If There’s One Sure Sign of American Declinism…

… it’s that we now seem to be okay with naming things after people who aren’t dead yet.

First it was the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) but that might be excused since he was far into Alzheimer’s at the time and wasn’t a public person anymore. But that doesn’t excuse the USS George HW Bush (CVN-77).

Then it was travesties like renaming Anchorage International Airport to “Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport” in 2000.

But now a Long Island elementary school has renamed itself for Barack Obama. Not only isn’t he dead, he isn’t even President yet.

I don’t care that “most of the 440 students there are black or Hispanic, and Obama’s victory is a source of great pride;” we have traditions in this country, and one of those is you name schools for dead Presidents, either great ones (Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington) or assassinated ones (Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, Kennedy).

Normally I don’t buy into American declinism much, but are we next to clamor for the Senate to declare Obama, like Augustus, a living god?

(hat tip to Hyacinth Girl)

4 thoughts on “If There’s One Sure Sign of American Declinism…

  1. chrisrnps

    “Rosa Parks Elementary” has a nice ring to it.

    Too bad Proposition R, which would have christened the “George W. Bush Memorial Sewage Plant”, failed in California this year, while Prop 8 passed.

    Stupid, stupid California voters.

  2. Ookla

    First of all the cultural tradition of naming things after the dead is not integral to education, crime, governance, or general welfare so I think you are expressing irrational exuberance against the violation of this tradition.

    Second, I can’t quite decide if your “obama as a living god” remark is just an absolute non-sequitur or an absurd slippery slope fallacy.

    Barack Obama is the first black president in United States history. He’s already a historic personage, so there is reason to name a school after him. Naming a school after someone does not rationally lead one to conclude that that person will be named a living god. Your conclusion does not follow from your premises, it is non-sequitur.

    On the other hand to make the assertion that naming a school after someone is reason to assume they will be named a living god is a slippery slope fallacy. You are claiming that A leads to Z without establishing that A even leads to B or B to C and so on.

  3. Bryan Lovely Post author

    My point is that we may endow living Presidents with perks approaching imperial splendor, we never let them forget they’re mere temporary servants of the people. Most especially, we do not venerate them while alive; and in this country one of the highest forms of veneration is the school naming.

    Comparing Obama to Augustus was exaggeration for effect; but a viable exaggeration considering all the messianic qualities with which he’s been endowed by his followers (and I use the word “followers” deliberately).

    By the way, thanks for commenting — I think you’re the first commenter that I don’t either know personally or linked to their blog.

  4. Jan

    “we do not venerate them while alive; and in this country one of the highest forms of veneration is the school naming.”

    Oh, I think I would disagree strongly with that on both counts. Without even going back to the 19th century (when some supporters treated even political *candidates* like gods), or invoking George Washington (hello, naming the capital city after the SITTING president?), I would suggest that FDR, Kennedy, and Reagan (not just the carrier–the national airport, the massive DOC building downtown, and a long list at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_honors_named_for_Ronald_Reagan, including a building at his alma mater that was renamed for him when he was still governor of California) have all been quite heavily venerated during their lifetimes, let alone after they were dead. Were they *universally* lauded? No, even FDR had people who *hated* him, but those who loved them thought they were (almost literally) like gods. And all it takes to rename a school is some people who are strongly in favour and no one who is strongly opposed.

    I’d also disagree that school naming is a very high form of veneration. It’s just above ‘highway overpass naming’, which is not very salubrious. My own school was named for one R. O. Nelson (http://nelson.nn.k12.va.us/), but I can’t find anywhere on their extensive website any mention of Mr Nelson, and I certainly can’t recall ever knowing who he was or why his name got stuck on an ugly pile of bricks.

    “his followers (and I use the word “followers” deliberately).”

    Why not? They *are* his followers. It’s a perfectly normal word to use, and you don’t need to emphasize it just to show your curmudgeonly dislike for peoples’ love of him.

    You are far too young, my friend, to be this close to shouting, “Hey, you kids! Get offa my lawn!” 🙂


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