(Note: those visiting this page for the first time may also want to read two follow-up posts: one exploring the historical roots of the proposed motto, and one about a state Senate committee’s consideration of the motto.)
You try to do something nice…
Last spring, Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning got a letter from an eighth-grader at The Riverside School in Lyndonville. She was studying Latin, and wanted Senator Joe to introduce a bill to give Vermont a Latin motto. We’ve got “Freedom and Unity,” but no Latin.
As the idea developed, those involved came up with a motto: Stella quarta decima fulgeat. The translation: “May the Fourteenth Star Shine Bright,” is a nod to Vermont’s status as the fourteenth state to join the union. Nice. Poetic in both languages. Benning brought the student to Montpelier and introduced her to the Government Operations Committee, which would consider her proposal.
*Also possible endorsement deal with the new 14th Star Brewery in St. Albans?
It was too late in last year’s session to launch the idea, but Benning introduced it this month. Senate Bill 2 would not affect “Freedom and Unity” at all; it would simply establish the Latin motto as a separate thing.
A nice harmless moment, no? A reward for a hardworking, creative student, yes?
Funny thing. Last week, WCAX did a story about Benning’s bill. And the reaction, as Benning told me in an email?
I anticipated suffering the backroom internal joking from my colleagues in the legislature. What I did not anticipate was the vitriolic verbal assault from those who don’t know the difference between the Classics and illegal immigrants from South America.
That’s right, the WCAX Facebook page was inundated with angry posts from ignorant Vermonters spewing their hatred in barely readable fractured English. (Spelling and punctuation as-is) Warning: Teh stoopid, it burns!
Dorothy Lynn Lepisto: “I thought Vermont was American not Latin? Does any Latin places have American mottos?”
Norman Flanders: “What next Arab motto??”
Kevin P. Hahn: “How about ‘go back south of the boarder'”
Richard Mason: “We are AMERICANS, not latins, why not come up with a Vermont motto that is actually from us”
Judy Lamoureux: “Throw him out of the country tell him to take obama with him!”
Phil Salzano: “My question is, are we Latin, or are we Vermonters? Alright then, English it is…..”
Lori Olds: “I thought this was USA why are they trying to make Americans aliens”
Chris Ferro: “That’s a BIG NO, if you live in the United State YOU need to learn ENGLISH!!”
Julie Kellner: “No, you a USA citizen!.. Learn & understand the language!!!.”
Kurtis Jones: “No cause vt ain’t no Latino area. Leave the motto alone”
Zeb Swierczynski: “ABSOLUTLY NOT!!!! sick and tired of that crap, they have their own countries”
Ken Curtis: “Just when I felt our represenatives could not possibly get any dumber , they come up with this…get real… this is the USA, not some Moslim or Mexican country…stop given in to these people…PRESS 1 for English and forget the rest… worry about the problems you were elected to do”
Ronald Prouty Jr. “No way this is America not Mexico or Latin America. And they nee to learn our language, just like if we go there they want us to speak theirs”
Kristen Wright: “thats un called for this is the usa”
Kelley Dawley: “How do you say idiotic senator in spanish? I’d settle for deport illegals in spanish as a back up motto”
Heather Chase: “Seriously?? Last time I checked..real vermonters were speakin ENGLISH.. NOT LATIN..good god…”
I could go on, but that’s more than enough.
And really, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. For every commenter who didn’t know the difference between Mexico and Rome, there were ten who were apoplectic over the notion that Our Representatives Are Wasting Their Time (as if this bill will take more than a few minutes anywhere), and that Joe Benning is a moron who should be voted out of office and/or evicted from Vermont.
The good Senator is reacting to this with admirable equanimity:
I figure this is a good opportunity for my now ninth grader to learn how to respond to such attacks with fortitude and grace. I hope to be meeting with her and her parents this weekend to continue the educational experience.
Good on ya, Senator. Illegitimi non carborundum.