Growing up in Kearney, Nebraska, my mother knew a boy named Royal. Not an uncommon Victorian-era midwestern name (I didn’t blink when I heard this, because I’d read about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s brother-in-law, also named Royal). What was unfair to poor Royal, who likely went through life as Roy, was that his last name was Jester.
Yes, Royal Jester. Rumor has it that his father perpetrated this outrage as revenge against the world that had named him Courtney. Unless he went through life being called Bud or Butch or Sonny, that means he was referred to as Court Jester. Which leads one to ask: what were their his parents thinking? I grew up with a slightly unusual name at my time/place, and I got shit for it. I can’t imagine how a kid named, oh, I don’t know, Moon Unit or Frankincense or Apple or Bat Guano negotiates the playground these days.
Which brings us* to the curious case of a cake for Adolf Hitler Campbell. When the toddler was turning three, his parents ordered a birthday cake from their local ShopRite. They wanted his full name on the cake, and the bakery refused, saying it seemed inappropriate. So they took their order to WalMart, where they complied and wrote Happy Birthday, Adolf Hitler on the cake, and the three year old was made happy.
Let me say first off that I’m a fan of cake. And birthdays. And three year olds. I don’t blame the parents for wanting a cake for their son. But Mr. and Mrs. Campbell, who the paper mentions as (among other things) Holocaust deniers, seem to be in denial about a whole bunch of other stuff. Like what’s going to happen to their children when they go to school. Cause it’s not just little Adolf who’s going to suffer the slings and arrows of schoolyard politics. His sibs, little Aryan Nation Campbell and Honszlynn Hinler Campbell, aren’t going to get a free ride either.
The parents don’t see it like that, of course:
The Campbells have swastikas in each room of their home, the rented half of a one-story duplex just outside Milford, a borough in Hunterdon County. They say they aren’t racists but believe races shouldn’t mix.
The Campbells said they wanted their children to have unique names and didn’t expect the names to cause problems. Despite the cake refusal, the Campbells said they don’t expect the names to cause problems later, such as when the children start school.
Uh huh. The paper quotes a child psychiatrist to dispute this idea, but you don’t have to have a degree to think that naming your child Dracula Chan or Idi Amin Schwartz is going to get the kid some negative attention.
There are swastikas on walls, on jackets, on the freezer and on a pillow. The family car had swastikas, Heath Campbell said, until New Jersey’s Department of Children and Families told him they could endanger the children.
The swastikas, Heath Campbell said, are symbols of peace and balance. He considers them art. “It doesn’t mean hatred to me,” he said. Deborah Campbell said a swastika “doesn’t really have a meaning. It’s just a symbol.”
Um. The swastika does, in fact, go back as far as the ancient Greeks. But just a symbol? The whole point of a symbol is that it symbolizes something. And most people who see it associate it with the Third Reich, and again with the negative connotations.
Heath Campbell says he doesn’t force his ideas on his children and wants them to be nonviolent. ‘Kay. I’ll be interested to learn, when little Adolph is ten years old, what the kids at school call him. Bud, maybe. Or Butch or Sonny. Maybe even Dweezil. But at home, I’m sure that he’ll be Adolph, and every year, as long as WalMart cooperates, he’ll have a cake with his name on it.
* I got this story via the fabulousness that is Cake Wrecks, my favorite food blog.
ETA: Keith Olbermann covered this story tonight (Wednesday) on Countdown. I feel so, like, ahead of the curve!