BELLINGHAM - Will you support making English the official language of the United States? the speaker asked, eliciting applause and a man's loud cheer from the audience.
The candidates running for the 2nd Congressional District seat said yes. Except for one: Mike Lapointe of The 99% Party.
"Absolutely not," said Lapointe of the Occupy Everett movement. "We weren't the first ones here. It was the native American Indians. Are we speaking their language?"
"This is a melting pot," he added. "We came from somewhere else."
Candidates participated in the third annual Whatcom Tea Party forum on Wednesday, July 18. The event at Whatcom Community College's Syre Auditorium drew an audience of more than 150 people. Present were candidates for federal and state offices.
Four candidates vying for the 2nd Congressional District seat attended: Lapointe and Republicans Dan Matthews, Eli Olson and John C.W. Shoop. Glen S. Johnson, who didn't specify a party preference, was scheduled to attend but didn't. The U.S. House of Representatives seat is currently held by Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, who couldn't attend because he was voting in Washington, D.C., his political director said.
Many of the candidates echoed similar thoughts: If elected, they'll represent the people and not special interests; they disagreed with the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC; we need to unite as a country; Obamacare must be overturned.
Matthews said the amount of money pouring into elections is incredible, and, if it needs to be changed, Congress needs to address the idea that money is speech. Shoop called Obamacare "a cancer on the body of America" and "a blight on the soul of this nation."
"My promise to you is this: I will not vote for anything that's unconstitutional," Olson said. "I will not vote for anything that is based out of fear. And I will not vote for anything that I have not read."
Corporations own the politicians, who pretend they represent the people, Lapointe said. "Let's be realistic about this: We don't run this country anymore," he said.
On the question of English as the official language, Lapointe differed sharply from the others. If he were moving to the U.S. he would want to learn English, but we can't demand immigrants learn it, and he shouldn't have the power to demand it, he said.
"We're all equal here. We're all different. We should be given the right to choose what we want to do. We're all Americans," he said.
Matthews answered next: "Si," he said, drawing laughter from the crowd.
Then, he elaborated. "What better way to unite than through a common language?" he said. "I have been all over the world, and I can tell you that one of the main things that unite people in every country is a common language."
He agrees with the diversity aspect, but one of the best ways to welcome people to the country is to teach them our language and culture and to learn theirs, Matthews said.
Olson said he agrees that "English should be the national language, and with immigration reform we can do that."
Shoop said he's been leading tours to Israel since the 1996. He sees people come there from every corner of the globe, and they all learn Hebrew. The country sponsors their classes, he said. America needs English as a common language, he said.
Moderator Robert Thorndike then said that street signs in Israel, including in the West Bank, are in English, Hebrew and Arabic.
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