Times are tough all over. So what better way to waste taxpayer money than to push a xenophobic city-wide resolution that states that English is the only acceptable language for government officials in Nashville, Tennessee?

Councilman Eric Crafton certainly can't think of any. "I happened to see a state legislature meeting in California where several of the state representatives had interpreters at their desk because they couldn’t speak English,” Mr. Crafton tells the New York Times, “That’s not the vision I have for Nashville.”

Crafton has reportedly wasted $350,000 worth of taxpayer money on his quest to ensure an English-only government, money he believes is well spent: “We’ll make English the official language here,” he claims, “After that happens, we’re going to go city to city, show them how we’ve done it here, and let the dominos fall.”

Yet other city officials don't agree: Mayor Karl Dean, local civil rights leaders, and business owners have all come out against the proposal. “Economics is global, and to be competitive you cannot drive away immigrants and the businesses that rely on them,” says Ralph J. Schulz, President of the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, “Businesses from outside Nashville have been calling and saying, ‘Is Nashville a xenophobic place?’ ”

Xenophobic attitudes often spring up in tough economic times, as citizens look for a scapegoat on which to place the blame. The threat of anti-immigrant attitudes is only amplified by such measures, which are exclusionary and give momentum to the idea of "the other"'; the fact that Crafton is pushing for "English-Only" rules is just a means for him to push the idea that English speakers are somehow more worthy of holding local offices. As David Morales, a Mexican immigrant, notes: “It’s part of a larger problem of people not understanding immigrants: their habits, their languages, their barbecues in the front yard. It’s more than just fear about jobs. It’s fear about a whole way of life.”

Advertisement

In Nashville, A Ballot Measure That May Quiet All But English [NYTimes]