What’s in a name, Strawman?


Strawman & Tinman, 1902, Wikimedia

Strawman & Tinman, 1902, Wikimedia

Identity theft is the latest con, or so it would seem. But it turns out that it’s been going on for a great long while, and the first offender is the state. The tale is quite alarming. It’s as if we’ve walked into a long-running movie (titled Life!), and we’re  questing (or not) to figure out what it’s all about. Just ask Alice. Lewis Carroll’s Alice was coming to realize that everything was ruled by nonsense, in the person of the Queen of Hearts. The Caterpillar had asked Alice that most pointed of questions: Whooo are YOU?  Alice: This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. I — I hardly know, sir,  just at present — at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then. .

Caterpillar, from Disney film, 1951

Caterpillar, Disney film, 1951

Now imagine yourself required to appear in court, in front of a magistrate of similar disposition who is directing you to state your name for the record. Don’t! You’ll surely pay. It might be better to read the poem below, by Emily Dickinson, aloud to the jurist:   NOBODY

I’m Nobody! Who are you? Are you – Nobody – too? Then there’s a pair of us! Don’t tell! they’d banish us – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody! How public – like a Frog – To tell your name – the livelong June – To an admiring Bog! 

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Why might this be reasonable? (Glad you asked.) Turns out that when your parents named you, that name was recorded on your birth certificate. And, because few parents know better, the name became abandoned property after a time, which the state claimed. They now own that name! And if you identify yourself to the court by that name, they own you, too. The name is your strawman, detailed in a slim-but-revealing volume, which carries with it many liabilities. A Rose is a Rose, unless her name is Alice!