Thursday, February 9, 2012

Freedom Post

You know what never stops getting stupid every time I hear it? Legislators trying to change the name of something carrying the name of a country they don't like to something blindingly patriotic. You look petty, you look foolish, and the odds are heavily stacked against you regarding the likelihood of the name actually taking.

Your mind has probably already gone to "freedom fries". Good first move. For those unfamiliar, back when the United States was gearing up to start the war in Iraq, France balked. In response to France's opposition, House representatives Bob Ney of Ohio and Walter Jones of North Carolina introduced legislation- legislation which passed- changing the name of French fries in the Congressional cafeteria to "freedom fries" and French toast to "freedom toast". An assortment of other restaurants across the country decided to score a cheap political point or two and do the same. The French embassy, for its part, basically told the United States that it had bigger things on its mind than what to call potatoes and to grow the hell up.

It was changed back to "French fries" in 2006 after Jones changed position on the war in 2005, coming to regard it as a mistake.

But it goes further back than that. In World War 1, when the United States was fighting Germany, sauerkraut was renamed "liberty cabbage", dachshunds were renamed "liberty hounds" and German measles were called "liberty measles". This came amongst beating up people who didn't buy war bonds and the mob in Collinsville, Illinois that lynched a German immigrant and wore red, white and blue ribbons to court where the jury let them off while a band played patriotic music, but that's not our focus. (Though it does further illustrate just how idiotic blind patriotism can make you if you let it.)

Mental Floss compiled a list of other renamings that don't just involve the United States- the Arab world made a Coca-Cola alternative called Mecca Cola in response to anti-Arab sentiment in America, New Zealand renamed French bread as "Kiwi bread" in response to France conducting nuclear testing in the area, and Iran called Danish pastries "Roses of the Prophet Muhummad" because of that cartoonist guy, among others.

Today's offender: Steve Holland, state legislator from Mississippi, who has introduced a bill to change the name of the Gulf of Mexico to the 'Gulf of America'.

Which is actually getting into more serious renamings. When you change the name of food, it just annoys your adversary. When you start trying to change the name of a part of the map that the two of you share, you start running the risk of getting into international-incident territory and, when it happens, it often veers into the realm of straight-up territorial disputes.

You see international disputes over naming rights fairly commonly on the map if you take the time to look. Eastern Asia sees it at least three times with China, Japan and the Koreas, not counting the dispute over the Korean peninsula itself in case you forget about that. First, you have what's internationally called the Sea of Japan, which South Korea prefers to call the "East Sea" and North Korea calls the "East Sea of Korea". There's also what are internationally called the Liancourt Rocks- South Korea calls them Dokdo; Japan calls them Takeshima. Third, there's what's internationally called Socotra Rock, which isn't even above sea level but which China calls Suyan Rock and which South Korea calls both Ieodo and Parango.

Granted, you might still not cause a stir with the act itself. After England ordered the Libyan embassy in London closed in 1984 in the wake of the death of policewoman Yvonne Fletcher at the hands of Libyan embassy officials, Moammar Gadhafi responded by ordering Libyan maps to remove England. There'd just be water there bordering Scotland and Wales. (The real source is one of my books, Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest by John J. Kohut. Sorry about the best online source I'm able to find being some guy's sermon.) But even then, relations had already deteriorated to the point where embassies were closing. The map change, again, is petty in the grand scheme of things.

Let's just hope Mexico sees the 'Gulf of America' proposal as petty and not anything more.

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