Friday, June 11, 2010

Defining Deviancy Down and Segregated Buses

A while ago I posted a piece decrying the diminution in standards of English spelling, grammar and usage in written material intended for public consumption. A piece dramatically illustrating this appeared in a Jewish-oriented magazine that made its way to my door recently. That it also appears to excuse if not outright justify gender segregation on public buses compounds the embarrassment. That glaring errors escaped both the author and her editors adds tragedy to embarrassment - and hillul Hashem if the piece found its way to non-Jews. Here is the essay: read it and weep.

Here are the errors that I caught in a cursory reading, and I am not a professional copy editor:

1. "When To Use common Sense And Derech Eretz." If every other word in the title was capitalized, "common" should also have been capitalized.
2. "Once, after I paid my fair and took a seat,. . . ." Try, "paid my fare. . ."
3. "Only me and the driver. . . " should be "Only I and the driver. . ." The first person pronoun is the subject of the sentence. An English speaker might get away with this in informal conversation, but not in writing for publication.
4. "He asked me. . . if I would possibly, in a very polite manner, move to the back of the van. . . " As the sentence is structured, the author was asked to be polite as she moved to the back. I suspect that the author meant to say that the man, whom she had previously characterized as well spoken, asked politely. She should have written, "he asked me in a very polite manner to move to the back."
5. "I have no idea why this man would have the nerve to ask. . .an older American woman to the back of the bus. . ." A verb would add clarity - ". . .to move to the back of the bus."
6. "For those of you whom have traveled. . . . " Again, we have subject-object confusion. She should have written, "for those of you who have traveled." It is common to see this transposition the other way around; who instead of whom. Perhaps in thirty years the object pronoun whom will have become obsolete (yes, language is an evolving entity), but it is highly unlikely that "whom" will replace "who."
7. ". . .who were asked too many times to please leave there seats . . . . " It's "leave their seats." Please.

There are other instances of awkward sentence structure that make it difficult to decipher the author's point. All of this appeared both in the written article and in the online version.

To my chagrin, deviancy has been defined down not only in the finer points of English but in the substance of the article. What has been unacceptable - and illegal - for some fifty years is becoming the accepted norm. The controversy over segregated buses has been going on in our community for several years, and whenever I read about it my mind conjures up one name: Rosa Parks. A black woman, she boarded a bus in Alabama in the 1950s and sat in the front. The driver asked her to move to the back, as the law then required, so a white person could sit in the front. She courageously refused, sparking the bus boycott led by Martin Luther King. The rest is history. For over 50 years, buses in America may not discriminate on the basis of race and other "protected classes" including sex. I read postings on other blogs by attorneys to the effect that sex discrimination on public buses is "illegal, period." Neither tzniut (sexual modesty) nor any other consideration justifies it. It might pass in a private vehicle taking people from Point A to Point B, but certainly not in a bus that stops on public streets to pick up and discharge fare-paying members of the public. And if the bus is engaged in interstate commerce, for instance a bus traveling from Brooklyn to Monsey by way of New Jersey, sex discrimination becomes a federal offense. Israel is a different case, since it is not subject to American jurisdiction. However, American immigrants bring American values, including basic equality and human rights, that preclude women being beaten or spat upon when they refuse to move to the back of the bus. This has happened more than once, at the hands of supposedly "religious" men.
The author says she has no idea why that man asked her to move to the back of the bus. I submit that he took the author for a pushover, and unfortunately he was right. Stop making excuses for behavior that, like tearing pages out of biology books, is onerous and odious. We need Jewish Rosa Parkses to look such men straight in the eye and refuse to move. If the driver or others attempt to enforce illegal segregation, the women must be adamant in their refusal and then file the appropriate complaints with the New York City Human Rights Commission and the equivalents in other jurisdictions. It is 2010, not 1950. Get with the program.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I appreciate the criticism , and have made a few corrections.

thanks for reading Emunah Magazin

Wed Jun 30, 04:30:00 PM EDT  

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