What’s In a Middle Name?

by Butler Shaffer

The media has long been in the habit of referring to criminal wrongdoers by their first, middle and last names. Lee Harvey Oswald, John Wayne Gacy, and Caril Ann Fugate are some of the more familiar names. When a person has been arrested for allegedly murdering or abducting someone, his or her full name is announced in the press. Perhaps this is but a carry-over from childhood, when our parents employed the same technique in chastising us for our shortcomings. What child has not been subjected to such a formal announcement of his or her misdemeanors? Perhaps the indictment for breaking a vase or hitting one’s sibling is made so specific – “Rupert Henry Plotnick” – so as to not confuse the listener with any other Rupert Plotnick in the vicinity. But I suspect the reason for this tactic is to reinforce the moral indignation of the parent in confronting the offender. The charge is uttered with such forcefulness as to make guilt a foregone conclusion.

Perhaps we should start using this approach in dealing with political wrongdoers. Think of the impact of a bill of particulars expressed against “George Walker Bush,” or “Richard Bruce Cheney,” or “Donald Henry Rumsfeld,” or “Paul Dundes Wolfowitz”: one can almost see such men on the gallows awaiting their just punishments! After all, their concoction of wars resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent men, women, and children should merit far greater comeuppance than the breaking of a vase!

What is Condoleezza Rice’s middle name, by the way?


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