Saturday, March 20, 2021

WHOSE LANGUAGE CAN WE JUST FORGET?

                                       ON THE NEIGHBORHOOD BLOCK ON WHICH I LIVE 

 My wife and I were walking around our city block early in 2021.  Our city block is huge! It's over a mile--almost two miles--around the perimeter. This large block includes a housing neighborhood, a retirement center, a winery, a bank, a veterinarian hospital and Ford dealer auto and truck display and a three story medical hospital.  

Yes, and the block includes something else: a largely-ignored grassy, green knoll, topped with native trees. (Photo below.)

If you walk up the knoll you're rewarded with around-the-compass views: a chain of hills to the north and the east, and a neighborhood, a popular golf course, and woods to the south. To the northwest, a big parking lot of vehicles at a Ford dealer. Closer by to the northeast, the town's Providence hospital and the busy east-west four lane highway, U.S. Highway 99 West. What a basket of sights visible from this forty-five foot high hill! 

There's a marker on the top of the knoll. Here, one reads, was the 1800's site of the house of town's first postmaster, Sebastian Brutscher. The sign states that his house was the first to be built south of the Willamette River, a mile away. Imagine: Brutscher living a couple of miles back from the River. The site to him must have seemed 'way out in the woods. Why didn't he build, like the other settlers of his time, south of the river? Undoubtedly, the knoll was less expensive--maybe even free for the taking.  It was probably "merely" Indian land.
 
Today, where Brutscher laid his house foundation, you can find another marker written in four languages: English, French, Spanish, and an Asian language (Chinese? Japanese?) on the fourth side.) The post is an  eloquent appeal for peace among peoples.
I ask, why those four languages? Since the knoll commemorates Brutscher, why not also in his own native language--German. Since the knoll lies on land once regarded as home by the Yamel Indians, why not in their language?  

It just seems to me that the goal (a more peaceful world) would be reached more easily if all actors were addressed in their own tongue.  "The limits of my language means the limits of my world." (Unknown source found via Google search.)        Please comment if you have a reaction.  And, you're always welcome on this blog, which contains many cross-cultural resources.


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