This has nothing to do with the politics of citizenship, "official" languages, fences or any other xenophobic nonsense (and any comments to that effect will be deleted). It's a simple matter of economics. If a business cannot meet the customer's need for any reason, the customer will go elsewhere.
The solution to the problem is so simple it's laughable. I'm sure it's been used for years in other areas of the country where ESL workers have been in the majority for longer than they have in this region. It would cost almost nothing to program the restaurant's computers to display and print bilingual tickets. This would help the employee, the company and the customer, and in the area where I live, it is long overdue.
What is the barrier to this simple and logical accommodation? Surely, it can't be that no one has thought of it before...I am just not that brilliant or innovative. Why the resistance? Could it be...prejudice?
The need to define "the other", to draw the "not me" line is so pervasive and ingrained it escapes the notice of even the most enlightened among us from time to time. I see it in myself every time the subject of the Milgram experiments comes up. Yes, a large percentage of people would torture someone nearly to death under the guise of science, under the urging of perceived authority and given assurance that they would not in the final analysis be held responsible. Shockingly, this has been shown to be true in these and other experiments. But not me. I would never do that.
Right? I wonder how many of Milgram's subjects would have said the same, had they been asked hypothetically how they would behave in such a situation. I'm betting every last one of them, though of course I can't prove it. All I know is that "not me" gets a lot of mileage. A heated discussion has been going on at another blog regarding Cho's crimes and the questions of individual vs societal responsibility. There is a lot of "not me" being traded.
I wish I could look at Cho or the Milgram subjects and say "not me" with that kind of certainty. I can name times when I've chosen not to do wrong and times when I haven't. I think I have a pretty good idea what I would and wouldn't do in most situations, given my own personal history and current mental health status, but even then I've surprised myself at times. No one has died because of my bad choices. That's not something to be really proud of.
Some problems are as easy to fix as adding a second language to a restaurant ticket. Others, like seeing the parts of ourselves we are so determined to disown, require a lifetime of effort and mindfulness.
I have heard the remarks some of the less evolved customers at the neighborhood Wendy's are making. It appears that their hatred of Hispanics increases with every wrongly sized order of Frosty or fries. If they can't do the job right, I've heard, they don't deserve to have the job. Meanwhile, others are saying the same about people with disabilities. Who is responsible for these displays of hatred and ignorance?
Partly the business owners who have not provided the simple, inexpensive tools that would make the jobs feasible. But it goes beyond that. The artificial lines we draw between not only ourselves and others but between concepts like individual and societal responsibilities are to blame as well. I am very guilty of "other-izing" the construct of Government. Not Me is waging a pointless and immoral war in Iraq. Not me has convinced the citizens of my country that civil rights are something we can do without so many of for a while at least. I am so angry at this not me, this "government" that I want to disown it. Because as an individual, I would not ever do these things.
I vote, which is the minimal level of participation a person can take and still be considered a participant. I decline, most of the time, to engage in political discussions. They upset me terribly; some days I won't even look at the news. There is so much more I could be doing, like helping to register voters and taking part in online political discussions. I don't want to be associated in any way with many actions my government is taking. Instead of working to change the course of history, I become overwhelmed with despair at the thought of these actions and the people, those people who have allowed this to happen. Denying that those people and I are one and the same, and not just in some grand metaphysical way, but in the concrete sense of uncounted numbers of silent and overwhelmed would be dissidents.
I shake my head at those who don't understand why people of varying races and abilities deserve to be seen and treated as equals. Sometimes I forget to check for my own blind spots, of which there are many. Sometimes it can be as simple as looking at persons with obvious prejudices, failings more apparent perhaps than my own, as though they were less than human. After all, I would never ever--in their position, with their upbringing, education, life experience, neurology and other circumstance ad infinitum--ever act that way, would I? No, not ever, not a chance. Not me.