What is in a name?
Gaius Julius Caesar Sum. “You owe everything to your name,” Cicero told Augustus, and he was right. Upon his posthumous adoption, the boy once known as Octavian began his rise to become Caesar Augustus, and taking the name of Julius Caesar was the first step. The name was more than a collection of letters.
Now RWC has published a page on the attempt by the NY Legislature to force us to attach our names to whatever we post online.
There are pros: Less trolling, a general clean-up of the youtube pages, and possibly more responsibility. Then there are the cons: No woman with a stalker would ever be able to have an online opinion again.
What is your name, this thing that the NY legislature wants us to put behinds our words? My name here is closer to my real name than I would have chosen if I had thought about it. Emmie is, to be honest, what my beloved grandmother called me. She’s the only one who did, and she hadn’t been gone very long when I chose it.
When my sister named her oldest son, her mother-in-law’s comment was “Well, he’ll be able to run for office with that name,” and my sister responded that yes, that was the point. He could do anything with the name they gave him. What, exactly, is Adolf Hitler Campbell supposed to do with that name?
But back to the Romans. Do you know what Caesar’s daughter was named? Julia. If she had had a sister, her sister would have been named: Julia. Another sister? Julia. Women weren’t given their own names, you see, just the family name. Yes, I get that Button Gwinnett and Gouverneur Morris were both carrying their mother’s maiden names as first names, but this wasn’t the same as simply not having a unique individual name. Things got better later on, but this floored me. I’m used to a name being an individual identifier. I am grateful to be living in modern era in which women are individuals, not biological tools to propagate a race.
And that would be the point. Your name is yours, your individual identifier, and your past and associations go with it. Your financial identity, your right to borrow on the strength of that past, your right to be trusted on the strength of your previous actions are yours. Your education is yours—whose name is on those diplomas? We don’t get group GPA’s or group SAT scores.
This is what we are being asked to put behind our comments and our words online.
Unfortunately, our names are also linked to our jobs and our associations. An online comment, even if sincere, thought out, and frankly, even right, could risk those things, and this threat could silence many voices.
Arguments should be able to stand on their own merits. The Federalist Papers were brilliant because of what they said, not who wrote them. (Actually, the people who wrote them were famous because they were brilliant, but that’s a circular argument.)
I am willing to put up with asinine youtube comments if it means more intelligent people feel that they can speak their minds. Bullies can be tracked and traced by other methods. Youth need to be educated and watched, bullying needs to be punished and curtailed, but not at the cost of a robust national debate.