Now this is customer service!
GOOD MORNING, WELCOME TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, a Christian nation of the free and the home of the brave.
How may I help you?
Press ‘1′ for English.
Press ‘2′ to disconnect until you learn to speak English
And remember only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you, Jesus Christ and the American Soldier.
One died for your soul, the other for your freedom.
If you agree, keep it going…
I got this email forwarded to me today. I get many such messages as well as postings on Facebook and Twitter, all complaining about having to press 1 for English. This one doesn’t explicitly say that but it especially raised my ire because they brought God into it. America is NOT a Christian nation. It is a nation of religious freedom. The founding fathers were very clear that this nation would not be bound to any one religion, having just broken off from Britain and the official Church of England. Beyond that though, I am once again shocked by the attitude of such sentiments. It would be akin to saying, “Welcome to America. We’re Christians. F#%$ you for not speaking our language.”
I cannot understand all of this anger centering around having to press 1 for English. In my day job I make a lot calls to various other businesses and I have never had to press 1 for English. Normally what I run into is a 2 second blurb right after the welcome prompt saying, in Spanish, “For Spanish, press 4.” And then you have to wait 5 seconds before it decides you aren’t pressing anything and continues. That extra 7 seconds is a killer apparently.
Further annoying about the sentiment is that the companies that have these prompts are typically international businesses. They do businesses with people in countries where English in not the primary language. In fact, the US is the only country in the western hemisphere that is a primarily English speaking one. Canada is bilingual, English and French. Everyone else speaks Spanish except for Brazil where they speak Portuguese. What little argument can be made for this sentiment just falls apart if you give it even a moment of thought.
Of course, this isn’t about thought. This is a gut-feeling, general dislike for those different from ourselves. It’s an irrational fear and hatred of the “Other”. The technical term for this is “Xenophobia”. From “Xeno” meaing “Stranger” and “Phobia” meaning “Fear of”. Fear of Strangers. Which brings me to the other part of this email that made me mad enough to type out a post.
Matthew 25:41-43 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.”’
The idea that those claiming to be Christians can so easily and vehemently express something so utterly against the teachings of Christ as to be outright condemned by Jesus himself, saddens me greatly. Jesus died for our sins, “our” being a collective our, meaning all of us. Everyone. All humans. There are a billion Christians around the world, and not a lot of them speak English. Is this email telling us, “Jesus died for your sins so you better learn English”? That makes even less sense then bringing the troops into it. What soldier has ever been sitting in a foxhole as a mortar is coming in thinking, “I’m going to die, but at least everyone back home will be speaking English.” It’s insulting to the memory of the fallen and belittles what they fought and died for. They died protecting our freedom and way of life, not so you wouldn’t be minorly inconvenienced by, at worst, pressing an extra button on your phone. And what does God or the troops have to do with immigrants, legal or otherwise, learning to speak English?
Looking at history, most immigrants don’t learn English. At least not very well. They typically congregate into cities with a large population that speaks the same language, and do their best when they have to interact with the rest of us. It is their children who learn to speak English, their grandchildren who lose their former heritage and become homogenized into the larger culture. It’s always been that way, from China Towns to Jewish Ghettos. One of my first bosses had such a strong dutch accent that he was difficult to understand, and I’m dutch! Or at least, that’s where my great-great-grandparents came from. Who are we to look down at this new batch of immigrants and belittle them just because we’ve been off the boat for a few more generations than they have? And how can we who claim to be Christians not welcome these new strangers as friends?