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December 4, 2008

Eric Crafton, Mr. English Only, doesn’t even have to use the old “my best friends are foreigners” routine to defend himself against accusations of being racist. He married one. At the time they married, he was the foreigner though, when he married his wife in Japan.

I don’t think I’ve ever run into Crafton at any of the Japanese sponsored events in Nashville. There have been quite a few (He could have been at the Kodomo no hi celebration at the newly minted Japanese consulate here, there were several older White, former military folks in attendance with their kids). By accounts he speaks the language better than I so he’d have an easy time chatting with the visiting researchers from Japan with their families. We don’t even spot him at Alpha Bakery (the hot spot for things like anpan and curry pan) and he lives in Bellevue. I guess if you’re busy trying to create useless legislation you don’t have time for social niceties.

Still, Psychick and I wouldn’t mind a chat with Mrs. Crafton. We wonder what she’d have to say about this English Only bullocks.

I do understand the bit about Crafton learning Japanese on his own and its admirability quotient. It’s kind of a false self-aggrandizement, though. It’s an accomplishment until you realize hundreds of millions of little kids do it everyday (Little Dork just showed up and reminded me he speaks two languages, K?). It isn’t easy for adults, though, especially if you have to learn between working and taking care of a family and such. It IS easy, however, if you have not much else to do on a slow boat to Yokosuka.

If Crafton is indeed using his time as a young ensign in Yokosuka as a template for English Only, citing the near impossibility of getting some government help in English while in Japan, he is making a mistake. In terms of being accepting of gaijin, the Japanese government is not the team we want to emulate. Considering their immigration policy you’d expect a lack of services available to non-nihongo speakers. However, the changing times (yes, Japan, which was never truly homogeneous, is now dealing with a growing immigrant labor population too) is creating questions about how the government’s business is run. Private institutions, hospitals and the like, are offering free translation services to the many foreign nationals (Korean, Chinese, Brazilian, Filipino, etc).

Where the Japanese government has been slow to act, like providing educational opportunities for those whose first language is other than Japanese, the consequences aren’t great. And those consequences, like an increased drop out rate which can lead to higher crime stats, end up becoming a greater burden to the communities.

Varying languages and cultures in a society don’t in and of themselves create chaos out of order. The chaos comes from the attempt to impose order without a release valve for the imposed upon.

While we’ve been thinking about Mrs. Crafton a bit whenever this thing comes up around Chez Dork (we are interested in mobilizing against English Only), I was prompted to comment after reading the Scene profile on Eric Crafton. I kept reading about how “smart” he is. Given his past comments, I’ve yet to be convinced. Taking a look at this Web site, I remain unconvinced.

Maybe this dubious logic is purposeful:

Q: Will an official language save taxpayers money?
A: Yes, providing city services and documents in multiple languages wastes ink and paper and costs far more than providing them in English alone. Nashville spends around $100,000 per year on interpreters alone, while our seniors on fixed incomes pay $600 – $900 for an ambulance ride to the hospital.

What does spending on interpreters have to do with the cost of health care? Is he arguing that if we got rid of the interpreters the city would start paying for ambulance rides for senior citizens (but only until we get to $100,000 worth of rides)?

Q: Is it divisive, mean-spirited, or anti-immigrant to have an official language?
By expecting immigrants to learn English we encourage them to improve their skills and earning power, pursue the American dream and become fully self-sufficient participants in our democracy – just as our ancestors set in motion for us.

Improve their skills and earning power with a jobs program, improved public schools (with more ESL classes) and a state income tax, bud. But the part that gets me is that last phrase. Whose ancestors is he talking about? To whom is he speaking?

In the end, though, the “incentive” to learn English is the same incentive Crafton claims he had to learn Japanese. He wanted to better experience the culture. He wanted to be able to pay his light bill without a problem (though it’s pretty easy to find a Japanese person willing to help a brotha out). The difference is of course that Crafton had no intention of becoming a part of Japanese culture. He had no intention of becoming a citizen. He thought he was just visiting. He learned out of necessity. That’s what non-English speaking folks will do in the states, in Nashville, eventually. Taking away an interpreter or two will encourage nothing.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 4, 2008 4:57 pm

    If you are interested in mobilizing against Crafton and his cronies, please visit You can sign up to volunteer or donate to this coalition.

  2. December 24, 2008 1:08 pm

    I enjoyed reading your perspective on the English Only craziness. I know there are many gearing up to fight the proposed bill. I hope more get involved. If you don’t mind, I’m going to link to your post. I think you have great insight.


  1. Deep Thoughts On English Only : Post Politics: Political News and Views in Tennessee

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