Yippee! It’s summer. 101 degrees in the shade and the temperature’s rising. Bring out the rubber tubes and let’s take off for the nearest unpolluted river. But before we go, we should point out that the combination of Texas and July does not spell fun in the sun for everyone in this town. We were pleased to read that Governor Rick Perry is spending his limited vacation time honing his language skills. It seems the Governor has been taking Spanish lessons this past year and now is bound for Mexico and some intensive classes.
We could use this as an opportunity to point out the obvious: Perry has seen the numbers and is joining the legion of políticos who think that the way to win hearts and influence voters is to say “Vota por mí, por favor.” But we’re not going to do that. We could also use this as an occasion to resurrect a phrase coined by Jim Hightower some years back to describe the linguistic abilities of one of the Governor’s illustrious predecessors, the incomparable Bill Clements, who also wanted to learn Spanish. Hightower pointed out that would make Clements bi-ignorant. But we’re not going to do that. We’re all for self-improvement and want the Governor to be able to read Gabriel García Márquez in the original, catch up on the hit telenovela Yo soy Betty la Fea, and leaf through the pages of one of the finest newspapers in the world, El País of Spain.
As anyone who has ever tried to learn a foreign language knows, there are two ways to go about this worthy endeavor. One is to memorize a lot of useless textbook stuff like “This is the pen of my aunt,” and “Excuse me, is this lamp purple or orange?” That’s not what we recommend. Instead the Governor should target the vocabulary he needs to learn. The most important words will be verbs. Rather than page through 501 Spanish Verbs, Perry should zero in on perfecting his use of a few key verbs he will be saying over and over again. Like vetar (to veto). The present tense is easy: “yo veto,” or simply “veto.” No doubt the Governor will get a lot of use out of the word “veto.” But any rank beginner can do present tense. Perry should make sure that he can also say things like “voy a vetar” (I am going to veto); “vetaré” (I will veto); “he vetado”(I have vetoed); and “había vetado” (I had vetoed).
Another verb he needs to know is “to execute.” Technically he could say “yo ejecuto, él ejecuta” (I execute, he executes, etc.) But it would be more correct to say that he is going to “ordenar la ejecución.” Afterwords, he could say that “fulano de tal” (So-and-So) “fue ejecutado.”(was executed). He might want to say, for example, “El año pasado” (last year) mandé ejecutar (I ordered the execution of) muchos presos (many prisoners).”
A few more lessons and Governor Perry will be able to pick up El País and check out a recent article on a law prohibiting the execution of the mentally retarded signed by no less a champion of human rights than Florida Governor Jeb Bush: “Pero Rick Perry, el nuevo gobernador de Tejas, acaba de vetar la introducción de esa misma medida en su territorio. EE. UU. es el único país democrático que envía a la silla eléctrica o la inyección letal a gente que ni tan siquiera comprende los crímenes que cometió.”
Of course, he might get tired of all this talk about ejecuciones and the fact that the U.S. is the only democratic country that sends someone who doesn’t even understand the crimes he committed off to the electric chair or lethal injection. Let’s face it. It’s July, and it’s hot. The Governor might get a little peeved. He might want to say something like No me chingues, cabrón. (colloquial for Don’t mess with Texas) Estoy muy ocupado. (I am very busy) Estoy ordenando una ejecución. Class dismissed. Happy Tubing. –B.B.