Monday, March 06, 2006

Lawnmower Man

Read an interesting news story yesterday, and I'm still not sure what I think of it.

Arapahoe County is threatening to fire a veteran Public Works employee for promoting the fact that he is an English speaking American.

. . .

The problems began last spring. Gray, 50, owns a lawn service business on the side. He was routinely driving to work in his pickup truck towing a trailer that he uses to carry lawn mowing equipment for his business. On the side of his trailer, the married father of two affixed a sign that reads "Lawn Services Done With Pride!! By An English Speaking American."

The sign also gives Gray's phone number and the lettering is over a background of an American flag.

"There are a lot of people in the lawn service that are non-English speaking," Gray said. "Customers and different people were telling me that they have a hard time trying to communicate with them about the work they want done on their yards. I just want to let people know they at least can communicate with me when I do work on their property."

To this point, my sympathies are all with Mr. Gray. I have to say when I visit my parents in Texas, all the lawn crews I see are composed mostly of men who speak Spanish. People like my parents, customers like my parents, sometimes have a hard time communicating with them.

I don't think there's anything wrong with advertising the fact that English is your native language. And I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting to do business with someone who speaks your language and can communicate with you. I wish I had the option to choose English-speaking Americans for technical support for my laptop.

Unfortunately, in the next paragraph, we get to something more problematic:

Gray also wore a hat to work that says "U.S. Border Patrol," which he says was a gift from his son.

Arapahoe County officials told Gray the sign and hat must go or else. In a Nov. 10, 2005, letter, his supervisor Monty Sedlak wrote the following:

"Some of your conduct ... is reprehensible and discriminatory to our non-English speaking and/or Hispanic workforce. You are in violation of ... guidelines which ensure a workplace free from harassment and sensitive to the diversity of employees."

. . .

Gray said he believes his First Amendment rights are at stake, and he said he is "not about to surrender."

"I got a new supervisor," said Gray. "He's a politically correct, bleeding heart liberal. I believe in what I'm doing. I got to stand up for what I believe in and I don't think I'm doing a thing wrong. Of course I don't want to lose my job, but I can't back down from something I believe in. Like I say, they're just chipping away at our rights and freedoms."

All-righty then. Let me give you a little tip, Mr. Gray. If you want people to believe that you are not an anti-immigrant bigot, that you're the innocent victim of a "politically correct, bleeding heart liberal" witch hunt, you probably should not wear a hat that says "Border Patrol."

Good grief.


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