Monday, November 12, 2012

A 19th Century Profession

I was walking Cheyenne on a quiet residential street in Fort Lauderdale a week ago when we were in town to put my wife on a flight to San Francisco, and on this street where nothing was happening and no one was to be seen I saw an odd thing.

When I saw the sign tacked onto a pole I was put in mind of the old readers in cigar factories. Rolling cigars is boring manual labor they say, and to pass the time a worker was hired to read edifying books to the workforce and the reader would stand at a lectern in front of the cigar tables and read all the work day to the other employees, it's the sort of job that has vanished and in retrospect seems ludicrously inefficient in our world of electrons and no unions. The sign was in Spanish and its message was simple, and from another era in another world.

We read letters. Ten dollars. Bloody hell, I thought, there's a fortune to be made exploiting the illiteracy or the lack of English in this immigrant population. And then we heard the news that Latinos and Asians had voted Democrat in droves this last week. One commentator I heard on NPR suggested, rather interestingly I thought, that it isn't immigration policy that drove the vote, rather it is the perception among many immigrants that the old white Republican code that All Government Is Bad doesn't correspond to the immigrants' reality. Perhaps because that is the case for me, I believe regulated government has a firm place in society, I like to think it is the same for other migrants as well. It was an interesting idea and I have no doubt those migrants anxious to learn to read English will also expect an education for their children who with them, seek a better life under the flag of the US Government.


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