Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What WERE they thinking of?

I have to confess that I’m actually pleased by the recent story involving a public park whose signs en Español gave ominous messages warning people that they could be arrested just for being there.

For it seems that when the signs came to the attention of the public schools superintendent in Milford, Del., her response was to visit all the parks with her husband and remove them personally.

NO NEED TO debate this in a committee. No need to feel some desire to hear “both sides” so that the ideological nitwits who probably like the idea of the signs to express their “outrage” at their removal.

The superintendent just took action. And just did the proper thing. Which at times seems like such a stretch for public officials – who seem too wary of offending people to do the right thing (and no, I’m not referring to the Spike Lee film).

For the record, the public parks all had signs in both English and Spanish, according to the Wilmington News Journal newspaper.

Usually when this happens, it is because somebody wants to make sure that everybody comprehends the same message.

PEOPLE READING THE English-language sign were told that, “Parental or guardian supervision is required for the use of this playground equipment. Play at your own risk.”

Which is a reasonable warning. Parents should watch their kids when they play on the equipment there. Not that I expect many young kids to pay attention when they’re running around like wildcats!

And if it were merely a matter of putting up a second sign in Spanish right next to it to translate that same message, there’d be no problem.

Except that the sign in Spanish translates along the line of, “You are required to have a permit to play in this park. Violators are susceptible to police action.”

I REALIZE THAT translation is not an exact science, and that you don’t just substitute words from one language into another (that is what those computer translation programs try to do – which is why their translations come out as gibberish).

But let’s be honest. By no stretch of the imagination is that second sign even close in meaning to the first.

It makes me wonder what was going through someone’s mind when they felt any need to have that second sign in place – and not just because the idea of needing a permit to play in a public park is absurd on the face of it.

Do we really want to act as though kids playing in a park present some sort of threat? Or does someone really think the Latino kids are the threat?

PERSONALLY, I’D BE inclined to think that those kids would wind up being victimized by some sort of Anglo bully. But that’s kind of a different subject best discussed in detail at another time.

For now, I’m just pleased to know that a public official was willing to act in a way that eliminated the potential for a problem and for offense. Although the cynic in me wants to wisecrack that perhaps we should be grateful that the ideologues who thought such signs were necessary thought enough of us to presume that we’d read a sign in Spanish – instead of presuming we’re illiterate in two languages.

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