The only purpose of English-only legislation is to obstruct the real business of government | Opinion | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The only purpose of English-only legislation is to obstruct the real business of government

I don’t know if English will ever become the official language of Pennsylvania, but I’m pretty sure that “idiocy” is the official language of Daryl Metcalfe.

Butler County Republican Daryl Metcalfe wants English to be the official language of the state of Pennsylvania … again.

The plan would force all written state materials to be printed only in English. It would also force state and local governments to conduct all business in English. He’s tried this kind of thing before.

He held a hearing on the matter at which he refused to let state Rep. Leslie Acosta, a Latina Democrat from Philadelphia, use her allotted two minutes to ask a question. It seems he got a little pissy when she actually used some of her time to speak in Spanish and decided to cut off her microphone. 

Meanwhile, Metcalfe allowed his own invited speakers to espouse the typical ’Merica-based “logic” about how this will actually help Spanish-speaking residents assimilate better to the U.S. One of those speakers was Bob Vandervoort, the leader of a group called ProEnglish, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as “a nativist extremist group.” Further, the SPLC says Vandervoort is also the “former head of the white nationalist group Chicagoland Friends of American Renaissance.”

When confronted with the facts, Metcalfe offered this defense, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “There was an email that was put out alleging that somebody was a white nationalist, which is quite a bit different than a white supremacist, and to say that somebody is a nationalist and that they are for the independence of their country and a patriot to defending their country is a lot different than somebody saying somebody is a racist. … And for whoever said the man was white to be begin with, that person was actually the racist tying his skin color to his patriotism and what he stands up for for the country.”

I don’t know if English will ever become the official language of Pennsylvania, but I’m pretty sure that “idiocy” is the official language of Daryl Metcalfe.

Normally I’m quick to chalk up Metcalfe’s antics to just more theater of the absurd, but it speaks to a bigger issue staring us in the face. At a time when Pennsylvania is operating without a budget and the federal government is facing yet another government shutdown, guys like Metcalfe are wasting their time holding hearings over divisive, obstructionist nonsense like English-only bills. And it’s no better in Congress, where Republicans like Beaver County’s own Keith Rothfus think a government shutdown is a perfect tool to negotiate the defunding of Planned Parenthood.

What do any of these things have to do with providing basic services to taxpayers and constituents? Using elected office to further one’s own personal beliefs is nothing new, but the levels at which it has crippled government seem to be at an all-time high. Legislators appear less willing to abandon their cockamamie ideological bullshit in favor of compromising on actual important issues — like passing timely budgets, providing adequate education funding, clearing a path to affordable health care and making sure all people are treated fairly and equitably.

Instead, we’re left with Metcalfe shutting off people’s microphones and shouting them down (like he did with openly gay state Rep. Brian Sims when Sims tried to make a statement in favor of marriage equality last year), and God-loving, hate-mongering county clerks in Kentucky who refuse to do their job, because it flies in the face of their personal beliefs. 

We deserve better than this and we haven’t had it in a long time. Am I mainly talking about ultra-conservative Republicans? Yeah, I guess I am. But there are reasonable legislators out there on both sides of the aisle who have vastly different personal beliefs than mine who are still willing to govern with an open mind instead of with obstructionist tendencies. A prime example: state Rep. Mike Follmer. From my research, there’s not much Follmer and I would agree on ideologically speaking. But when confronted with facts about medical marijuana, Follmer took it upon himself to do his own research, changed his mind and has become one of the biggest champions of this bill. Why? Because it was the right thing to do.

It’s hard to make meaningful gains in government when most of the time is spent parsing crap legislation meant to appease the citizenry sitting with closed minds and open mouths out on the farthest right. Want proof? Here are two statements that are true about Pennsylvania politics right now: Metcalfe’s English-only legislation will never become law, and we still don’t have a state budget.

Which one have you heard more about in the past week?

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