written by Sara Pennypacker
illustrated by Marla Frazee
originally published by Hyperion, 2006
Disney Book Group/Disney Hyperion, 2013
e-book accessed on Libby from www.Libraryvisit.org 7/20/2020
When I was about 14, my parents let me adopt the cat that belonged to the family I babysat for. He came with a name, Princey, and his kids were allowed to visit him whenever they wanted to.
I’ve had other pets since then. We named a stray cat after Tristan Jones, a brave adventurer who circumnavigated the world in a sailboat. Some of our cats came with names. Blue had blue eyes. I found Tippy, his white tippy tail wrapped around his white tippy toes, sitting in our driveway. When I called “Tippy!” he came right over. I don’t know if that was his name from before, but it’s been his ever since. We spent some time looking for the people Tippy lived with before, but no one claimed him. Tippy got to live with us.
We named a turtle someone left on our doorstep Blossom, after a pet turtle in a children’s book, one of the Ramona titles by Beverly Cleary, I think. Daffodil was a goldfish we got in the spring when the daffodils were blooming. Phoebe was a parakeet who sounded like her name.
Names are important. Following tradition, our daughters are named for their ancestors. We wished our daughters the qualities we saw in those they were named for: strength of character; courage of convictions; wisdom; a generous spirit.
Place names are important, too. Those names can change. Some changes reflect local politics, Burma to Myanmar and Bombay to Mumbai, for example. Some had been mispronounced and now “corrected,” like Peking to Beijing.
Lots of American city names are attempts to copy Native pronunciation. Cuyahoga County in Ohio, where I grew up, for instance, or the Mississippi. The Native pronunciations were difficult for English speakers, though, so even an attempt to preserve a culture through its names was misguided.
In another misguided attempt at veneration, cities named their sports teams to show admiration of Native American strength, cunning, and bravery that we newcomers to their land encountered. Kansas City, Washington D. C., Cleveland, and Atlanta chose those kinds of team names.
In the enlightened, chaotic, and ironic year 2020, even though we don’t always see clearly, lots of us have by now recognized the hurt we inadvertently caused through our own ignorance and insensibility. It’s not too late to remove those hurtful names. Team franchises have smart and creative people on their staffs. They will come up with strong, intimidating, and meaningful new names that fans will rally around.
And what about college and high school teams? I hope they’ll be next.
My mom used to tell me “sticks and stones will break your bones, but names will never hurt you.” She said it when I complained to her that my feelings were hurt because someone called me “fatty,” or some other derogatory name. She was not condoning name-calling. She wanted me to know that I didn’t have to believe those mean words. That was not easy and it DID hurt. It still kinda does.
Strong, brave, and patriotic should be qualifications for naming rights on our military bases. Smart generals who taught soldiers, sailors, and airmen the best ways to protect American citizens should be honored. A quick Google search on military bases showed me that 10 bases are named for Confederate leaders, in no particular order, I think. https://www.military.com/undertheradar/2018/10/03/ten-army-bases-named-after-confederate-officers.html
1 Fort Benning (Georgia, 1918)
Benning believed the only way to prevent the abolition of slavery was secession.
2 Fort Bragg (North Carolina, 1918)
Bragg was considered one of the worst tacticians in either Army, US or Confederate.
3 Fort Hood (Texas, 1942)
Hood called slavery the secret motor that kept up the momentum of the war.
4 Fort Lee (Virginia, 1942)
Although most historians agree that Lee was less enthusiastic about fighting to preserve slavery than most of the other generals, he *did* step up to take command of the Confederacy.
5 Fort Polk (Louisiana, 1941)
A slave owner before the war, Polk, second cousin to U. S. President James Polk, (1845 - 1849) was killed during the Battle of Atlanta (1864).
6 Fort Gordon (Georgia, 1941)
Gordon suggested Yankee soldiers didn't oppose slavery but only fought to preserve the Union.
7 Fort Picket (Virginia, 1941)
General Picket graduated last in his class at West Point. His widow was a founder of the "Lost Cause" movement that worked to obscure slavery's role in the war.
8 Fort Hill (Virginia, 1941)
Hill was promoted to lieutenant general after Stonewall Jackson was killed at the Battle of Chancellorsville.
9 Fort Rucker (Alabama, 1942)
Colonel Rucker is the only officer below the rank of General to have a base named after him. He lost an arm in the war, but became better known for being an industrialist who helped build Alabama’s substantial coal and steel industries.
10 Camp Beauregard (Louisiana, 1917)
Beauregard resigned his position as superintendent at West Point to join the Confederate Army. Too late, (1873) he spoke out loudly in a speech supporting racial cooperation and equal rights.
Notice, these bases were built and named during WWI or WWII, long after the Colonel and Generals were dead. The “Lost Cause,” was a movement begun shortly after the Confederacy surrendered. It romanticized the War, defended the motivations of the Confederacy, and obscured the reason for fighting in the first place, to preserve slavery.
The movement still has traction, mostly in Southern states. Its adherents support the Confederate flag, monuments to Confederate officers and infantry, and names on military facilities, all under the (contrived) protection of their First Amendment Right to free speech.
The “Lost Cause” and the people who support it, including Donald Trump, support the traitorous idea that the flag of a defeated Army should fly over the United States, and defeated warriors who fought bravely, albeit, for the wrong reasons, should be honored with monuments and military installations.
Maybe William Shakespeare said it best in Romeo and Juliet Act II, scene ii:
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
by any other name would smell as sweet;
Our teams will play just as well, our soldiers will be well-trained, our country will begin to heal when we all find and acknowledge the reality that is our shared, pluralistic, complicated history.
--stay curious! (and honor truth)