Puttin’ the heat on Little Hitler.

December 20, 2008

Well, the language police are at it again.  This time, a little boy in New Jersey was denied a birthday cake when the ShopRite supermarket from which his mother ordered his cake refused to put his name on the cake.  The boy’s full legal name just happens to be Adolph Hitler Campbell.

Yeah, that’s a pretty fucked up name for a kid, especially when you consider the names of his siblings:  JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell.   You just can’t make this shit up!

Their lame-brained parents aren’t really racist, they say.  They don’t care if their kids hang out with blacks or other races.  They just thought it would be cool to name their kids uniquely.  I mean, who the hell else would dare to name their kid after the world’s most infamous Jew killer?

A spokesperson for ShopRite said that they “reserve the right not to print anything on the cake that we deem to be inappropriate.  We considered this inappropriate.”

The Campbells were able to get their cake at a nearby Wal-Mart, who, in light of all this press, are now questioning their policies about cake decorating.  They may soon instate a similar policy to ShopRite, which, basically, amounts to “if we or someone else might find it offensive, we won’t do it.”

Now, hold on here.  As strange as many might think it is to name your kids in such a way, there is no reason in the world why they shouldn’t be able to, and there is also no reason why they can’t go into a store and have their kid’s name put on a birthday cake.  Once again, this is about language, plain and simple.  Some people are just a little freaked out by certain words and, apparently, names.  (Remember all the neo-cons who just had to repeatedly remind everyone of Obama’s middle name?)  What is it, exactly, that is “inappropriate” about this kid’s name?  I mean, really?  OK, he has the same name as the guy who masterminded the murder of millions of Jews.  I suppose that is unfortunate, depending on your politics, but does that mean that somehow Little Hitler is guilty of some crime by association?  I mean, do all the Mark Chapmans of the world go around plotting assassinations because they happen to share the name of the wacko who killed John Lennon?   Of course not.

But, of course, there is the argument that a private business can refuse service on any grounds to any person for any reason (within the law, of course).  Point taken, fine – but my whole point is about the uptightedness of these business owners, and of people in general.  Let’s stop worrying about words, and worry more about intentions.  This family just wanted a cake with their kid’s name on it.   I don’t know about you, but I am holding out hope that I still live in a free country.  So, instead of having these knee-jerk, emotional reactions, can’t we all just agree to be civilized adults and leave language alone??

9 Responses to “Puttin’ the heat on Little Hitler.”

  1. Mardé Says:

    Oh c’mon, Minds. This is ridiculous!

    Yes, the stores should have put the names on the cakes for the family. It’s not as though they’re putting AK-47 guns in the cakes. Putting names on a mere cake is not going to get anyone killed.

    I guess this is your point, though, isn’t it?

    Still, these are offensive words and words do have meanings and implications, do lead to actions. Think about Hitler’s words. They sure as Hell had consequences.

    When you say the murder of millions of Jews is unfortunate, depending on your politics, most would say the murder of millions of Jews is more than unfortunate. It’s downright evil, especially its politics.

    Someone should talk to this family, the husband or the wife, or both, and try to beat some sense into them. These names very likely will cause damage to the kids later in life, maybe even get them killed. What about the kids’ rights not to be endangered?

  2. c Says:

    The store offered to make the cake uninscribed and offered icing so the parents could decorate it. When was the last time you heard of someone getting a cake with a full name (first and middle name). Bravo to a company that stands up for it’s associates and still tries to make a reasonable accomodation with unreasonable people.

  3. Minds Erased Says:

    Marde, I’m afraid that you’ve misunderstood me in my latest post.

    The thing that I thought was “unfortunate, depending on your politics” is the fact that this young man shares his name with Hitler. Period. Of course the real Hitler was a very evil, twisted man who wielded that evil to bring unspeakable horrors to the Jews and to all of humanity. I agree with you 100% and would be something less than human if I did not. After re-reading that paragraph, I can see how you might have misunderstood my original sentiment, and I admit that I was being a little callous.

    For me, the whole issue with this particular news story has to do with our collective uptightedness about language. Yes, these kids more likely than not have a hard road ahead of them with names such as they have. But we cannot, as a society, start trying to legislate thought through the demonization of language. The words “Adolf Hitler”, in my opinion, are not evil in and of themselves. This is part of the point I was trying to make.

  4. Mardé Says:

    Thanks for the explanation, Minds. I see where you are coming from. We do get hung up on proprieties of language, like, “oh no, mustn’t say this, might offend” kind of thing.

    I certainly agree that it was silly for the company, and later Wal-Mart, not to print the name on the cake. They should have done it. None of their business what people want to put there.

    Yes, I did misinterpret “unfortunate, depending on your politics” as referring to the murder of millions of Jews, rather than that the name of the child was unfortunate, depending on your politics. Yes, the politics of the Aryan Nation people would certainly accept that name.

    OK, I apologize for implying that you’re a Holocaust denier, Minds! Nothing you’ve ever written on De Omnibus Disputandum would give that impression!

    Now I see a comment from c. I think c has a point. If the letter writing on the cake gets too complicated, would not the customer be better able to perform the work than some underpaid employee at the store? And it is possible the employee, rather than the company, could get in trouble if the words are too inflammatory.

  5. Minds Erased Says:

    Well, unfortunately it IS possible that people would “get in trouble” for putting “naughty words” or words that are somehow deemed “inappropriate” on a birthday cake. Sure, maybe they should have put the names on themselves. Maybe they’re just no good at that sort of thing. Maybe they’d rather have the bakery do it – I mean, why else would the bakery offer that service in the first place?

    You know me, Marde – I’m always looking at a much bigger picture. At an ideal world, where people don’t freak out about words. Like I’ve said, words are not bad in and of themselves. Take the word “nigger”, for instance. When white people use it, it’s not OK. When black people use it, it’s OK. That just proves to me that the discomfort really doesn’t have anything to do with the WORD but rather with the INTENTION. Yes, we use language to convey our intentions, but I’ve heard racist people use the phrase “African American” but it still didn’t change or even mask the fact that they were racist.

  6. Mardé Says:

    Yes, it’s all about the intention rather than the word, that’s for sure. But sometimes it’s hard to separate the two. What you’re saying, though, is that just on the basis of the word alone you cannot tell whether the intention is good or bad, so why slam the word? By George, I think I’ve got it! (The generic George, not the Bush one;)

  7. Minds Erased Says:

    Hooray for critical thought! By golly, yes, you’ve got it! Woohoo!

  8. Minds Erased Says:

    Oh, I’m quite sure it was the almighty dollar that motivated (and motivates) Wal-Mart. Despite their “we’re so good for the local community” stance, even though their business tactics are akin to a flesh-eating bacterium in small towns, I don’t think they care at all about free speech. In fact, they are “looking at their cake decorating policies” and will most likely join the ranks of ShopRite sometime soon. I suppose if Wal-Mart really cared about free speech, they would sell both unedited and edited music CDs. Now I’m getting into a whole other topic, of course.

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