Saturday, September 23, 2017

Nicknaming: terms of endearment or bullying? The first principle of UU

Our UUAWOL fiction book for September, 2017, has been Dave Eggers' novel, Heroes Of The Frontier. On page 143 Josie, the main character in the book, refers to her foster sister Samantha, and describes how Sam nicknamed their foster mother, Sunny, "Sunsy." Eggers writes the passage thus,

"Neither she nor Sam had called Sunny by that name when they lived with her, and hearing her use it, twenty years later or whenever it was was, was jarring - as if Sam had assessed what Sunny had been to her and given it a name. Hadn't she once called her Sunsy? She had! Sam liked names, nicknames. These names did what - they helped Sam define, or redefine, what she and Sunny were to each other. They gave her some control, as if to call her Sunsy put her in her place, as a small and aging woman, whereas Mom had been a holy honorific." p. 143

Nicknames can be a form of endearment and they can also be a form of domination and control. Currently, we have had two presidents who have a habit of nicknaming people: George W. Bush, and Donald R. Trump, the most recent example when President Trump has called the North Korean President, Kin Jong-un, "Little Rocket Man."

To Unitarian Univeralist ears, these kinds of bullying put downs meant to belittle, and mock, are antithetical to our first principle of affirming and promoting the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Jesus taught that we are to love our enemies. It would be quite a different world if this injunction was affirmed, promoted, and acted on.

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