Stupid name-calling

I hate my middle name.

I always have, and most likely always will. My legal signature uses my middle initial, and I rather like it that way.

Consequently, I’ve never much liked insulting people based on their given names. it’s something that they have no control over; they were saddled with their names at birth (or, in some cases, came to them by marriage). We’re not like the Indian tribes that let people choose their own names when they reach maturity; the name we’re born with is the one that, barring a bit of legalistic wrangling, we’ll die with.

Over the years, I’ve known (and known of) quite a few people who were saddled with awkward, funny, or odd names.

Here in New Hampshire, they’ve tended to gravitate towards politics. For several years, we were represented in Congress by Dick Swett. Another woman, given the first name of a grandfather, married a man who had that as his last name, and became “Dudley Dudley.”

Our own senior senator, Judd Gregg, earned a bit of my contempt when, as governor, derided his political opponent John Hoar as “well-named.”

In college, I met a couple of guys who were stuck with unfortunate last names. I had just been given the defintion of “felch” (go look it up if you must, but be warned that it’s a truly disgusting sexual act) when I met a guy who was named that. And I always thought that introductions for Jeff Virgin could have been very awkward. “Hi, I’m a Virgin. This is my sister, she’s a Virgin too. My mother wasn’t a Virgin until she married my father…”

Different people have different ways of dealing with it. Some ignore it, some resent it, some embrace it. I met a Malcolm Forbes who revelled in his famous namesake. And I met a “Sandy Shore” — I’m sorry, “Sandy C. Shore” — who had little beach dioramas all around her workspace.

But if you’re going to mock someone, for heaven’s sake make it over something they have some control over.

That’s why I was surprised to see that people are making a big deal about Barack Hussein Obama’s rather ill-fated middle name. (Ironically, the most frequent mentioners of that fact have been some of the more persistent trolls here at Wizbang. I haven’t seen very many stresses of his name outside of the Left, who seem to see it being bandied around as a “smear” all over the place.)

So the junior senator from Illinois (and president-wannabe) has a middle name that, most recently, was associated with a genocidal tyrant. Big whoop.

I read a story once that back during World War II, a sergeant in the US Army happened to have the last name “Hitler.” When asked if he intended to change his name, he reportedly answered “let that other guy change it first!”

Here in New Hampshire, we tend to have a lot of city and town names that we “borrowed” from other places. During World War II, a couple of those communities found themselves feeling a bit awkward. Fortunately, a minor shift in pronunciation was all it took, and to this day we have Milan (“MY-lun”) and Berlin (“BURR-lin”). We also have Hebron (HEBE-run), Canaan (“CANE-un”), and Lebanon (“LEB-ah-nun”), but that just might be our New England accents showing.

“Hussein” is a fairly common name in the Arab world. It apparently means “good” or “handsome.” Jordan had a king named Hussein. (It’s part of the reason I tend to refer to the former dictator of Iraq as “Saddam.” When I was growing up, there were two countries led by “Husseins,” and it was a shorthand way of distinguishing them.) That one particular man named “Hussein” (and, remember, he didn’t choose the name) was such a monster says absolutely nothing about the name itself.

If you want to mock or insult Senator Barack Hussein Obama, go right ahead. Personally, I think he might be a decent presidential candidate at some point in the future, but for right now he’s running on nothing more than charisma. He’s an “empty suit” with an utterly unremarkable resume and absolutely no firm convictions or accomplishments that make him, to me, worthy of holding the highest office in the land. Further, I think that history has shown us that the American people, when given a choice, prefer a candidate with some sort of executive experience over one with a legislative background (1960 notwithstanding).

But to attack him over his NAME? That’s beyond juvenile, it’s just plain stupid.

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