William Shakespeare’s profound words are often analyzed, imitated, and subject to interpretation. This is because more than 400 years after his passing, his words still convey philosophical wisdom.
What exactly IS in a name?
What prompted me contemplate this Shakespeare quote (spoken by Juliet in Romeo & Juliet) is the rash of demands to rename Army bases named after Confederate generals, rename sports teams that are considered racially insensitive (like the Washington Redskins), and in general wanting to change or “cancel” any tradition or monument that reminds us as Americans of the racial strife that arguably is still with us on many levels.
I previously wrote my opinion on the removal of Confederate monuments and the proposed renaming of Army bases named for Confederate generals. In that post, I posit that changing the name is a mere gesture to appease an emotionally driven movement that wields considerable appeal and support from the masses.
So what’s in a name?
Do the names of military bases, such as Fort Hood or Fort Bragg, truly honor the Confederacy they fought for?
How offensive can the term “Redskin” really be when it has been part of professional football lexicon since 9 July 1932 (nearly 88 years)?
Many of these proposed changes are corporate and political efforts to correct the insensitive thinking of a bygone era.
Granted, these places, monuments, and sports names existed long before most of us living today were even born. The people who oppose “cancel culture” do have a legitimate point, even if the point I believe they made does not exactly comport with their point.
The point is that changing the names of bases, sports teams, and towns or taking down the monuments do not erase their historical impact, nor should it. Traditions do have a place in shaping our lives, often for the better.
As I mentioned in my monuments post, as a black American with roots in this country, my last name is the name of the slave owner who enslaved my ancestors. While I can change my name tomorrow, I can’t erase that fact I lived five decades with my “slave name”. Considering that I was never a slave, any problem I’d have about my name would really be a personal problem.
I have done great things in my life while carrying my last name. The slave owner who owned my ancestors is long gone, long before even my oldest living relatives were even born. My legacy is not that of a slave. My name now means much more than that. The pain and toil of the past are as much a part of my family legacy as the glories of that past and the pain, toil, and glory of my present and my future.
And this is the point.
What’s in a name?
Shakespeare’s point is that the names of things do not affect what they really are. The name is not representative of the person, place, or thing carrying the name. A name does not speak to the intrinsic value of that to which it is attached.
Of course, times can and often do change. Life will go on no matter what traditional names are changed.
-The Rational Ram