As a father with very strong political views (that don’t wander anywhere near ‘mainstream’) I understand how difficult it can be to balance educating my child with the truths our society prefers to ignore and ensuring I’m not making her life any more difficult than it needs to be. Finding that balance is a recurring theme here at Philaahzophy and, in fact, one of the reasons for its existence. But it seems clear, even to me, that naming your son Adolph Hitler and your daughter Aryan Nation is crossing way over that line.
However, Deborah and Heath Campbell obviously don’t think so according to Sunday’s front page story in New Jersey’s Express-Times–
Adolf Hitler Campbell — it’s indeed the name on his birth certificate — turns 3 today, and the Campbell family believes the boy has been mistreated. A local supermarket refused to make a birthday cake with “Adolf Hitler” on it.
The ShopRite in Greenwich Township has also refused to make a cake bearing the name of Campbell’s daughter, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell, who turns 2 in February.
Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell, a girl named for Schutzstaffel head Heinrich Himmler, turns 1 in April.
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.
Obviously, I believe parents are free to name their children whatever they desire. I also agree that Rite-Aid is free to reject any business they so desire, based on whatever criteriea they wish to put in place. Unlike the bulk of the blogosphere and commenters on the various articles I also don’t think the Campbell’s did this just to get attention.
According to a Denver Post article–
Karen Meleta, a spokeswoman for ShopRite, said the Campbells had similar requests denied at the same store the last two years and said Heath Campbell previously had asked for a swastika to be included in the decoration.
No, I don’t think they’re looking for attention. I just think they’re looking for some sort of identity and they wandered down a bad road that they’re too stubborn to turn off. Just check out these conflicting statements made by the Campbells-
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.1
About 12 people attended the birthday party Sunday, including several children who were of mixed race, according to Heath Campbell.
“If we’re so racist, then why would I have them come into my home?” he asked.2
“I just figured that they’re just names,” Deborah Campbell said. “They’re just kids. They’re not going to hurt anybody.”
Heath Campbell said some people like the names but others are shocked to hear them. “They say, ‘He (Hitler) killed all those people.’ I say, ‘You’re living in the wrong decade. That Hitler’s gone,'” he said.
“They’re just names, you know,” he said. “Yeah, they (Nazis) were bad people back then. But my kids are little. They’re not going to grow up like that.”3
In the foyer, Heath Campbell, who said he has German ancestry and a relative who fought for the SS, took off boots he said were worn by a Nazi solider named Daniel.
He laid them next to a skull with a swastika on its forehead, the first of dozens of swastikas seen by the Campbells’ rare guests.
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.”4
Campbell said he was raised not to avoid people of other races but not to mix with them socially or romantically. But he said he would try to raise his children differently.
“Say he grows up and hangs out with black people. That’s fine, I don’t really care,” he said. “That’s his choice.”5
So, yeah, it bothers me that these people were ignorant enough to name their children after some of the most reviled people in recent history. But it bothers me more that they don’t work and live off Social Security (read: money stolen from other people like you and me). And it bothers me even more that they don’t even have the power to stand behind their beliefs. If “they’re just names”, “swastikas are a symbol of peace”, and “people need to get over the past”, then you wouldn’t have chosen them, they wouldn’t be asociated in your home with skulls and knives, and, again, you wouldn’t have chosen them.
The Campbell’s are obviously trying to honor what they see as their heritage. But they immediately backed down when confronted with distaste for it. And that is the most disturbing part of this story.