Sunday, June 28, 2009

Name Shame Blame Game

My wife is great with child in the same way that the China is great with a wall. They are both awe inspiring, beautiful and, ahem, man made. But unlike that ancient anti-Mongol device aptly named the Great Wall of China, there is nothing yet about the twins currently growing within my wife's womb that lends itself towards a proper name. Coming up with appropriate names has thus far been the hardest part about having twins aside from the puking, weight gain and inability to bend down and grab anything below the hip—or so says my wife.

Providing a proper name is one of the most important things you will ever do for your children. An inappropriate or poorly thought out name can lead to a life time of embarrassment and can even reduce the child's future earning potential. The rich and famous can afford to provide their children with abominations of nomenclature such as Apple or Moxie Crimefighter. I, on the other hand, am not nearly famous enough to get away with naming my child Loquacious Kazoo as much as I might like to.

In the court of law, some names have actually been considered forms of child abuse. In New Zealand, a girl named Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii was placed in to state custody so her name could be changed with the judge in the case pointing out that her name constituted a "social disability and handicap."

Sadly enough, I am not nearly as good at naming babies as I am at making them. However, there are some simple rules I stick by to prevent my child from a lifetime of social abuse.

Rule #1: Buck the Trend

The first thing we check when we come up with a name is its ranking on the top 100 names list. Anything in the top ten is ruled out. Sure, Jacob may be a great name, but who wants to spend the rest of his life being one of a countless sea of Jacobs in every classroom, church congregation or place of employment. Each time you run into someone with your name, you can't help but feel like they have absconded a portion of your identity. Especially in the Google age, the last thing you want is for a potential employer to check your name online and confuse you with another Aiden (the #1 name in 2008) who got caught embezzling from his employer.

Rule #2: Don't Make it Up

This seems to be more and more common these days as people take individuality to the extreme and approach naming their child the way a dyslexic five-year old approaches Scrabble. They just cram a bunch of letters together until something sticks. Kylon, Jolissa, Jesaray, Mavira, Ersaid; these might make for good names in Middle Earth, but here in America, we prefer something a little more conventional.

Rule #3: It is a Name, not a Nerd Confessional

I consider myself a bit of a geek. I love me some Star Wars every bit as much as the next guy. Nevertheless, that does not give me the right to name the twins Luke and Leia as much as my inner 10-year old wants to. Just because you attend the Sci-Fi convention religiously does not mean your child's name should be sacrificed upon the alter of Nerdom. This all but rules out Kal-el, Skywalker, Anakin, Padme, Frodo, Strider, Samwise and, of course, Optimus Prime.

Rule #4: The Serial Killer Test

There are some names that are synonymous with evil. There is just no nice way to name a child Adolf, Mussolini, Atilla or Cain. Similarly Ted Bundy and Ted Kaczynki have ruined the name Ted for everyone. Who can meet a woman named Lorena without also thinking of Mrs. Bobbit?

This has been perhaps the biggest disagreement between my wife and me. She really wants to name the twin boy "Carter". However, I cannot even hear the name without thinking about gas lines, stagflation and the Iran Hostage crisis. Sure Jimmy Carter has done some nice things for Habitat for Humanity, but he is without question the worst American President we have had since Hoover. Although the name has a nice ring to it, so does Lucifer. I might think about it if our two other sons were not also named after US Presidents. We have had many Presidents worth recognizing and I will not betray my political leanings by welcoming a Carter into my home. We might as well name him Clinton Pelosi.

Rule #5: Avoid Intentional Misspelling

While there are certainly some people who are going to disagree with me on this, I see no point in giving someone a commonly accepted name and unique-ing it up by intentionally misspelling it. What value is there really in having a Jacyn instead of Jason? Stefany instead of Stephanie? Suzzyn instead of Susan? Aarik instead of Erich? All you are doing is condemning your child to a lifetime of having to explain his name to people.

On this same note, we should all agree to avoid names that require grammatical symbols such as an apostrophe or dash. My oldest brother tells the story of deposing a young girl at his law firm whose name was spelled Le-a which everyone pronounced it Lia. When the mother found out how her daughters name was being pronounced, she became offended and exclaimed "Lia? Whose Lia? My daughters name is LeDASHa." That's right. Her name includes the first non-silent dash in English history.

So, after all is said and done, my wife and I still don't have names for the Unborn Two. We both agree on Danielle for the girl, but for the boy, my wife prefers Carter while I prefer Collin. As a compromise, we are leaning towards Christian. Yes that's right. A Mormon naming his son Christian. The thought alone might be enough to make Mike Huckabee's head explode. A boy can dream, can't he?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Puppies As Polar Bears: Obama’s Acute Moral Equivalence

After President Obama's 6,000 word address to the Muslim world in Cairo, it is safe to say Egyptians haven't been this enamored with a foreign leader since Mark Anthony was amorously engaged with Cleopatra. How Mark Anthony managed to gain so much Egyptian support without a teleprompter is a mystery most historians have yet to broach.

All-in-all, I thought President Obama's speech was…gulp…pretty darn good. I thought he struck an appropriate chord by focusing on America's shared history and values with the Muslim world. While I don't expect his speech to have any impact on the extremists operating in the Middle-East, for the silent majority of moderates, the picture of America as "the Great Satan" certainly became less focused.

President Obama's speech provided America's forked tongue, cloven hooves and sharpened horns a much needed cosmetic cover-up. A few more speeches from President Obama to the Muslim world and we might be able to move out of the Satan category all-together and become just plain-old "demonic infidels". Who says there isn't hope for U.S. –Arab relations? Maybe all North Korea needs is a 10,000 word speech from President Obama on America's appreciation of kimchi and old-lady sunglasses.

However, this speech did reveal something far more troubling about Barack Obama than the fact that his middle-name is Hussein --seriously, who knew? It revealed that President Obama suffers from Acute Moral Equivalence, a disease afflicting much of the Left.

Those suffering from Acute Moral Equivalence lump everyone into a gray, churning pool of guilt resulting in a puppies-as-polar bears equivalence where the victims become the perpetrators and the perpetrators become the victims. For the moral-compass deficient, Columbine is a tragedy but so is the social isolation that may have caused it. September 11th is a tragedy but so is the intrusive foreign policy that caused it. Rape is a tragedy, but so is the short-skirt that caused it.

Take, for example, the portion of the President's speech concerning women's rights where he correctly pointed out the need to educate girls in the Muslim world and allow them the freedom of choice. But then he had to temper his remarks with the caveat that "the struggle for women's equality continues in many aspects of American life." Equating the struggles women face in America to those faced in the Middle-east is like equating Mother Theresa's struggle with chastity to Paris Hilton's.

This acute case of Moral Equivalency that President Obama suffers from is most apparent in his remarks on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In an attempt to straddle the moral fence and reach out to both sides, President Obama mandated that the Palestinians "abandon violence" and that the Israelis abandon "settlements" in disputed territories.

When you equate those who destroy with those who build, you have lost any sense of moral authority. When building homes, hospitals and schools brings with it as much condemnation as suicide-bombings, rocket attacks and kidnappings then any claims you may have on a moral-North Star vanish.

To be sure, these settlements are inflammatory but to specifically ask that they be abandoned while making only a superficial condemnation of the horrific violence used by the other side is unfair to the Israelis who have gone out of their way to make the peace process possible. One side of this conflict builds schools, the other side fires rockets from them. One side of this conflict wants to raise their children in peace, the other wants to turn them into unwilling martyrs. One side of this conflict fires rubber bullets, while the other throws Molotov cocktails. There is only one side in this conflict, that while not perfect, has shown a demonstrable desire to achieve peace. President Obama would do well to remember that one side of the conflict deserves public praise, not public berating.

Even the Great Satan knows right from wrong.