Last Tuesday, a letter to the editor in the Times railed against the English language ordinance that has attracted another round of attention of late. My first conclusion was that the letter writer either failed to read or he missed the point of Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win friends and Influence People.” Reason? He begins by insulting both the current and past Board of County Commissioners.
He used terms such as “Do Nothing Gang.” He asserted that they can’t read “very plain English,” and are “closed-minded,” and “hateful.” He added that they use “poor logic.” He did give a nod to the current board by noting they are “not as hateful as those in the past…” The writer, ultimately, brought the well-worn out crutch of race into the discussion. He stated that supporters of the ordinance “… don’t care to think past their [negative opinion] of all non-whites.”
When reason fails, some fall back on race. The writer doesn’t know me and likely doesn’t know most who support the ordinance. The skin color of others is meaningless to me, and I suspect that is true of far more people than he is capable of perceiving. I have enough concern about my own old, dry, sun-damaged and wrinkled skin — with two suspicious growths removed in the recent past. The ordinance is not intended to keep anyone out of Carroll County. That argument, too, is a fallback used as a substitute for a reasoned approach.
Having introduced the English only ordinance for discussion, the commissioners subsequently decided to drop it. It’s fairly safe to assume that their reason for dropping it was the response from the public. The writer, apparently, has opted not to consider that he may be in the minority.
In the end after all the complaints, platitudes, patronizing and criticisms it is noted that not one writer who objected to the English only ordinance has cited any actual harm or wrongdoing that has or will result from the ordinance. Their arguments are illusory and speculation.
Some note that having passed the ordinance, not one dollar has been saved. They totally miss the point, because (having passed the ordinance) nothing changed. The savings is in the future. This because the county will not be required to print official forms in multiple languages or provide interpreters at taxpayer expense, etc. True, we haven’t saved even a dollar, But we’ve prevented increased expense in the future. If that concept befuddles ya, “phone a friend.” (Sorry Regis.)
Another letter back on Feb. 6 with a headline that read in part “We are patriots” grabbed my attention. Please note that nothing that follows should be considered criticism of the group mentioned in that letter. The question that arose for me is, “What makes a patriot?”
I’m not sure I know. Having heard, over the years, numerous individuals refer to themselves or their groups as patriots, I’ve come to one overriding conclusion — the appellation of patriot is best assigned by others.
Years ago, a man I barely knew continually referred to himself as a patriot. (I never heard anyone agree with him on that.) Having claimed the title, he proceeded to cast judgment on two different sets of veterans — those who were sent to Vietnam and those who served elsewhere. This self-appointed patriot diminished veterans who didn’t serve “in country.” Worse? He never wore the uniform. This self-appointed patriot, who never served his country, belittled some who did. This is the man who initiated my thought process about just what makes a person a patriot.
I don’t feel particularly qualified to determine, for others, who qualifies for patriot status, but my personal yard stick seems to be those who founded this country. These people sacrificed everything for their beliefs. If captured by the British, they stood to lose their families, fortunes, and lives — many did just that.
Too many people today decide that they’ve performed a patriotic act. They write, they speak, and/or they argue. They then return to the comfort of their homes, friends and families. In the modern world, they have risked nothing.
It seems appropriate that a person achieves the status of patriot when he or she is so proclaimed by others — particularly when those others represent a broader spectrum of the population. To be declared a patriot by one’s own group or by one’s own self strikes me as particularly self-serving, but that’s just me.
Conclusion? If strangers call you a patriot, chances are that you are. Wear it proudly and humbly.
Rick Blatchford writes from Mount Airy. His column appears every other Tuesday. Contact him at email@example.com.