Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Shame We All Live With

Some people complain about parents picking their children's religion and ask if parents should have a right to do so. Given that such people typically do not regard any religion as efficacious or true, I don't see why they should care, given that we inevitably teach our children all kinds of pointless things they won't bother remembering into adulthood anyway. (Quick, what's your state flower?) But be that as it may, I think they miss a much greater cause of outrage--parents actually choosing their children's names for them.

There is no greater sign of having dominion over someone or something than that you name it. Slavemasters named their slaves. Pet owners name their pets. The owners of the rights to a creative work name it. The owners of a business choose its name. It doesn't matter what the preferences of the slaves or the people who are employed by the business are or what the pet would (if it had reason) want to be called, the owners make the decisions on names; it is a sign of being the owner.

So think how appalling it is that a parent should name his (or her) baby. One human being naming another human being, just because the one is powerful and the other is helpless and happens to share DNA with the first. The older one violating a relationship that surely should have love as its basis by committing an act that says, "I own you!" The other, small and vulnerable, having among its first moments in an unfamiliar world be the slapping upon itself of a name that it did not choose and may not like.

And does the state try to prevent this imposition of the larger person's will upon the smaller one? Ha! Not only does the state not prevent parents arbitrarily decreeing that a particular child will be known as Wilhelm or Jacob and another as Shaniqua or Emily Rose, it effectively takes the parents' part by not allowing the imposed upon party to change his name until he has reached adulthood. The child will be known by the not-chosen-by-him name on every government document upon which he is "represented" until he is an adult. And even after he becomes an adult, the government will put obstacles in the way of his desire to change his name by the imposition of such things as paperwork, filing fees, and/or a visit to a judge. (The procedure varies from state to state.) Madness!

Until such a day as the adult child finally manges to jump through the last government-mandated hoop to remove what he never asked for from his identity, he must not only use the undesired name on every government document, he must also sign it to every school paper he produces, write it on tags in his clothing, use it on his college applications, put it on his ATM cards, and even--if you will credit it--answer to it in his daily life!

Parents should not name their children! Children should get to choose their own name when they are adults, and parents should not be allowed to influence their free choice in this matter. It is not enough merely to call your Congressman or Senator. Contact the U.N.'s Human Rights Council and let's get international laws changed to protect the rights of children in this crucial matter. If enough people start working on this today, perhaps soon we will no longer have to live with the nightmare scenario of little girls having to submit to being called Jennifer even though they know they were meant to be named Sade.

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