Call Me_______________!

Fellow teacher Bill Shinn and I were talking in the mailroom recently, and he mentioned that his daughter was pregnant and expecting the baby in June. I told him that Lacey was expecting in May. His daughter Becky and my daughter Lacey were in the same graduating class at Karns, and we both shook our heads at the fact that our daughters were soon to become moms. Next Bill and I shifted our conversation to the “wonders” of grandparenthood. Neither of us quite “get it,” a fact of enormous comfort to me. When he discussion turned toward grandparent names, we both rolled our eyes at the absurdity in coming up with one.
My grandparents were working class folks who had little time for foolishness. I doubt that they much cared if their grandchildren called them anything. They were from a generation that believed that “children should be seen and not heard.” That meant they didn’t much care what names were used for them; they didn’t want to hear little voices yapping all the time.
We called both grandfathers “Papaw” and both grandmothers “Mamaw.” To distinguish which one, we used the last names “Rector” and “Balch.” That was it. Amy is from Cookeville and never heard those to tags for grandparents until she came to East Tennessee. (It’s hard to educate outsiders to the “right” ways things are done, the East Tennessee ways.)
Our kids called my mother Mamaw, but a different one came out for my Amy’s mom. I don’t know what adults were trying to teach Lacey and Dallas, but what came out was “Nini.” That sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it?
That’s my point. Adults have grand plans for teaching little ones names, but those toddlers have ways of screwing everything up. In the end the names that come out are terrible. One woman wanted to be called “GiGi.” It was a name that cracked up some people in the other side of the family because they once owned a dog by that name. A granddad was called “P-P;” I consider that name an excellent choice because it brings up something to which small children and old men think about much of the time.
Amy has already stated that she IS NOT a Mamaw. I’m not privy to the list of names she prefers, I have no doubt that they are elegant ones that fit the elegant woman that my wife is. She needs to be careful, however. Too many times, slick names are mispronounced so that they become ridiculous-sounding words. Some grandparents begin to answer to sounds that more resemble grunts than names. All the while, they are smiling and talking about how wonderful their grandchildren are.
I’ll admit that I have a hard time with any grandfatherly name. I viewed my grandparents as old. They didn’t have much of a sense of humor either. The idea that a new name might be associated with being old and grumpy doesn’t appeal to me in the least. Becoming a grandparent seems to be another one of those steps toward the finality of life, and I just naturally resist that, no matter how futile the struggle might be.
So, in about six months I’ll be a grandparent. It would be all right with me if we taught this coming child to call me “Joe.” I’ve also compiled a list of other names from other languages: Yeh-Yeh (Chinese), Nonno (Italian), Tito (Spanish), Farfar (Swedish), and Daadaa (Urdu/India). Isn’t it amazing how each of these sounds as if the person is a bit off kilter? Come to think of it, all those names sound as if they were first uttered by a child who was just beginning to speak. I’ll let you know what new name is assigned. Send me some suggestions that I can try to teach this new person.
We Owe an Apology

When my daughter was in college, one song summed up her life better than any other. The Dixie Chicks sang “Wide Open Spaces,” and each line echoed the events of our family. I still can’t listen to the lyrics without tearing up, and I appreciate that group for giving the public such a song.

Since that time, I’ve been a fan of the Dixie Chicks, but not everyone has remained that loyal. Natalie Maine spoke out against President Bush and the war in Iraq in 2003. Immediately, she was vilified by those with political axes to grind. Fans unceremoniously dumped the Dixie Chicks. Radio stations refused to play their music, and right wing organizations took the opportunity to aim their sights at the musical group and to publicly excoriate them.
The citizenry was no better. Many protested and made signs with hateful comments. They dumped Dixie Chick cd’s in trash cans or in fires built to “cleanse” communities of so-called “godless, unpatriotic actions.”

The Dixie Chicks suffered mightily for Maine’s comments. The group went from being one of the most popular country music groups to pariahs. Sales of their music plunged. Concert ticket sales slumped, and many who bought tickets attended in order to boo and otherwise harass the singers. Even the residents of their own communities turned their backs on the three.

I have to admit that I was none too pleased with Natalie’s comments. No, I’ve never been a big supporter of the president, but at that time, I wanted my pound of flesh for the wrongs that were done to the innocent victims of September 11th. I hoped that our country would present a united front as our soldiers fought in Iraq. I never bought the connection between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein, but I figured our military surely wouldn’t wage war without adequate intelligence about the former thug-dictator’s complicity in the mess.

I should have known better. George W. wanted to avenge his dad. He meant to end the war that his father began several years ago. His boys, including the vice president and a gaggle of advisors and aides, went along with the plan and passed along incendiary information that raised the ire of our nation. That the information was a conglomeration of half-truths and outright lies was of little consequence. This president and his crew decided somewhere along the line that it knew best what the citizens should be told. It looks as if lies were told to keep the agenda on track.

So, here our country sits in 2007. We’re mired in another war that we can’t win. Moreover, the citizens of the country being defended hate and sometimes attack our soldiers. As of October, 3,838 military personnel have been killed in Iraq. Newscasts tell us that the future costs of the war will exceed $1.4 trillion. Our presence in the region is assured for the next several years.
All the while, the Chicks continue to make music. They’ve written off the country music industry that turned its back on them. Still, their record sales are growing, as is their popularity. They are blazing new trails without compromise. The Dixie Chicks refused to bow down and beg forgiveness for what was said, and they shouldn’t have to. Our leaders claim to be fighting for democracy in Iraq. Isn’t it strange that we fight for freedoms for another country and squawk when someone practices freedom of speech at home?

What stings many who attacked the Dixie Chicks is the fact that they were right. The nation is tired of this conflict, and citizens are ticked off that the president and his administration lied to us. “Weapons of mass destruction” are words that boil the blood of Americans. George Bush’s approval rating is close to flat-lining. Many of the staunchest supporters of the president’s policy in 2003 are now speaking out about its failure.

How wrong was Natalie Maine for speaking out? Maybe she merely said four years early what the majority of Americans are saying now. The Dixie Chicks have withstood verbal assaults about their families, their beliefs, and their rights to live in this country. Shame on us! These women took a stand and refused to shrink from it. They should never have received the meanness that was thrown their way. Today, they don’t thumb their noses at the rest of us or tell us “we told you so.” What they deserve from us now is an apology. It’s long overdue.