What’s your name, little girl?

21 09 2013

I’ve written some boneheaded things in my time.

For example, I wrote an editorial for The Daily Cardinal which began “Enough fucking around”, and proceeded to excoriate the Reagan administration for not doing enough to free the hostages in Iran.

And then that whole Iran-Contra thing broke. Yeah.

The narrative I wrote for/about my high school senior class, the one in which I told a tale involving every member of that class? There’s some nasty shit in there; in particular, a smirk about one guy who was sometimes picked on (and maybe a coupla’ of his friends, I don’t remember exactly) being the head of a gay motor-scooter club, or something similarly witless. It was a shitty thing to do: in the mid-1980s, to joke about someone being gay was really no joke at all, and I knew it, and did it anyway.

I’ve tried to avoid meanness since then, and although I do still have some problems with the kind of righteousness which got me in trouble with the hostages, I generally try to write what I’d stand behind, and stand behind what I’d write.

Two recent pieces at Lawyers, Guns & Money, about the names people give their kids, however, have reminded me of a more recent transgression. A coupla’ years ago Ta-Nehisi Coates posted something along these same lines, and a bunch of us jumped in with names we each found ridiculous. I contributed a number of names of people I had known (or known of) whose names were puns—stuff along the lines of Erasmus B. Dragon or Mike Easter.

I regret that now, and pretty much anything else I said about names, mostly because these are real people in the world. They bore no responsibility for their punned names, but because they happened to have crossed paths with me, those names were now held up for ridicule. It was a shitty thing to do, and I should have known better.

So while other LGM writers and commenters were having fun with all of the names they dislike, I couldn’t join in. Oh, there are definitely names I don’t like, but unlike the discussion about the horrors of ketchup, I thought, man, there are people out there with those names, who may love those names, and who are unlikely to shave the distinction between their names being mocked and their persons being mocked.

This doesn’t mean the writers and commenters at LGM are monsters of the universe, any more than I was a monster in writing what I did. Still, it’s a shitty thing to do.

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