There’s journalism and then there’s this thing where journalists go batshit crazy and expose themselves for who they really are - which no one’s able to name, yet, since we’re laughing too hard. Seriously, some people are wondering why one of the Boston bombers was named after a 14th century Turko-Mongol ruler and conquerer Amir Temur. Here’s the American Thinker’s J R Dunn:
“Tamerlan Tsarnaev, hmm?
Tamerlane (properly, Timur the Lame, 1336 — 1405) just happens to be one of the most brutal conquerors in recorded history. Tamerlane was a 14th-century successor to the khans. He is noted — if that’s the word I’m groping for — for the sheer viciousness and gratuitousness of his conquests, which put the actions of predecessors such as Genghis Khan in the shade, and remained unmatched until the 20th century.”
Add three more paragraphs of suchlike and he reaches this marvelous conclusion:
“What might have been going on in the heads of parents who chose to name their child for such a figure is beyond easy surmise. But here’s a memo for any proposed new immigration regulations: no entry for people named after genocidal Tatar conquerors.”
Yep, the writer at American THINKER *thinks* this - although the mechanisms of that thought process might be way too hilarious even for AT’s pages. Were you named after that ruthless oil magnate from Dallas, JR?
The article seems to have found impetus from a Julia Ioffe article in The New Republic yesterday which goes:
“If Dzhokhar seems to have been a relatively well-adjusted kid, the elder, Tamerlan—who is named for a Muslim Mongol warrior—clearly had more trouble.”
Does she add a “shares the name with a 20th century Soviet genocidal maniac” after the name of every Joseph?
All of this goaded white savior par excellence Nick Kristof to loudly wonder if the atrocity of naming your child Temur or Tamerlan should be finally put to rest. Nick, you do know you’re named after Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of among others, THIEVES?
Eliza Shapiro at The Daily Beast piles on by talking to someone who wrote a book on Amir Temur as if that would make the idea less looney. I urge you to compare the numbers para in her article to the opening paras of Wikipedia’s entry on Amir Temur for kicks. ;)
And therein lies the problem.
To Eliza and J R Dunn and everyone else fanning the Name War, Amir Temur may be a Wikipedia article or a figure in books, but to someone like me - an Afghan and Central Asian -, he’s far more sophisticated than a man with a name and a history of atrocities.
Here’s a story I read in our 3rd grade Farsi:
They say Amir Temur, before he became the scourge of half of Asia, lost a battle badly and made out with his life alone. Exhausted, he took refuge in a ruin and was contemplating existence when he saw an ant try to carry a grain up a wall. The ant kept climbing, but the grain was too heavy so each time he went up, they’d both fall and it’d have to start all over again. Temur amazed, paid close attention and wondered when the ant might give up. It didn’t. After hundreds of tries, the ant finally managed to lift the grain up the wall. The Amir was so impressed by its persistence that he vowed he’d never give up himself.
If Nick Kristof found a time machine, you’d be wall paint, Mr. Ant.
Does my 3rd grade story sound similar to stories you might’ve read about Alexander? Constantine? Richard the Lionheart? Or more recently Honest Abe? Of course it does! People make these things up because it’s fun! And over time, the historical figure is lost and all the general population - who don’t want a post-graduate degree in medieval history - remembers is these little stories. Why wouldn’t anyone name their kid after the guy who teaches 3rd grade kids Farsi?
You may find a dozen stories like this involving the Amir and poets, religious leaders, animals, beggars and courtesans. He’s part of our national psyche and not just our psyche, but the psyche of every nation he left a mark on. He may have destroyed large swaths of Asia, but he built the cities of Samarkand and Bukhara gloriously. His descendants rebuilt many of the cities he destroyed back to their former glory. One even went as far as India and founded the Mughal dynasty. Take Temur out and you may not have the Taj Mahal. (That’s right, you’ll find Temurs in India and Pakistan, too, oh the HORROR!)
That name may have invoked terror in the past, and loathing in the present for some indeed, but for most, he’s a myth from a bygone era that only history lovers know much about, really.
But that might not even be the motivation. I have encountered many Temurs and Tamers and Tamerlans in my lifetime. The motivation behind their names is probably not their parents’ love of history or the myth of conquerers and such. Here’s why.
My first name is Suleiman. That’s Arabic for the Biblical Solomon. My grandma didn’t name me Suleiman because she had any love for Jewish religious figures, but because she’d had a son named Suleiman who’d died young. Now don’t go conjecturing that I’m single because I’m waiting for an Ethiopian beauty to lure me with her wisdom!
I was named Suleiman because generally people name people after other people they’ve known or met or seen who have the same name.
Historical figures as names is nothing new and not restricted to my culture and I’m pretty certain in Chechen culture as well. Amir Temur just happens to be a famous conquerer of the past who controlled large swaths of south, central and west Asia. He’s become part of our daily lives.
Heck, in Uzbekistan, he’s revered as their founding father. That’s the same country Herman Cain tried to Ubeki beki beki.
Naming children after historical figures is part of American culture as well. Though not every George was named after Washington nor every Thomas after Jefferson. And hey, even if you want to name your kid after a fruit, so what?
To jump to such outlandish conclusions as this is simply bizarre. And its especially bizarre coming from journalists in a country whose capital district and female personification are named after a monstrous figure who is responsible for starting the genocide of Native Americans.