouri Propositions: Amendment 1

Language: "Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to add a statement that English shall be the language of all governmental meetings at which any public business is discussed, decided, or public policy is formulated whether conducted in person or by communication equipment including conference calls, video conferences, or Internet chat or message board?"

History – For more than 200 years, Americans have gotten by without declaring English their official language. English Only legislation first appeared in 1981 as a constitutional English Language Amendment but the measure never came to Congressional vote. Since 1981, 22 states have adopted various forms of Official English legislation, in addition to four that had already done so. Subtracting Hawaii (which is officially bilingual with English and Hawaiian being the official languages) and Alaska (whose English-only initiative has been declared unconstitutional) leaves a total of 24 states with active Official English laws. My mother reflected, “At the time, I thought it was so stupid.” The initiative could never pass today—with 17.9% of the US (6.26 million Americans) and many illegal immigrants (approx. 12 million) not speaking English fluently.

Issues / Implications – Those who are against this ballot say that English is already the “default” language and so any change is unnecessary. Also, such a change might discourage immigration. Both were cases made in 1981 and time has proven that English is not necessarily the default language. What this does guarantee is that there would be integration of communities that might be prone to stick together and “not integrate” as has happened in places like France in 2005. The opposite danger is that some proletariat would come to power in future generations, and use this as a reason to discriminate against the bourgeoisie (or middle class). However, as globalization proves the greater threat—and the rise of a proletariat (in the form of some oligarchy) is less likely; with legal and illegal immigration on the rise, it is more likely that no passing this amendment would, in the future, require all governmental functions to be bi- or tri-lingual, encouraging tribalism and non-integration. It is also worth noting that a bill mandating that voters have a valid ID card issued to them failed to make the ballot. This issue runs parallel to the issue on language.

CONCLUSION: I plan to vote YES for this bill.

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