The language of living in a ghetto

Via Steven, who is guest-blogging at NiT, we are brought the story of Newt Gingrich, who is a giant ass, addressing the National Federation of Republican Women, saying to them:

The American people believe English should be the official… language of the government. … We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto

I want to just second Steven’s point, which is when Newt Fucking Gingrich is running around calling the language Jorge Luis Borges wrote in a ghetto language, we have clearly reached a point of some kind of insanity.

That’s point one.

Point two, it takes some large cojones to say– when we’ve just been reminded that the income gap here in the U.S. has doubled since 1980 –that English is the language of prosperity.  Really?  Well, English is the only fucking language I’m fluent in so bring on some of that prosperity.  Lord knows that I and the other English-only speaker in my house could use a little of it.

But three, fuck that classist bullshit.  Yes, it sucks to be poor and yes, literally living in the ghetto is not an ideal living situation.  But god damn.  Name for me one American art form that doesn’t have its roots in poverty, that wasn’t born out of poor people’s desire to illuminate their experience.

And then we can start listing the things that poor people have contributed to this culture and compare them.

Most of us are poor.  Why do we continue to metaphorically suck the dick of the rich?  Really, let’s be honest.  We’re not going to be rich.  Back to that NYTimes article:

Mr. Greenstein’s organization will release a report today showing that for Americans in the middle, the share of income taken by federal taxes has been essentially unchanged across four decades. By comparison, it has fallen by half for those at the very top of the income ladder.

Because the incomes of those at the top have grown so much more than those below them, their share of total income tax revenue has risen despite the reduced rates.

Why do we put up with this shit?

I suspect it’s because we all believe that, if we behave ourselves and work hard, that someday, we’ll be filthy rich, too.  We work against what’s in our best interest now because we have this bizarro belief that soon enough, we’ll be among our “real” peers, those rich folks.

We’re such dumb fucks.  And the Republicans are geniuses when it comes to this, holding out the hope to working class and lower middle class whites that, if only we keep those brown and black folks in line, some day there will be room enough for us among the well-to-do.

How else to explain how Gingrich could get up in front of a bunch of folks and start disparaging the ghetto and talking about English as a language of prosperity, when so many of us who speak only English are struggling from day to day to make ends meet, and be met with cheers, as if what he says makes any sense or has any relationship to reality?

Thirteen percent of us live below the poverty level.  Only ten percent of us make $100,000 or more and most of us (roughly 80%) make $60,000 or less.   Around half of us make less than $32,500.

English as the language of prosperity.  He should have been laughed off the stage.  Instead, they applauded him.  I guess because it’s more important to make sure that brown people are punished* for being brown than it is for us to speak honestly about where we are as a nation.

——–

*Seriously, some day we’re going to have to have an interesting discussion about how the distinction between libertarians and Republicans seems to come down to libertarians’ unwillingness to run around making sure that various “bad” people are suffering enough.

24 thoughts on “The language of living in a ghetto

  1. Gingrich: “The American people believe English should be the official… language of the government. … We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto”

    I want to just second Steven’s point, which is when Newt Fucking Gingrich is running around calling the language Jorge Luis Borges wrote in a ghetto language, we have clearly reached a point of some kind of insanity.

    Yeah, but, that’s not what Newtie Patootie is saying. He’s saying we need to teach immigrants English through immersion programs, where they will hear only standard English (the language of prosperity) spoken, rather than learning it from their poor neighbors (who naturally don’t know or use standard English), because learning substandard English in the ghetto will lock them into the ghetto for life, because their future employers will assume they’re ignorant.* He’s not saying a word about Spanish (or other languages spoken by immigrants) as a language or even about what kind of Spanish (or other language) immigrants speak.

    Gingrich is a dangerous man (from my point of view); he’s probably the smartest Republican out there and he’s got ideas that will (from my point of view) do damage.** But the smart part of him is real, and he would never say anything disparaging about other languages and literatures. However, he might have a huge interest in promoting a social policy that created a rift between new Hispanic immigrants to this country and, oh, African Americans.

    *All terms like ‘ghetto’, ‘substandard’, ‘naturally’, and the like are my interpretations of Newtiepoo’s thoughts, and do not represent my own ideas.

    **I happen to think that I would like him enormously if I ever met him, if we could stay off topics of controversy and just talk history. Smart. The guy’s really, really smart. He scares me.

  2. NM, you are brilliant! I definitely had not considered that facet as a possibility, but I see it now. Lots to ponder with ole Newt, that’s for sure. Isn’t he due for a new wife soon? It seems like he finds him one just about every ten years.

    Ha. I tease. I, too, think that Newt is brilliant and, to my mind, that is what makes him dangerous.

    Kat, I’m never going to live down that Campfield thing, am I?

  3. I wonder if, at some point, we’ll have to fight to settle who is the biggest bitch on the Nashville intertubes. I hope not. I think Donna Locke would have to concede that we each have our own unique skills and one cannot be substituted for another.

  4. NASHVILLE BITCH-OFF 2007. NOW WITH FRESH MUD!!!!

    Look, I’ll happily take “biggest bitch” off your hands. Cause I know I’ve done a thing or three to have it coming. [Refrains from mentioning ::name:: in thread that has nothing to do with ::name:: as it makes ::name:: angry.]

    But yes, Newt is very smart, and regardless of what he meant when he said it, the fact that there were a whole whopping ‘more than 100 people’ there just kills me.

    Dude, more than 100 people read my freakin’ blog today. That officially means that I have a larger audience than Newt had for his little ghetto rap. Which is funny.

    Of course, my audience is just looking up crap about Battlestar Galactica.

  5. nm, I think you’re right. Let’s let Newt & Bill Cosby have a run off on who can insult black young people the best (or worst, as it were)?

    My new motto: GingerSnaps: English since 1967 and prosperous as 1929!

  6. KC: if he found out I’m a historian he’d want me to sit at his table. None of this is personal with him (which is part of his scariness); he’s become friendly with Hillary Clinton, f’rinstance.

    B: you’re right, I’m brilliant. Did I just say that? Too much gin.

    “Dude, more than 100 people read my freakin’ blog today.” (snicker) Newt doesn’t blog, but he does write novels with lots of (bad) sex scenes. If he’d promised to do a reading from one of them, I bet they’d have had at least 150 people there.

    Ginger: do you party like it’s 1929?

  7. “He reached for her in his drunken, sloppy stupor. She recoiled, and did her level best to make herself as small as possible in their conjugal bed. Alas, soon she felt his sour breath on her neck, his unclipped toenails scratched their way into her calf muscles. With no further foreplay, he climbed atop her and thrust his semi flaccid…”

    Oh, sorry. The Newtster brings out the fledgling writer in me….

  8. nm, indeed, I do…I’m so poor that it’s nothin’ but a pot ‘o beans and homemade moonshine for me. Partay…

    Mack, I am soooo scared. Been nippin’ on the agave tonight, huh? ;)

  9. It’s wrong but I totally want to read any book Mack would write about Newt. Though I suddenly feel compelled to go cut my toenails.

  10. I suspect it’s because we all believe that, if we behave ourselves and work hard, that someday, we’ll be filthy rich, too. We work against what’s in our best interest now because we have this bizarro belief that soon enough, we’ll be among our “real” peers, those rich folks.

    I recall participating in a debate in high school, and I asked some question of my opponent, probably why we weren’t all uniting in arms against the bourgesoise or some’fin. He couldn’t answer, so the teacher stepped in and gave us in the class a response similar to that which you’ve posted.

    His answer was unsatisfactory. He probably felt that way, though, that it was that simple. Perhaps if he’d added the bit you followed up with I’d have nodded. Maybe.

    Newton wouldn’t have made that statement to a different audience. That crap is something safe to say to the NFRW cuz it reinforces what they already believe, if not their reality.

  11. NM, I find your comments very interesting. Don’t think I’m picking on you, because something about the juxtaposition of your ideas speaks to something destructive in human nature– that means all of us, including you, me, and everyone else– that allows us to ignore, condone, or even participate in the marginalization and extermination of our fellow human beings.

    Setting aside your generous interpretation of Newt’s statement for a moment, let’s start with this:
    Gingrich is a dangerous man (from my point of view)

    Dangerous to whom? Apparently, you don’t think he’s dangerous to you, because you later wrote this:
    I happen to think that I would like him enormously if I ever met him, if we could stay off topics of controversy and just talk history

    So how is he dangerous, if you’d be happy to sit at his table, and why does it matter to you? You make a point of saying how smart you think he is, but then you acknowledge that he would use his magnificent brain for this: promoting a social policy that created a rift between new Hispanic immigrants to this country and, oh, African Americans. Did you think about what end such a rift might serve? Would it not serve to keep both groups down and out?

    Henry Kissinger is widely regarded (at least by corporate media pundits) as a genius. He has an effing Nobel Peace Prize, for God’s sake. Yet, he’s responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent people, and for the subversion of at least a few democratically elected governments around the globe. The misery which this man has helped to create and perpetuate should earn him banishment from civilization. Yet, he is celebrated and treated as a geopolitical sage.

    On the other hand, we have Osama bin Laden. He is responsible for, say, several thousand deaths. I’ll even give him ten thousand, if it will make you happy. He is reviled and cast as the Devil incarnate in our society.

    Why the double standard? I believe we’re perfectly content to accept the evil ways of an asshole as long as we don’t think that asshole will be any harm to us (and especially if his deeds might result in a few extra pieces of silver in our pocket). So it’s okay if Newt tries to keep the niggers and spics at each other’s throats; it’s okay if he cynically blames poor people for being poor. He isn’t talking about me. Naughty Newt, such a card.

    I don’t know. It’s late, and I have to go to work, so maybe we can bat this around some more later. But I did want to say one more thing about Gingrich’s comments:
    “We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto…”

    I don’t think Ol’ Newt knows much about the history of the U.S. The imports from Africa (and their descendants) had nearly all their original language stripped from them. They were immersed in English for centuries, and look how prosperous it made them. Their ghettos weren’t created by a foreign language, or by a domestic dialect. Those ghettos were created by the kind of political and social machinations for which Newt Gingrich is infamous.

  12. A contributory factor is that we watch too damn much TV and use it as a social mirror. “All the folks on TV are doing ok…so it must just be me that’s struggling.” That’s a class conciousness killer.

  13. > Name for me one American art form that doesn’t have its roots in poverty, that wasn’t born out of poor people’s desire to illuminate their experience.

    The art had its roots in poverty, but look at those who commoditized it, commercialized it, and reaped the profits. In general, those who profited most were very fluent in the “language of prosperity”.

  14. Church Secretary,

    I was thinking about what you’ve said here all on my walk with the dog. I don’t want to speak for NM both because she’s capable of speaking for herself and because I’d probably guess wrong what point she’d end up going on to make.

    But NM’s people are not folks that ever get left off of the list of people to rid the world of, whenever folks are sitting around compiling those kinds of lists. So, I didn’t want to just leave the insinuation hanging out there that, if she were to sit down with Gingrich, the stakes wouldn’t be very high for her.

    But the other thing is that I wonder how much of this is gendered. For better or for worse, we’re taught to make nice with people who wish us ill. Just for instance (and I swear I’m about done talking about this), look at how Kleinheider took me to task for not being nice enough to Representative Campfield, even though Campfield never met a piece of legislation that didn’t make things difficult for women that he didn’t want to pass.

    We all the time find ourselves in situations where we have to interact with people we believe actively wish us harm. Hell, sometimes we’re even fucking those guys.

    I’m just saying that I don’t think it’s a double standard so much as just a reality. That’s how it works: we’re brought in close and told to play nice and that, in part, is what makes it difficult for us to be politically mobile.

    Bridgett, good point.

  15. NM, I find your comments very interesting. Don’t think I’m picking on you, because something about the juxtaposition of your ideas speaks to something destructive in human nature– that means all of us, including you, me, and everyone else– that allows us to ignore, condone, or even participate in the marginalization and extermination of our fellow human beings.

    Setting aside your generous interpretation of Newt’s statement for a moment, let’s start with this:
    Gingrich is a dangerous man (from my point of view)

    Dangerous to whom? Apparently, you don’t think he’s dangerous to you, because you later wrote this:
    I happen to think that I would like him enormously if I ever met him, if we could stay off topics of controversy and just talk history

    So how is he dangerous, if you’d be happy to sit at his table, and why does it matter to you? You make a point of saying how smart you think he is, but then you acknowledge that he would use his magnificent brain for this: promoting a social policy that created a rift between new Hispanic immigrants to this country and, oh, African Americans. Did you think about what end such a rift might serve? Would it not serve to keep both groups down and out?

    Gee. do you think it would? Sometimes I don’t bother stating things I think are obvious.

    I also don’t bother thinking that people I disagree with — even though I may consider their ideas potentially dangerous to the country and society I live in — are necessarily demons at a personal level. I don’t see what purpose it serves to demonize them. There are plenty of nincompoops and SOBs on my side, after all, so even if the “others” were in faact all nincompoops and/or SOBs I could hardly use that as a handle to attack my ideas. Gingrich, I pointed out, is a person who proposes policies (and who has from time to time been in a position to carry out policies) that damage the economy and social fabric of this country but who sees his actions in doing so as separate from his friendships and personal affinities. That doesn’t mean he isn’t a snake; it means he’s a charming snake. That might even make him more dangerous. As I said before, part of what scares me about him is that I think I would get along with him very well even though I disagree with him completely. Mind you, that’s a comment on his ability to manipulate. I’m not saying that it scares me about me: I don’t have trouble accepting that the world and the people in it, including myself, aren’t dichotomous.

    And I didn’t think I was being generous to him in my analysis, since I was pointing out that he’s not as dumb as some interpretations of his remarks would make him seem, and that he is in fact promoting a very, very harmful agenda that was being overlooked.

  16. B: it’s not the nicey-nicey gendered thing. I’ve seen Gingrich on talking head shows where he’s not addressing politics but is just talking history, analyzing books, whatever. The dude sparkles — there’s no other word for it. He loves the talk, he loves and respects people who can take him on to disagree with him at his own level. He’ll fight even harder because he respects them, but he loves the engagement. And to me, that’s tremendously attractive. Fortunately, it also motivates me to fight harder myself.

  17. Points well taken, NM. Thank you.

    I am reminded of a scene in “Broadcast News”:
    Aaron Altman: I know you care about him. I’ve never seen you like this about anyone, so please don’t take it wrong when I tell you that I believe that Tom, while a very nice guy, is the Devil.
    Jane Craig: This isn’t friendship.
    Aaron Altman: What do you think the Devil is going to look like if he’s around? Nobody is going to be taken in if he has a long, red, pointy tail. No. I’m semi-serious here. He will look attractive and he will be nice and helpful and he will get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation and he will never do an evil thing… he will just bit by little bit lower standards where they are important. Just coax along flash over substance… Just a tiny bit. And he will talk about all of us really being salesmen. And he’ll get all the great women.

    I am also reminded of Hannah Arendt’s examinations of the “banality of evil.” So yes, I agree with you that human beings are not dichotomous. But Aunt B. is also right. This issue sheds light on a conflict between our basic human decency– the tendency to treat people as we would want to be treated, and to meet people kindly and cordially at the personal level, regardless of their institutional behaviors– and our more fundamental instinct for self-preservation.

    We leave the state of nature (potentially violent free-for-all) for civil society, and for the preservation and maintenance of civil society we create governments. In the process of these civilizing processes, I fear we neglect too many of the basic instincts that would serve us well in the state of nature. We trust in the systems and cultures we create to protect us from our own excesses and those of our fellow humans. The worst among us– those we historically call monsters– are those who expertly exploit the soft, vulnerable space between our natural instincts and our societal structures. These people don’t have horns and tails. They are charming; they “sparkle.”

    I guess this is where I disagree with you, NM. There are times and places where certain people must be demonized. This doesn’t necessarily mean we hunt them down and exterminate them, but we must call attention to their demonic behavior and call it what it is. Sometimes this means being less than polite with them and about them. I was such a person during my first marriage, and my first wife did herself no favors by letting my charming nature convince her otherwise. In his public and professional life, Newt Gingrich is such a person. I’ll take your word, NM, he’s a very smart guy. So I’m reckoning that he’s smart enough to know better. Why should I pull my punches for someone like this? If he’s going to act like Old Scratch, then I’m going to call him on it. This, again, is where I believe Aunt B. is on target: why should I smile in the face of someone who’d just as soon see me back in chains (or worse, and I don’t care why he’d like to see it).

    If he improves his behavior and starts using his massive intellect for constructive and humane purposes, I’ll be thrilled. Until then, he is my enemy. I think I could muster the politeness to smile in his face and shake his hand before I tell him why I think he’s an asshole.

  18. I wrote: “even if the “others” were in faact all nincompoops and/or SOBs I could hardly use that as a handle to attack my ideas” which of course shoulda been “a handle to attack their ideas”. Oh, and “in fact“.

    I like WordPress, but I miss the preview function.

  19. Points well taken, NM. Thank you.

    Likewise. I said I enjoy an argument that’s not stupid.

    I guess this is where I disagree with you, NM. There are times and places where certain people must be demonized.

    Yes, it’s where we disagree. I’m with you so far as demonizing the ideas, the potential results of the suggested actions, all that. But not the person. I can’t go there. Mostly because there are also individuals who truly are evil in there own lives, and who do great harm at the personal level to those unfortunate enough to get close to them. I think it’s important to distinguish between the two types of evil.

    If he improves his behavior and starts using his massive intellect for constructive and humane purposes

    Are we taking bets? Because, well, you know.

    But he’s still the only leading Republican out there about whom I think I could possibly in the right circumstances spend 15 miutes in his company and not be bored to death or goaded into screaming rage.

  20. There are times and places where certain people must be demonized. This doesn’t necessarily mean we hunt them down and exterminate them, but we must call attention to their demonic behavior and call it what it is. Sometimes this means being less than polite with them and about them.

    I simply cannot agree on this, says I from the peanut gallery. I mean, granted I take a religiously informed stance on this but what about ‘blessed are the peacemakers’ and ‘judge not lest ye be judged’?

    And, church secretary, what about your OWN words in this thread here? Because there you complain about people demonising illegal immigrants and compared us Rule of Law types (conflating the two unfairly in my opinion) to Nazis.

    What about all the folks on the other side of THAT argument who say to themselves “There are times and places where certain people MUST be demonized” about, say, the illegal immigrants? Because they do exist. And you had a lovely set of harsh words for them.

    I point this out to show what harm can come from deciding in your own mind that it’s okay to demonise someone simply because they hold an agenda you don’t like.

  21. Allow me to clarify something which I implied, but should have made clearer. NM’s words are best:

    I’m with you so far as demonizing the ideas, the potential results of the suggested actions, all that.

    I agree with this, except that you can’t separate the person from the deed until the person separates himself from the deed (and makes amends, if applicable). We can all agree that Newt Gingrich is likely a very charming person under certain circumstances. We could have said the same about Mahatma Gandhi or Richard Speck. We don’t remember those latter two for their charming, up-close-and-personal moments, however, while belittling their more substantial deeds.

    And your interpretation of my historical reference in the thread to which you linked is inaccurate. The similarities between fear- and hate-mongering anti-immigration activists and Nazis might be many, but the comparison I was making was between those of us who do little or nothing to address the real economic and social issues behind the immigration problem– therefore leaving much leverage for the Nazi-esque activists– and ‘good Germans’ who turned a blind, indifferent, or tacitly approving eye to the rising Nazi menace.

    Beyond that, you have constructed a false equivalency. Demonizing a whole class of people who run across unjust and arbitrary laws while trying to better themselves is one thing. I like to think that’s not the same as demonizing people who knowingly hold agendas that hurt and kill others.

    Let’s look at this from another direction. What is the potential harm in not demonizing a hard-working, otherwise-law-abiding migrant worker? People might look at the issues, as opposed to fear-mongering and scapegoating vulnerable, decent, and mostly harmless people. On the other hand, what is the harm in failing to adequately demonize someone with the potential and the inclination to do a great deal of societal damage? You might wind up with another Stalin, Hitler, or Pol Pot. The U.S. government (with the support of the corporate media) not only failed to demonize Saddam Hussein in the late 1970s and early 80s; they supported Hussein with arms and diplomatic cover even when he was making his genocidal inclinations plain. It was convenient to demonize him after he’d outlived his usefulness.

    Perhaps the issue here is my interpretation of demonizing. I believe one should be demonized as long as they are perpetrating evil, demonic behavior. We are all human, though, and we should all be appropriately forgiving. But cutting slack for those who are still intending to do wrong is unreasonable and destructive. Failing to hold evildoers (and potential evildoers) accountable primarily because they don’t disturb our own comfort is not the same as being forgiving.

    I return to this case in point: does Henry Kissinger rate the same moral outrage as Osama bin Laden?

  22. I agree with this, except that you can’t separate the person from the deed until the person separates himself from the deed (and makes amends, if applicable).

    So much for “love the sinner, hate the sin”. Clearly we disagree on this. I think it’s very necessary that we separate the feelings for the person from the deeds of the person. I’m not always good at it, but I think it’s imperative. At least for those of my faith.

    Demonizing a whole class of people who run across unjust and arbitrary laws while trying to better themselves is one thing. I like to think that’s not the same as demonizing people who knowingly hold agendas that hurt and kill others.

    Eh, I don’t know that I agree. I’ve seen plenty of one on one demonising for say, illegal immigrants out there. And I’ve seen plenty of group demonising (“those evil Republicans”) on both sides. Once you allow yourself the mental and emotional capacity to create villains, why stop at just one guy or two guys or five guys?

    I believe one should be demonized as long as they are perpetrating evil, demonic behavior.

    Again, I disagree. I don’t think that’s our place. Determining consequences for actions, sure. Demonising? Nope. I can’t see my way past the whole “judge not” thing to get there in my mind.

    I return to this case in point: does Henry Kissinger rate the same moral outrage as Osama bin Laden?

    I’ll get run out of town for saying this, but I truly believe that Jesus died for everyone. bin Laden included. Should bin Laden pay for his crimes? Yep. Would it bother me if he had died of typhus? Nope==another instance of God taking care of business. But do I as a fallen being have the right to sit here and say “Osama bin Laden is worse than me?” According to my worldview and my faith I Do Not Have That Right. Period.

    Granted no one here may share my faith, and I accept that. I’m not meaning to proselytise. I’m just saying that from where I sit we’ll have to agree to disagree because I cannot get behind a mindset that says I’m good enough to determine who else among us may be the worst.

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