Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Philadelphia in a hissy-fit

Geno's Steaks in Philly has a sign on their window that says "This is America... when ordering speak English." Joey Vento, whose grandparents were immigrants from Italy, is a patriotic guy and is concerned with immigrant's inability to speak English. He has become a regular celebrity after reports of the sign went nationwide, and was quoted on Good Morning America as saying that he thought it wasn't to hard to say "cheeze whiz" in English. (PS - I've been to Philly not to long ago and ate at Geno's. All you need to say to order is literally what kind of cheese you want. You could walk up and say "whiz" or "swiss" and get a sandwich.)

The City of Philadelphia can't handle the sign (or Vento's attitude) and its "Commission on Human Relations" is lodging a complaint against the Philly cheese steak guru. They say the sign is discriminatory, but when Vento says that he helps people order who can't speak English he was told that wasn't the problem:

"The issue is not whether anyone has been denied service, but that such a sign discourages people from coming asking for service," [the commission chairman] said.

This whole situation is naturally silly, of course. Many restaurants have signs prominently displayed that read "This establishment reserves the right to deny service to anyone." I saw one of these just the other day. The City of Philly is not concerned about people not eating at Geno's or being "discouraged" from doing so, the city is passing out their version of political correctness, which evidently includes the idea that people in America need not speak English.

The truth is the sign is great, and it's a reminder of the worldviews of some immigrants compared to others. Some believe that they can and should assimilate, and others believe they can make a little mini-nation of their own here in America. Vento is going to fight to keep his sign, and even the ACLU won't help him protect his right to free speech.

I'm offended and discouraged from going to a lot of places and businesses. Just because of that doesn't mean a person has to sacrifice their rights within their own business to fit within another person's definition of politically correct.

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