Saturday, August 27, 2011

Requiem For Heroic Culture Warrior

Philadelphia has gotten a lot of press in the past few days, largely because of flash mobs, high levels of violence, and a black mayor who spoke out honestly about individual responsibility and black on white crime. Amidst all the excitement, the passing of a brave and colorful local Philly character took back seat to the other events.

Philadelphia businessman and English-only advocate Joey Vento died of a heart attack at age 71. Vento owned and operated Geno's Steaks, a restaurant that is legendary and which gained Vento the unofficial title of "The Cheese-Steak King." Vento was the grandson of Italian immigrants who believed that one of the factors that allowed the great American melting-pot to work was a common language for all Americans--English. Vento believed the same thing, and in the midst of multiculturalism and multilingualism in a city which encourages immigrants to continue to speak their native tongues, he took a stand.

Nearly five years back, Vento decided that he and his business had no need or obligation to pander to those who refuse to learn and use the language that his grandparents adopted. He placed a large sign in his restaurant's front window that said: "This is America. When ordering, speak English." Vento encouraged those who could not do so to eat elsewhere, although he never had to turn a potential patron away. He explained: "If you can't tell me what you want, I can't serve you. It's up to you. If you can't read, if you can't say the word 'cheese,' how can I communicate with you--and why should I have to bend? I got a business to run."

Within what seemed like mere seconds, the mainstream press, local and later national TV, and government diversity pimps were all over him. Enter the ACLU, the Philadelphia City Council and the Philadelphia Human Rights Commission. The stake and pyre were set up outside City Hall, and all that was left was for the politicians and the bureaucrats to conduct the Great Inquisition, and Geno's business license would be revoked and his cheese-steak sandwiches would be toast.

The threats and "investigations" went on for years. The official inquisition took twenty-one months, including a daylong hearing in which pinky-finger multiculturalists compared Vento's sign to Jim Crow signs in the South in the 60s, and during which much weepy testimony was taken from locals who expressed the horror they would have felt if they had seen the sign and/or been able to read it. At the end, largely because of Vento's steadfast refusal to cave in to pressure to give up his First Amendment rights, all discrimination charges against him were dismissed.

During the inquisition, the Philadelphia Human Rights Commmission handed out pamphlets printed at public expense asking Philadelphians if they were victims of discrimination as a result of Vento's sign and English-only policy. The pamphlet was printed in seven languages other than English (coincidentally, the same number of languages as are used on a San Francisco ballot). The Commission naturally received dozens of complaints, but unfortunately for the cause, none could be directly related to Vento's sign.

Vento's business could have been seriously damaged by the language witch-hunters, but in fact continued to thrive. The most obvious conclusion (though unsupported statistically) is that for every easily-offended non-English speaker there was at least one patron who went out of the way to eat at a restaurant so boldly patriotic. Vento himself summed it up by saying: "I say what everybody's thinking, but is afraid to say."

His passing is a sad event. Vento proved that one man, unwilling to sell out his beliefs under the threat of ruin, can make a difference. He stood for the First Amendment and unity by defending the language that built America. He risked his very livelihood to stand against powerful and insidious forces which want to see America divided into competing ethnic and linguistic "victim" groups. I salute Joey Vento--American hero.


Joel Farnham said...


Indeed he was a heroic man. I maintain that the people pushing to shut him down couldn't afford in the long run to have shut him down. It would have shown in the end the essential emptiness of their liberal philosophy. The brutal thuggery needed to shut up and down every-day average person.

Tennessee Jed said...

Authentic cheese steaks are a South Philly institution, and Geno's one of the best purveyors of that delicacy. The key, of course, is in the rolls. Philly city water supply is known, unaffectionately, as "Schuykill Punch", but it is whatever sludge is hidden in there that makes Philly hoagie and steak rolls (not to mention bagels) the very best in the world. New Yorkers, accustomed to having their way may whine about it, but the statement remains true.

Apart from the (not so much) irony of the cheese steak king passing at 71 (these things tend to harden your arteries as you are still chewing, you know) Joey Vento is applauded for having the guts to give a big middle finger to political correctness, something I wish there was more of in today's world.

Unknown said...

Joel: One of the facets of liberalism that we've learned about is their successful bullying tactics. But when a brave man like Joey Vento stands up to them and refuses to cave in to their pressure, they fold like a cheap suit. Best of all, they're constantly surprised to find out that their multi-culti, goody-two-shoes philosophy isn't shared by the majority in most American venues.

Unknown said...

Tennessee: Back in the 60s when I was making my trek across America, I stopped for the night in Pennsylvania on the last leg to New York. I indulged in a Philly cheese steak. It was unbelievably tasty. I've had several since in SF, LA and Bakersfield, but none of them quite lived up to that memory (though the passage of time may have made my first seem better than it actually was).

T-Rav said...

I had not heard of this guy, which seems to be a cause for regret. What angered me when I read the article is I know of a lot of people--some of my professors, for instance--who would blithely dismiss Mr. Vento's efforts as racism, and probably get honored for publishing an article or two saying so. RIP Mr. Vento, you earned it.

Unknown said...

T-Rav: Anything that deviates from the multi-culti line is denounced as racism. Sadly, most cave in when faced with the elitist crap. Vento didn't, and he proved real people don't think like college professors and will support someone who's sick of being told what to think and whom to tolerate on private property.

AndrewPrice said...

I've really got nothing to add. RIP Mr. Vento.

Unknown said...

And may flights of angels take him to his rest. English-speaking angels.

StanH said...

It is a great American story, and a great guy. This is a perfect example of how courage in the face of adversity will prevail when right is on your side. It also is an example of how our presidential candidate will win in 2012. RIP Mr. Vento.

I saw that show on the Food Channel good stuff, look for it. My favorite was up in Maine a Lobster Hoagie…yum!

Unknown said...

Stan: You're so right. The Republican candidate is going to have to maintain the offensive throughout the campaign. If just once he (or she) goes into defense mode, we're finished. Mr. Vento was a shining example of how to do it.

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