Friday, February 05, 2010 what kind of name is that?

Glenn Beck, bigoted loon extraordinaire, is at it again.

A while back, I wrote an entry on the Republican's use of the term "foreigness" when describing Barack Obama's heritage and name: it's a nicer way of reminding us that he's black.

Glenn Beck decided to come back to this theme on his radio show (for no apparent reason other than to be bitchy and kill time, it seems to me) by talking about why President Obama chose to keep the name "Barack" over calling himself "Barry". He said that Obama chose that name "not to identify with America - you don't take the name Barack to identify with America..."

Wha, wha, Whaaaaat?

Yep, Barack Obama apparently chose to "take" this name to identify with his "father in Kenya - who is a radical..."

So, Glenn...lemme ask you something...if that is the case of anyone who has a funny name they haven't changed, what does that say about you? Did you keep the Gaelic name Glenn (Have you HEARD Gaelic? There's a funny sounding name and language!), which means "Valley in the mountains", to identify with your Irishness? With your roots? You know, if you say that's the case, there might be some folk out there who might wonder if you are identifying with some radical, IRA-supporting relative you didn't tell Fox News about. I mean really - Glenn? You think that sounds American?

You know, some people do "take" new names, but Barack Obama was, like all of us, GIVEN his name and he decided to keep it rather than change it. Sure, he got teased, was made to feel different, but he grew up, matured and grew into his name and his differences and decided to run with his name.

This country is full of people with "foreign" sounding names who decided to keep them, live them, love them because the name is part of who they are and yes, is part of their roots. When my Danish grandfather came to this country from Denmark, he wanted so much to be "American", but he did not change his name - Herman. He kept it, joined the Army, later the Marines, built ships for the Navy and raised a family in Bedford, MA where he gave all but one of his children "American" names. My aunts and uncle were given (English) names which were popular at the time: Mabel, Eleanor and Stanley. My mother, the surprise, was given the Danish name: Grethe. To this day, no one but Danish friends and cousins can pronounce it properly. But you know what? It is HER name. Her given name. The one she decided not to change to make sound "more American". And she didn't keep it - rather "take" it - just to identify more with the Danish people (and that "radical" uncle who worked with the Danish underground during WWII). She kept it because it's her name and who she is. It identifies her, as the name Barack identifies him.

Yes, there are those who have changed their names due to philisophical reasons or religious beliefs, but isn't that also an American thing to do? I mean, they are free to choose to do that. And if Barack Obama had wanted to change his name he certainly could have.

And as long as we're on this name thing, let's not forget those whose names were taken from them: slaves, when they were stolen from their country and brought here, given "American" names and seperated from their people so they could not speak their languages and pass on family names. Or how even immigrants at Ellis Island had their names changed by immigration officers who couldn't read or pronounce Jewish and European names; they just wrote something else down and stole names from a new generation of folks coming here.

And don't forget how, up until the last couple of decades, actors in Hollywood changed or had their names changed to sound more glamorous.

See, there are plenty of reasons to change a name to sound more "neutral" or "normal", but if you don't have to, why should you? And seriously, when it comes down to it, there are no "American" names...well save for these (thank you Jay for the list): Goyathlay; Mishawaka; Tȟašúŋke Witkó; Pocahontas; Tecumseh; Sequoyah; Maȟpíya Lúta; Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake, etc

Yeah, I say these guys get first dibs on the "American" name list. The rest of them - ours - are also American...because WE are. As is the President.


Peace --Alex

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Even in Italy...

So we just got back last week from two positively fab and rejuvenating weeks in Italy. The man's got family there and his mother lives in Naples (thank you Elsie for the frequent flyer miles allowing us to visit you). We were in Rome and Naples visiting cousins and seeing the sights.

Now I had met two of the cousins and their wives as they came out for our wedding, but the others were new to me; and I to them...and none of them, on first site, believed I was American. Nothing is like getting that look and then hearing in Italian what I could roughly translate into "She's not American, is she?" Generally, they all believed I was Mediterranean, possibly Italian and one asked if I was Tunisian. It was later agreed that I was probably Italian somewhere and no one needed to know about that Danish/Caribbean thing.

I do love that one cousin said, after I told her about the Danish/Caribbean roots, she asked "Then why would you want to live in America?" Copenhagen...Grenada...New York...yeah, it's a tough decision :p

Though I have to say that one reason, perhaps the MAIN reson for me to stay in New York, and the states period, is *DING DING DING!* the diversity. Europe has a growing diversity, but it remains pretty segregated and small. In Rome and Naples, I noticed that the majority of brown people were Africans who were primarily illegal. Sadly, in Naples, which definitely has a prostitution issue, save for maybe 2, all the girls standing by the side of the road were African. The majority of them stand around small oil drum fires waiting for a john...and cars pull up, guys get out, and the police do nothing. (I'm not kidding. We drove by a mall area where the police were dealing with some guy while just behind them, a john pulled up to a girl, she got in the car and they drove to a secluded area to...take care of the transaction. If the police noticed, they did nothin' about it.) In Paris, the plight of Algerians in the poorer parts of Paris makes the news frequently, particularly with violent riots breaking out two years ago which were large enough to make international news. And even in Copenhagen, after 9/11 in particular, the small Muslim population - primarily Turks - started getting a lot of flack. Racial and cultural issues may still be problematic here in the states, but we have had an immigrant culture pretty much from the get-go here, while our older counterparts have only had a few decades more or less to experience and digest such diversity.
At least I know here in NYC, when I get on the subway, the Great Equalizer, I will see all kinds of faces, hear many different languages and if anyone has an issue with what I look like, it's more likely to be an ignorant tourist (from either another country OR my own), than one of my fellow citizens. The diversity-and the acceptance of it-here is wonderful; hence I don't mind living here.


Peace --Alex