Wednesday, 29 March 2023


This is not your grandmother's old age. Some time ago, a smarty-pants columnist wrote that the baby boomers, used to getting their own way in just about everything, would change the nature of nursing homes as they aged. They're aging. The first of them, born in 1946, hit 60 last year.

It's no secret that our older population is increasing in size, and living longer. That means more of us are going to develop chronic conditions of some sort and need more medical care, probably some stays in nursing homes.

At last Tuesday's Board of Supervisors hearing on Sutter Lakeside's plans for change, we heard medical director Dr. Diane Pege say that medical care has changed radically. Because of the near-miraculous nature of today's medical technology, operations which used to require several days hospital stay now are outpatient surgery. You're in and out on the same day, with no need for heavy duty nursing care.

But if you live alone, as more of us do now, you may not feel able to go home and back to fully taking care of yourself – shopping, cooking, bathing, dressing. A convalescent home could be just the ticket.

But will we tolerate the typically awful food of nursing homes? The constant blare of competing television sets from every room? The distressing and rather frightening presence of mentally ill patients mixed in with those who only have a broken ankle?

Probably not. At the Tuesday hearing, Sutter Lakeside CEO Kelly Mather said chronic conditions are the big problem, and full hospital care for most of them is just too expensive, and unnecessary.

Time for some change

We're in a transition stage, and those are always uncomfortable. It's a relief to know that Sutter Lakeside has been working to upgrade the standards at a local nursing facility. We certainly need a new model. Many convalescence periods don't need fancy machinery or 24-hour nursing, just a cheerful setting, a little peace and quiet, maybe some intensive physical therapy, at which Sutter Lakeside excels, and which they can certainly provide in a less expensive setting.

There are serious questions about why hospital care and insurance are so expensive, and why insurance is so complicated. The hospitals didn't create that situation. They buy expensive technology because we want all the latest gadgets, just as we want prescriptions for all the latest drugs we see advertised on television. Insurance is a world unto itself, which many legislators have allowed to run wild as the campaign contributions roll in. Those are issues to deal with on a political level.

On a personal level, we need to examine our assumptions. Is a high-tech hospital the only place for long-term recovery, or the best place to give birth or to die?

Maybe not.

Sophie Annan Jensen live in Lucerne.


In the current pseudo-logical semantic thrust of the conservative party line, the Constitution decrees that the United States of America was and is and should be a republic. Now that alone is no great concern for panic, not even for staunch Liberals and Democrats. The Constitution does in fact say, "republic." But that is not, in itself, the problem. Read any good dictionary on the definitions of and between democracy and republic: little difference. But if you listen to the conservatives, the rhetoric active behind the "republic" screen subtly shifts … they are actually advocating oligarchy which, coincidentally, they fail to qualify in terms of constitutionality. This dance is, in fact, a very neat trick. They know that their definitions are not precise (or for that matter, agreed upon), and that they are using the term “republic” as a cover for the oligarchy which they would really like to have.

That they should so wish is interesting. It is best understood as an astute reading of their voting base; and their voting base doesn’t have any idea what they are actually voting for, or what bending of the U.S. tradition and liberty it might allow!

Average Republicans will and do deny this, but with some study the truth will out. Specifically, the current cant is that in a Republic, the legislators (which, co-incidentally but unacknowledged, are elected democratically) are not to be subject to the will of the people; rather they are subject to the rule of “law.” Oh yes … but which law? No one actually says. This semantic slight of hand is that “patriots” (read conservatives) know what the law is, and that what they are proposing and promulgating has been here since the founding of America. The usually un-verbalized (but assumed and injected) con is that the “Law” is always apparent, and that all “good Patriots” know what the “law” is!

Once their assumption of the “obviousness” law is posited, then next sequential conservative shuffle step is to totally avoid and ignore the source from whence the law (remember, we are not discussing religion) would come! Nor do they explain how, when needed, the law can, would, and/or should itself be changed "by the rule of law.” Can't you just see the “conservative conservatives” waving the flag of “Law” against the “not quite so conservative conservatives.” Doesn’t this remind you of old church ladies arguing about who is “Holier than Thou?” In arrogance, the conservatives are sure that they know how many angels can dance on the point of their pen!

Let's think a little about law. It is very much like theology, but we need to think about it. In a "republic", what would the "law" dictate? Is it, the “pertaining law" Christian, Muslim, Judaic, Buddhist, Shinto, Hindu or … or what? And in whichever pertains, which sect, branch, division, split, or denomination has the best understanding? Is the "law" white, yellow, red, brown, black or mixed? Is it immutable or changeable? And if so, who is to interpret its immutability, and/or who determines the essence of the change? If “changeable,” who gets to do the changing. If “unchanging,” Who knows best to explain? Do these arbiters just "happen" or do we select them? Who determines that they are correct in their interpretation? ... who judges the judges, and who elects and un-elects those judges?

If the "law" is changeable, do men change it? If so, can those we elect change or is it changed from on high. And if from on high, who’s on high delivers the interpretation and by what vector? How do we know that they are from … “on high?” If it is changed by men, is voting on it how it is changed? If so, is it done democratically by vote? If not, how do we determine? Democratically? How? Do we go back to monarchy? Bow to dictatorship? Submit to slavery?

In America, most politicians would, at least publicly, agree that “we the people” vote. But, most of the time “we” vote through “our representatives” but other than wisdom and honesty, what and who watches over our “representatives?” The answer, of course, is our vote reigns over their head … but our vote may be years away. And, more to be feared, our votes may be suborned.

Unfortunately, the authors and propagandists of current conservative party lines immediately gloss by such questions. They loudly proclaim their want for the stability of "law," but if questioned about the nurturing and maintenance of the "law" they assure us it will be done "by the rule of law." The hidden proviso? That they, the conservative comrades, are, in their minds and plans, to be the oracles of that law. They reassure and promise and attest and explain what the law wants. They find “patriotic” rules to tell you what to do, how to act, what to think, what you can expect and, at all times they assure you that they are right. They, these conservative representatives, will tell us what they want us to know.

Unfortunately, even if they are totally faithful to their own lights and job, they still may not be adequate. Sometimes their vote will be based upon error, or in ignorance, or both, or worse. All they know, may not be all they need to know, and sometimes even these self proclaimed commissioned from on high “conservatives” will change to support personal agenda. Their standard reassurance is that what they want is what the "law" wants. But, fair warning, even if they are totally honest, their understanding of "law" may be wrong, and, politics being politics, may even be different than they portray and promise.

I find all this and its political agenda amazing … so strange, in fact, that it would be funny were it not such a fundamentally important thing for and in our lives. Don't ever forget that we, the people in concert, by vote, and often in compromise, have the right to determine and mold "law." Most politicians will readily acknowledge that when we vote for them, but they frequently forget when it is time for them to vote … for us.

To those of “conservative” proclivity, this all suggests that “patriotism” is doing what our leaders tell us. I disagree, patriotism is our job of directing our leaders? This is most specifically and frequently needed when our “leaders” use their position to impose their will for “party” (or their own selfish benefit…) rather than for the mutual benefit of our country.

We, the people, are the nation. Our elective representatives and the government functionaries exist at our will and for our collective well being. They can be and are a part; but they are a part of “we!” Their job is not their power “over” us … rather, it is the representation of the “collective” us.

Do you want to live in a truly “free” society and country? That is possible and happens only when "We the people" are also we the “law.” As assignment, our representatives should not be our “leaders;” in fact, they were hired to follow us. They are paid to be our hired hands.

Jim Lyle is a previous Lake County Poet Laureate. He now lives in Yountville.


“But, Officer, I’m not drunk!”

I can’t begin to count the times I’ve heard that same statement from people I’ve arrested for driving under the influence (DUI).

Driving under the influence is commonly referred to as “drunk driving,” but you don’t have to be drunk to be arrested for it.

There is a common misconception that if you're not “drunk,” you're OK to drive. Officer Bruce Mulligan once told me, “The word ‘drunk’ has probably killed more people than any modern war.”

The problem with the word is in its definition. Being drunk to some may mean you're unable to stand or even talk sensibly. What is difficult for many people to understand is the concept of being under the influence versus being drunk.

Some people are drunk when they are arrested for DUI, but a majority of those arrested are under the influence of alcohol. In both cases the violation is the same, driving under the influence.

Simply put, being under the influence means that you do not have the same mental capacity or motor control skills that someone who has not been drinking would have. As such, the person who is under the influence causes an unacceptable hazard to the motoring public.

How many drinks is under the influence? One, two, three ... height, weight, metabolism as well as the size of the drink is a factor. The law states that if your blood alcohol concentration is .08 percent or higher then you are definitely under the influence. You may be arrested at a .05 percent, up to .07 percent, depending on the nature and circumstances.

How do you avoid being arrested for DUI? Don’t drink any alcohol before driving.

A good plan before going out, such as the Designated Driver plan, will not only spare you from being arrested, but can save your life or the life of another.

Don’t let pride cloud your judgment and make you another statistic. If you find yourself in a situation, call a friend, call a taxi or make other arrangements to ensure that you don’t drive.



Officer Mike Humble works for the California Highway Patrol's Clear Lake office.


Much to-do is being made of the Bush administration’s push for legislative authority under a recently enacted provision of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), known as the Protect America Act (PAA). Under FISA, he must obtain a warrant (one which can be obtained up to 72 hours after surveillance has begun), whereas under the PAA, the president has the authority to eavesdrop on terrorist conversations without a warrant or court permission. While the PAA has only been on the books for approximately six months, the controversy is not over the president’s new authority to spy on anyone without accountability most senators and many members of congress seem willing to grant this executive request. The real hang-up is whether the telecom industry can be held liable for past cooperation in the government’s warrantless surveillance the very thing FISA was enacted to combat. However, for reasons of my own soon to be explained I think the very idea that we have privacy that needs protection is an urban myth, more or less.

To begin, there is the Patriot Act, which made vast inroads to whatever privacy we thought we had. Also, dozens of U.S. Supreme Court decisions (since the Warren Court of the sixties) have been chipping away Fourth Amendment protections in the criminal context, mostly because the justices are loath to let suspected criminals go free because of an illegal search. There are exceptions, of course, but the overall effect of recent Supreme Court decisions has been to vastly expand the circumstances in which the police may search without a warrant.

Whatever the state of the law in our criminal courts, the federal executive branch will use whatever technology is available to ferret out the “enemies of the state,” with or without judicial permission. Our national budget allots many billions of dollars to the National Security Agency (NSA), the agency responsible for monitoring the electro-magnetic spectrum, and we the people haven’t a clue as to how the money is spent under what’s known in Washington as a “black” budget. We can rest assured, however, that the NSA is hard at work to make sure it has access to every communication that occurs in or out of the U.S, save only those disseminated by carrier pigeons (and who really knows about them).

By their nature, civil libertarians oppose the proposition that the executive branch can, without a warrant, legally intercept any and all communications domestic and foreign if it (in its executive wisdom) thinks terrorists are somehow in the mix. Unlike the FISA, which required judicial approval of wiretaps, the new version of the PAA advanced by the senate, and sponsored by Senator Jay Rockefeller, makes the government the sole arbiter of whether any particular communication qualifies for warrantless surveillance. This, in the opinion of the ACLU and other similarly-inclined organizations, clearly tramples on the checks and balances inherent in our constitutional form of government. And in doing so, the legislation obliterates our Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful search and seizure. Who can argue with that?

Not me. But I don’t much give a damn. Most of my adult life I’ve assumed that the government is listening in to my calls and emails. And why not? In the 1960s, we were convinced that the FBI or the local cops had taps on our phones, tape recorders in our meetings, and cameras trained on our protests.

Whether this was because of our political activities or illegal drug transactions (consisting primarily of buying and selling bad Mexican marijuana in matchboxes), our sense of self-importance led us to believe we were the center of a law enforcement campaign to put us away for years if not decades. When using the phone we were very careful to speak in what we hoped was undecipherable code, whether about a particular drug transaction or experience, or about plans to engage in civil disobedience. We never doubted that eager law enforcement ears were just waiting for the right words to launch a bust.

Now, of course, we are much wiser. We know there are only so many hours in the day and the government can only listen to so many conversations in real time and that ours were and are probably not among them. But the point is, we always assumed we had no privacy when using telephonic communications or engaged in civil rights activity or protests against the Vietnam war. This wasn’t paranoia, but rather an understanding that the government had the capacity to listen in, and watch, if it wanted to. And we were pretty sure it did.

Also, back in the 60s, we always assumed the government could get a warrant if it wanted one, and that the only protections we had under the Constitution were if they busted us and we could prove in court that they somehow screwed up the warrant process. As a latter day criminal defense attorney, I’m of the opinion that the warrant requirement didn’t (and doesn’t) provide much protection. There are numerous loopholes in the warrant requirement itself, and even when one is technically required under current case law, most judges rubber-stamp the applications submitted by the police, and most trial judges uphold warrants issued by their brethren no matter how flimsy the factual basis put forth in the supporting affidavits. There are exceptions, of course, but as the old bromide goes, the exception proves the rule.

There also have been rare instances when the ACLU successfully sued transgressing government agencies for Fourth Amendment violations. For the most part, however, there has been little or no accountability for illegal surveillance that does happen to come to light. The only real accountability for a Big Brother administration is regime change, and even then, the new government will be just as likely to spy on its (or America’s) perceived enemies as the last regime. My reading of history is that the level of government surveillance never goes down regardless of who is in power.

In a democracy we theoretically could bring the government to heel on these privacy concerns if, as a people, we were more concerned about privacy. But the fact is, we don’t really hold privacy in high regard no matter how we respond to the polls. We are, in fact, addicted to gossip (something common to the entire human race and thought to be the reason we have speech in the first place), and a large part of our entertainment is based on privacy violations of one type of another. It would be nice if we could distinguish social privacy from privacy against government intrusions, but that doesn’t seem likely. Our lives are laid bare to the world, and we rather get off on it.

In summary, since we don’t have much if any privacy in the first place, we shouldn’t worry about what powers the government has under the FISA act, or its amendments and provisions. If you want your communications to remain confidential, stay away from the telephone or figure out a code that is unlikely to trigger the government computers to alert their minders that the conversation warrants further processing. The government has been Big Brother for a long time and, as in 1984, little brother ain’t coming back.

Attorney Steve Elias lives in Lakeport.


Recently, articles relating to death and disability from stress, depression and related health issues in the U.S. have made headlines. They run counter to the idea that Americans are the happiest people in the world a point of view, that if you believe American pundits, should be the case. After all, we have been assured we have the best political system, the best economic system, the best educational system, the best science and technology, the best geography and resources, the best religion (Christianity), the best workers, the best morality, etc. etc. etc. Why wouldn’t we be the happiest and most contented Nation? The truth is that our reluctance to change to accept new paradigms and to embrace new directions—will relegate us to a second or third rate status in the world in coming generations. It is in the essence of the identity that Americans have assumed that we find the flaw. It arises in the dichotomy of what we say we believe in and what we truly believe in and practice in our daily lives and institutions.

For many Americans, their primary personal identity is found in their alma mater their high school or college not in their family or ethnic identity. That is why the mascot issue is such a hot button item in many communities. Those four to eight years of their life seem to provide the only symbols by which many people can identify a personal identity other than being “American.” That is why the emotional attachment is so strong because the American social fabric is woven of such thin and transparent cloth. The experience of four years identifying with a mascot symbol is compared equally in importance, without any sense of shame, to the real identity of cultures formed over thousands of years. In our communities people who went to high school and identified with “Indians” draw on that identity and compare it to the emotional reservoirs of families who can trace their roots locally back 10,000 years and can compare the two experiences without blinking.

I have consistently expressed the controversial view that the real success of the U.S. as a nation is predominantly based on the unique and substantial resources of the land and its varying geology, geography, topography and climate rather than the actions of men. At this time, I would like to add that I believe the inherent spirit and social balance exhibited by the Native Nations that resided here for millennia provided a buffer of spiritual power that enabled America not only to survive the last five centuries, but to maintain a relatively free and easy life. Keep in mind that we were denied our religious, social and political freedoms, even while Americans were formulating the myth that the guarantee of those rights is what America stands for. Long after our peoples posed any threat to the American Nation or peoples, those freedoms continued to be denied to us. Our peoples still struggle with the moral, social and spiritual disabilities of having been stripped and denied our right to assemble, celebrate and worship as we believed.

The basic philosophy of the American Experiment has been a blend of Merchant-Roman-Christian ideology. What does that mean? Think of it as a three-tiered effigy. At its base, the underlying fundamental principle of America is its mercantilism and entrepreneurial spirit. The potential to get rich and consistently increase one’s individual stand of living. That is the bedrock of what draws immigrants to the U.S. And let’s be frank, America has always needed that influx. Let’s digress for a moment and ask “Why?”

Anytime one takes unrelated groups with varying ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds and attempts to meld them together into any purpose the first thing that needs to be established is a common identity and goal. The goal is this case is easily defined. Freedom to pursue economic independence and wealth, and to practice one’s culture and religion without persecution. That is the stated, albeit often unrealized, expression of the American Dream. The identity for the Founding Citizens of this country was easily formed. They were all castaways from the systems of Europe, sincerely grateful to have conquered a new paradise. They carried forward with that sense of new purpose and freedom for a number of generations before they began to run out of steam. However, after awhile the novelty of that wore off and significant and divisive forces began to fester in the infancy of America. What brought it out of the doldrums and reinforced its identity was another wave of immigrants in the early 1800s. Newly immigrant Americans have always been the most enthusiastic patriots and believers in the promise of this Nation.

The institution of Democracy, completely plagiarized from two centuries of discussions about American Native institutions of government and social organization in Europe and America, resulted in a government that really was capable of allowing individual freedom for almost all its citizens (except those it purposely disenfranchises along the way). Additionally, and perhaps most important, the length, breadth and rich resources of the land provided every opportunity for that Dream to be realized.

Keeping unrelated and culturally diverse peoples united requires a common identity. That identity was concocted from a series of myths and outright lies to form the basis of the conceptualization of what America stands for. There is no dispute that for many immigrants the freedom to worship and strive for economic improvement is a dream come true, whether the facts of their identity are constructed from wisps of fantasy or not. Each time that the country has faced a period where its unrelated nature began to dissolve the bonds that held it together, a new group of immigrants has arrived to bolster its mythological premise and support it patriotic nationalism. America needs immigrants to infuse its blood supply with new and energetic support, and to continue the myth of its premise that it was founded for all.

Now let’s return to the discussion at hand. We have identified freedom from political totalitarianism as one of the elements that allows free enterprise to flourish. Though there are other forms of totalitarianism including corporate economic power the second tier of the American effigy is in its similarity to Rome. Particularly in today’s circumstances the symbols of the Emperor, the Senate, and the Coliseum are highly similar to what moves and shakes America. The former two are evident as the primary combatants in our political system (the president and Congress), and the Coliseum represents entertainment and becomes a significant part of the cultural reality of our Age. Sports, media, movies, holidays, commercials, music, even eating establishments become the fabric of American culture replacing a true ethnic and cultural identify as a kind of pseudo-culture, totally devoid of common mores or values unless recognized as part of the game.

The final piece of the effigy, our Christian heritage, is an integral part of the American Myth. It revolves around a Divine Human and asks that we be like him, while at the same time assuring us, that because of our deviant natures, we can never be like him. Additionally it approaches it from the predominantly Roman Christian, rather than Hebrew-Aramaic point of view. The Romans imported the Christian story and ideals in much the same perspective we do today fitting it in where it has a place, and disposing of it or ignoring it when it conflicts with the lower two tiers of the effigy politics / the Nation, and economics /mercantilism.

This belief provides a convenient form of social control. On the one hand it asserts: “Your Savior was tolerant, peaceful, and energetic in his criticism of the status quo; of the mainstream; of the staid and conservative point of view. He tore off his clothes and jumped up and down on them to make a point with his nakedness. He associated with the lower strata of society in his daily life and threw off what he considered contrived social norms. He publicly berated the political and religious powerbrokers of his time.” Then, we are told “But wait, he could do this because he was the Son Of Deity. No matter how hard you strive to be like him, you will never achieve it!” Talk about showing us cake and then serving us stale bread!

The result of this is a duality in our spiritual consciousness. On the one hand we exalt the Nazarene Carpenter for his virtues, but since we are told we can never achieve his perfection we don’t even attempt it. We accept his beneficent forgiveness, and turn around and do the most unseemly things to others and to the world. We have taken his human characteristics and put them on an unreachable pedestal to be admired but never truly adopted into our social reality. We assume the mantel of the Pharisees of his time, ignoring his message and example, tentatively worshiping his unreachable perfection and then attending to the business of the day. Because the only accepted study guide is a conglomeration of books that form a story more like a screenplay than a historical narrative, we have plenty of drama to distract us from the few real examples of his behavior—and conveniently ignore His politics and social consciousness.

This fits perfectly with the Merchant-Roman descendant civilization we exalt. We can look to the top of our effigy when we want to identify with our highest principles, yet we can also ignore it on a daily basic to pursue our Roman Mercantilism where the bottom line always reflects the power of economy and Nationalism over morality, meaning or social responsibility.

But immigrants cannot, and will not, always be there to re-infuse the American Dream with new blood. Somewhere, the necessity for common purpose and commitment must arise. Common values are a necessary part of the survival of any human social organism. Christianity is not shared by enough Americans in common to provide guidance. Having been forcibly driven from our spiritual roots, American Indians still have enough understanding of the necessary elements that bind peoples together for survival to provide significant guidance for this Nation. Our people were far from perfect, yet we lasted far longer as communities and Nations than any of the more “permanent” civilizations that have since fallen into ruin.

Better to be a third-rate country with a contented and moral populace than the militant, puffed up and pretentious leader of the world. With our children suffering declining health, education, morality and hope from stress, suicide, substance abuse, violence and malaise, we need to do more than point fingers at those we think responsible. And as Native People are often told, “We can’t go back to the old days.”

This is just as true for the Americans of today. We cannot recapture the past no matter how grand we perceive its glory. We have to take what’s real the smiles and future of our grandchildren and serve their interests. Americans need to formulate a new common identity to sustain us as this new and changing world reshapes itself. There are guides to this process, if enough eyes and ears are opened.

James BlueWolf is a artist and author. He lives in Nice.


Currently in the United States, there is much hype and bombast about, "our Language." It is a rally point for Patriots, many of whom have never made any other investment. The rural areas of California have many, many, citizens whose concept of patriotism is in how many places they can find to fly a flag. The favorite seems to be flags flown from a 4x4 anchored by rope or cable in the rear bed of the ubiquitous pickup. It is, in fact, not a simple quandary, but there are important considerations that are seldom discussed.

If, as a vehicle of discussion, we assume any abstract country at any random time, the humans will, have a language. Volumes have been written on the relative sophistication and beauty and complexity and power of languages. Some will endlessly argue the merits and beauty of the different tongues. I personally feel that some languages are better at expressing some subjects better than 1) they are at expressing other subjects in that same language, and/or are 2) better or worse at expressing some subjects than are other languages. It is my understanding, from readings in Semantics, that most experts fall back to those same general opinions; i.e., some are better at some things and some are better at others.

So, if we were to play pin-the-tale-on-the-donkey at any place on an Earth map, the language story of every culture will be a history of change. If the language (in its present form) is different now than it once was, then something changed it. One possibility is gradual change over time. In my high school in Oklahoma, our English teacher from back east could scarcely understand our speech, yet I am reasonably sure that "time" in provincial isolation was the primary agent of our change. That included our pronunciation of specific words and the general tang we gave to it. The point is, that the Irish, and German, and English, and the broad selections of pioneers who settled the west soon spoke a very different language than what might have been their lot had they stayed at home. After a rather short time, even the English spoken by expatriate Englishmen had little to do with England's standards.

I think reflection will demand that we accept that languages change even when they stay in "A" place with "A" relatively stable population of native speakers. All the more pertains if the population is not static. Exodus, influx, amelioration, and decay push the instability. One or more instability factors have always been present on this continent. Even in the major Indian tongues the records seem to indicate cross tribal pollination in normal times and drastic change in warfare and during migration.

Given that change did, has, and will occur, it seems to me that we must investigate the things that allow one language to change and/or absorb another. That, by the way, is the normal circumstance; trying to outlaw a language usually succeeds in creating parallel languages. At least it is so until schools, commerce, and time finally elects one prevailing variant. But, by that time, the one elected has almost always absorbed a lot of the other.

And the main instruments of change? There are, I think, three:

One very obvious force for change, is FORCE! When people who speak different languages wage war, the victor usually insists on the use of their language, but the extent may vary. Typically the government itself will use the victors tongue. Business, at least major business and business locations, will tend to function as the victors dictate. Official schools will help the transitions by using and promoting the new tongue. But, this "contamination" is hated and resisted by the populace, and, with enough time, the populace will usually end up using mixture of the old and the new and imposed. Example: the English over the Irish. But, isn't it interesting how an Irishman, George Bernard Shaw, out did the English with their own tongue)?

The second is commerce. A major source of change, but much simpler than war. Even merchants, who are of the prevailing major class, will kowtow to the subject language when money dictates. If one grocery store tends to hire employees who can speak the "non-official" language, that portion of the populace will gravitate to that store.

The third instrument of change is birth rate. If minorities outbreed the majority long enough, they become a balance of power even in the use and power of the first two instruments of change. If there are more of the "new language" users in a time of war, they will be solicited or drafted. If the need is dire and present, the military will find ways to speak to them. If they have the buying power, commerce will court them. If there are enough of them, and the majority does not accommodate them, the majority ends up at war with them. Regarding which, ghetto violence is both extended and fueled by this very problem. The language is an audible tag of position. It is not, admittedly, language alone, but if you allow an exploding birth rate in a disenfranchised atmosphere, the results will be, and are, evolved from and do provoke violence. Denying heritage and language within these parameters is a volatile fuse for a very heavy explosive.

All this is preamble to the central question about whether, or not, "they" must learn "our" language. We need, I think, to be careful how we answer. We must be sure that we know and understand who and what "they" are. It is also conducive to all parties if they also know and understand who and what we are.

We also should not ever assume that "our" language is, in fact, ours. It coexists with us, we use it, we learn it, and we may love it, but it belongs to history. It is not "ours." It has, will, and now is changing! The Spanish speakers have already changed it greatly (a great portion of the names and titles of towns, geography, and history in California are identified and titled in Spanish).

And, by the way, the quickest way in the world to kill a given language is any to keep it from growing, changing, discarding old parts, and absorbing the new. French was, at one time, where English is now; it was the common denominator language of the world. But the French, with conceit and condescension, decided their language had to remain pure … so time and the world ignored the French. I’m sure it is concurrent, but as the use of the French language, France concurrently ceased to be the

number one military power in the world. Whether we remain the preeminent military power in the world is yet to be seen, but if we can't collectively admit, welcome, and embrace the growth and change of English, our language, we WILL wind up like France, and that might also be a part of our loss in international politics.

The arguments, answers, anger and instincts of the "good-ole pickup and flag patriots" all display their tendency to proscribe and dictate. It does not work. It will not work. It will, of certainty, fail from within. The argument of being here first and having our own language is, as a justification, specious. If that were not so, we Americans should all be speaking some variant of American Indian. They were here and they had their own language. If military power at the time when the new languages entered had be the valid and driving justification, we would again be speaking Indian. Even without guns, all the native population needed to expel, or kill, or enslave the new comers was the will to do so. If, and to the extend possible, the prior waves of migration of the “native” Americans probably had similar situations as they moved on other native populations.

If we want to perpetuate "our" language, there is only one sure way; we must seduce the new speakers. But, we must absolutely allow for change, growth, expansion, and transition. We must lead with a carrot, not with a stick. Unfortunately, our schools do a very poor job at this. If we do not effectively continue the four hundred year seduction that created (and fuels) what America is … then we will be left trying to force continuity. And that, I think, would not succeed! And even if it did, the result would no longer be the American Dream; it would cease to exist. Stasis can not be forced.

Jim Lyle is a former Lake County Poet Laureate. He now lives in Yountville.



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03.29.2023 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm
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