The Naming Controversy

Thinking deep thoughtsTo appreciate my affinity for Andrew Jackson, one has to go back to my sophomore year at Hollins College.  I enrolled in a course entitled England to 1688 taught by somebody who we were all pretty sure was a pirate in a former life (and shall remain nameless for reasons of privacy).  During a meandering period of the discussion of the history of tequila, he asked do you know how the saying “to the victor the spoils came about?” and the nine or so of us gave glazed over looks and we were told tales of Andrew Jackson, a wild inauguration party complete with a pig being thrown out onto the lawn of the White House to prevent the party goers from burning the place down and rumors of shots being fired IN the building itself.  Now, who knows how much of this is true or not (mind you, this is the same professor who’s famous first words to his son were “I’m sorry to tell you Ronald Regan is president) but the story of a president who could throw a party stuck with me (now about England to 1688, I remember something about Ethelred the Unready, a classmates purple coat and being off topic most of the semester!).

A decade or so later, The West Wing had their infamous block of cheese episodes which aired during the first two seasons.  Andrew Jackson allegedly had a block of cheese for people to eat while waiting to speak to the President about concerns because it was the “peoples” house. I became fascinated with the guy on the $20 bill.  I knew he was the first president not from one of the original 13.  His family home was outside of Nashville and he gave the state its nickname: the Volunteer State when saying he didn’t need a full army, just a few good volunteers from the state of Tennessee.  He didn’t join the Presbyterian Church until shortly before his death: he struggled with forgiveness in political and personal  attacks.  His writings indicate that he could forgive actions on a battlefield because one follows the lead of command: a valuable lesson perhaps we all should continue to remember.  He was not a saint: the Trail of Tears is a sore reminder.  He was a character – the first maverick to probably hold the office.  He had a biting sense humor: when called a jackass, he used it as his motto.  Seen as the founder of the Democratic Party, the Donkey, in part, remains its symbol in honor to Jackson.

So, when I went to adopt cat number one in Colorado, I wound up with this long, lean orange-ish creature who totally has opinions.  He was a Jackson.  When I moved to Massachusetts, I became peppered with questions: WHO was Jackson named for? Ok, let me be clear: this is a CAT. MEOW. Jackson Pollack? Michael Jackson? Uh, no. Andrew Jackson. It was a whip around you killed Bambi’s mother moment.  He KILLED the Native Americans.  ( Now, in fair disclosure, I did have fish in college named Marx and Lenin) Ok. He’s a cat? He also did some good things? And there is historical context. And, well, it was after a TV show, a biography, a professor.

And I stopped. My mother’s family is CHEROKEE! Andrew Jackson was a prisoner of war! I was engaging lunacy over how I named my cat. Never mind that in the early 19th century, women, non-property holders and a host of others couldn’t vote.  My cat was named for one of the early characters in American history.  And his brother? Well, he was named for his Jimmy Buffet side kick pirate/privateer.  And between them? They re-enact the Battle of New Orleans at 4:30 am most mornings.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.


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One Response to “The Naming Controversy”

  1. ib Says:

    cute kitties. (=

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