The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 10, 1997 · Page 12
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 12

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Saturday, May 10, 1997
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B2 SATURDAY, MAY 10, 1997 George B. Pyle editorial page editor Opinions expressed on this page are those of the identified writers. To join the conversation, write a letter to the Journal at: P.O. Box 740 Sallna, KS 67402 Fax: (913) 827-6363 E-mail: SJLetters® sal|ournal.com , Quote of the day "Iraq is the Bay of Pigs in unending free fall, with fresh humiliation looming around the comer." Jim Hoagland The Washington Post OPINION By GEORGE B. PYLE / The Salina Journal Mother tongue THE ISSUE English as an official language THE ARGUMENT Language doesn't need government's help A mong the many bills that went into the recent session of the Kansas Legislature but never came out again were a pair of measures that would have declared English the official language of Kansas. English, though, marches on. If anything, those failed bills were an insult, and not only to those whose first language is not English. Such bills are an insult to the English language itself. And a totally unwarranted one at that. If the only way English is going to survive as America's common language, is through the force of law, then the tongue must be on its last legs, in danger of being swamped by everything from Esperanto to Ebonics. But it clearly is not. Not only is English thriving as the unofficial common language of the United States, it continues to be the unofficial common language of a great deal of the civilized world. Airline pilots speak it. So do most scientists. World leaders from Israel to South Africa use English when they want to be heard. Not because anyone passed a law. Because it works. English is a exuberant, expressive and, most important, expansive language. New words and expressions — many borrowed from other languages, many invented out of necessity or pluck — are added all the time. A report by a learned commission in Pakistan, brought to light in America by columnist Richard Reeves, urges Pakistanis to learn English. "English is the main repository of modern knowledge, and a third of all the books printed in the world each year are in the English language," the Pakistani report says. "There is no escape for any country in the world from learning English well and thoroughly." We should believe in the language most of us speak every day to survive and flourish. We should have faith in the marketplace of ideas to select, without government action, the language that is the most useful to us, individually, in our communities and in our world. If anything, more Americans should make an effort to learn other languages, if only to mine them for more gold that can be added to our own. English is fine, thanks. V CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Turn off the bigotry JUSTIN WIRES For The Snliiui Journal Well-intentioned people still treat gays as outcasts ( haven't had a lot to write about lately (I guess you could call four months "lately") because for me it is rather hard to write something that is interesting and i contemplative as well as several hundred words long. But at last I have to thank Tom •Wilbur, my esteemed fellow con- .tributing editor, for reawakening * my urge to write. His column of May 7 has me a bit confused. I have the utmost respect for Tom Wilbur. He is an asset to our community, he is very intelligent and he makes a lot more money than I do. But when he speaks of the way in which television is ruining our lives and making us all insensitive to violence and hatred confuses me. You see in the very same article in which Mr. Wilbur blames television for making people intolerant and divisive he takes an intolerant and divisive stand. Like many nice rational people, he says that to him homosexuality is wrong, therefore it is wrong for everyone. I guess he believes that anyone who is not like him must be against him. Does Mr. Wilbur think that gays and lesbians are trying to destroy families? Is he afraid that if gays and lesbians are on television, people might actually realize that they probably know someone who is gay, and that gays deserve to be who they are just as much as anyone else? Does Mr. Wilbur realize what he has done for those gay teen-agers in the community by saying that their existence is wrong? He has reinforced what is probably their already negative self-image. He has pushed them another step closer to suicide because they know they will always be different and because of nice, well-intentioned and well-respected people like Tom Wilbur, they will always be outcasts. To me this is as bad as anything shown on television. To deny someone self-worth because they are not what has been decided on as normal is terrible. Recently Cal Thomas, a very conservative columnist, wrote an article about television as well. He also spoke of how bad it was and used many of the examples used by Mr. Wilbur. He did say that one of the only worthwhile shows on television was "Touched by an Angel" on CBS. With great pleasure he wrote that it portrayed good, traditional family values. Is he aware that this show has portrayed gays and lesbians in a positive light and has said that gays and lesbians are included in God's plan? To me this sounds like good values, seeing someone for the person they really are not the stereotype they are often depicted as by nice well-intentioned people. Television is a mirror of the world in which we live. Some of the things in our world are very bad and other things in our world are very good. Hiding our eyes from the bad things doesn't shield us from them or make them go away. Portraying gays and lesbians like Ellen DeGeneres as normal people without an agenda does not promote homosexuality or encourage those who aren't gay to become gay. It promotes humanity and condones reality. It's too bad turning off the television couldn't turn off some people's fear and bigotry. • Justin Wires, Salina, is a paraprofessional at Ellsworth High School and a member of the Salina Journal Board of Contributing Editors. THE SALINA JOURNAL T UNCOMMON SENSE A leader, my kingdom for a leader With Clinton and Blair, America and Britain are not being led, they are being managed T he day after Labour's wipeout of the Conservative Party in the British elections, I called my friend, Harvey Thomas, a longtime Conservative official and former adviser to Margaret Thatcher. He had left the country. Call forwarding transferred me from his office outside London to his car which was "racing down Germany's Auto- A bahn at 90 miles per hour." It's his wife's birthday and he is treating her to a short vacation. What a relief! I thought he might have left England in despair. Without a leader (Michael Portillo, the favored candidate to replace John Major, lost his parliamentary seat), and without much of a voice in a House of Commons now under virtual Labour occupation, Harvey believes the only direction in which the Tories can move v is to the right of Labour's new moderate-to-conservative image on fiscal and social issues. Prime Minister Tony Blair's first pledge is to end welfare as the British have known it. Sound familiar? Harvey says a concern as big as his party's crushing defeat is that Britain and the United States have moved from visionary leadership to managerial leadership. "There is no longer dogma, but a desire simply to manage the ex- T LIBERTIES CAL THOMAS Los Angeles Times Syndicate isting state of affairs in a better way," he says. He's right. With all of the Republican posturing about a supposed balanced budget deal with the Clinton Administration, not a single Cabinet agency will be eliminated. Twice last year, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott pledged to me that at a minimum the Commerce Department would be closed and possibly Energy, as well. They remain. Now Republicans speak of cutting the size of government incrementally, which may ultimately work, but hardly inspires. Inspiration and perspiration are what drives parties to power and maintains them in power. Britain's Conservatives ran out of both, and America's Republicans appear to be running on fumes. But back to my speeding friend's contention that our respective countries lack men and women with real convictions who move., rather than are moved, by the polls. In his brief message to the nation from the steps of 10 Downing Street, the new Prime Minister suggested that the election results indicate the British have decided to put social cohesion before individualism. The danger in that view is that government soon begins to see itself as the keeper of a social order, defined by government and imposed from the top. The collective becomes more important than the rights of individuals, who are required to subsume their individualism to the perceived "good" of the state. If that sounds like socialism, it is. We used to love strong leaders, or at least appreciate their convictions and knowing what they stood for. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher changed their respective nations (as did Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill). To watch Thatcher take on the opposition during "question time" in the House of Commons, was an awesome experience. It was like watching a heavyweight boxing match as Thatcher frequently pounded into submission the Labour lackey of the moment by the force of her arguments and the power of her deeply held convictions. The Tories' ouster of Thatcher for a "kinder- gentler" John Major ensured that once the momentum of Thatcherism had run its course in the public mind and Major exposed himself as a political eunuch, all Labour had to do was present a candidate who appeared to have convictions and a unified party behind him, without the extremes of the past, and Labour would return to power. Thatcherism lives on in England, even as Reaganism lives on in America. People, are tired of paying ever-higher taxes and workiifg harder to subsidize big government. BuHjqJh England and America now have managerial leaders when each could use a leader with .real convictions and honest vision about where'the country should go. ,"'.';; Perhaps Tony Blair won't be the English version of Bill Clinton, though every sign indicates he will, including the employment of former White House aide George Stephanopolous as an adviser to his campaign. After four : plus years, we know that Clinton's vision extends no further than his polling arm; and. stonewalling the mounting number of investigations into his corrupt administration. The' Tories still haven't found a suitable replacement for Thatcher. The Republicans can't,find an ideological heir to Reagan. Both countries are likely to be facing a long period of being managed, rather than being led. Bush: In free fall and happy at last Clinton presidency is so becalmed and defeated that Bush now looms large S o how weird is this? The Clinton presidency that began with such grandiose designs has become so becalmed, so shrunken, so defeated, so aimless, so anomic, so technical that George Bush now looms as a giant who bestrode the earth. Clinton White House reporters tell me they "envy" my time covering Bush, that he seems more "interesting." The Bush domestic policy, known as * "status-quo plus," suddenly looks retroactively ambitious, compared with Clinton drift. "It turns out that was an activist presidency," says Michael Duffy, a Time reporter who co-wrote a book on the Bush years called "Marching in Place." "After briefings with Erskine Bowles, you begin to yearn for five minutes of good, old-fashioned abuse from John Sununu." $ Compared with the listless president hobbled by crutches and investigations, paralyzed by the fear of offending anyone, his 72-year-old predecessor appears the master of his fate — skydiving and holding up rabbit ears behind his wife's head at the Gerald Ford museum rededication. Bush laid the groundwork for the new budget deal. And Points of Light, much mocked by Democrats in '92, is practically all MAUREEN DOWD The New York Times that remains of Bill Clinton's social policy. I faxed the ex-president in Houston to tell him he was looming large. "Looming Large? With whom, for whom?" he faxed back, in one of his famous free-form letters ("self typed I might add"). He requested that I read the note and then "eat it." Before addressing my questions, Bush asked about a biting description of him in '88. "But why am I like every girl's first husband? Unfair!" I wondered if he was appalled that Clinton was reduced to purloining conservative premises. "I'm glad about that," he faxed back. "Volunteerism, less government, China, Haiti boat people, NAFTA — I like it that our policies made some sense to those who came along after me.... We did leave a very strong economy in 1992, but didn't your colleagues want 'change' and wasn't I, to them, 'out of touch'?" I was curious about the deeper meaning of those rabbit ears. "Fun, strictly fun, and I don't have to worry now how the press corps will analyze this. I used to. But now, I am free at last — make that relatively free at last. I don't want the Washington/NY corps charging down to Texas and Florida saying to my boys 'Defend your old man/Has he lost it these days?' Yesterday at a Maui photo op, the Silver Fox rabbit eared me — couldn't even let me go one up without retaliation." So what did he learn at the conference on his presidency at Hofstra? "I learned there are some real whacko professors scattered out around the country. Mistakes? I wish I had been a Reaganesque com- OOONESBURY municator — but then do I?; for life is gQod now, it really is." He said he had not expected so much fascination about his jump at 12,500 feet out ot a plane. ,^ "The only fear I felt was fear itself. ; . but once in free fall it was heaven. I'd do it again but I'm not sure this second one wouldn't be written off by the wispy libs and oh so serious pundits as 'Look at the old guy, trying to garner more good press.'" • -« Asked about Bob Dole's comment that he had considered asking Bush to help pay off Newt Gingrich's debt, he said he "probably would have if asked." Did he give any advice to Clinton at the vpl- unteerism summit? "Are you kidding?" he asked. '-' '-' As for Democrats arguing, at news of'the Clintons auctioning off the Lincoln Bedroom and Air Force One, that both parties did,th'at sort of fund-raising, Bush noted: "Everybody did not do it. Honest!" He said he missed some things about Wjash- ington — the White House staff and Camp David. "To some degree, I miss making Jleci- sions that matter. But, BPB and I are both-very happy. I have no desire to shape history — none. No memoirs lie ahead. Only the Scowcroft-Bush treatise, which will interest foreign policy wonks and name droppers. I think it will be OK, though I expect some critics will trash us. It will say what it was like dealing with Gorby, MT, Mitterrand, Major, Mulroney, Kaifu and Miyazawa, the guy I threw up on! It will explain why I think Saddam Hussein is a really nice guy and why I regret not,'letting sanctions work.' No, no — wrong bodic." By G.B. TRUDEAU ARElfAV/NG, TONI6HT I'M 6OINISTO&T SWKFORTWO

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