Burma save

August 20, 2008

The names we use mean something. If we use the terms the people themselves use — such as “pro-life movement” and “pro-choice movement” — we’re being neutral. But if we change just one of them and start referring to either the anti-abortion or pro-abortion movement (though both of those terms are more precise), we’re making a statement.

Sometimes, it can’t be helped. One of our reporters did a story this week about the plight of a certain group of refugees in Fort Wayne. It began this way:

Who’s in charge here? That’s the question newly arrived Burmese refugees, their advocates and agencies are asking.

They’re waiting months to receive state- and federally funded benefits that formerly took two weeks, on average, to get. Non-refugees applying for government assistance face the same problems, but people seeking political, social or religious asylum — like the estimated 800 from Burma coming to Fort Wayne this year — arrive with little more than the clothes on their backs.

The Associated Press picked it up, reworked it a bit and sent it out over the wire. Here’s the beginning, as it appeared in the Chicago Tribune:

Myanmar refugees resettling in Fort Wayne are waiting months to receive Medicaid, food stamps and other welfare benefits that used to take an average of just two weeks, a newspaper report said.

You have to pick one name or the other. To me, choosing “Myanmar,” as do the Associated Press and The New York Times, among others, gives the thugs who took over the country legitimacy they do not deserve. Choosing “Burma,” as do The Washington Post, Time magazine and others (including us) shows sympathy for the people from whom the country was stolen. Many English-speaking countries, by the way, continue with “Burma,” including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. (A little name of the country history here.)

Had any good Beijing Duck lately? Contributed any money to the National Association for the Advancement of African American People? Been inside the St. Joseph Medical Center (you know, the one that still says St. Joseph Hospital on the building)? Don’t even get me started on Fort Wayne International You Know What.


3 Responses to “Burma save”

  1. Bob G. Says:

    My dad fought in the CBI (China, BURMA, India theater), and to this day, I still call BURMA…well, BURMA.
    I’m with you on the denial of legitimacy thing.


  2. Leo Morris Says:

    My dad was there, too. He used to say that, growing up in Depression-era Kentucky, he thought he knew what poverty looked like. Then he saw India.

  3. Bob G. Says:

    Dad used to say tha Taj Mahal looked REAL nice…at a distance…at sunset, but when you got up close…
    a WHOLE differnet story.
    Then there were the bulls that were allowed to roam about the cities (religious thing) doing what bulls do best (in an excremental way).
    And no matter how much machinery we sent there to AID people in food cultivation for the starving masses, they stood fast with using animals to plow the fields…go figure.
    Must be a “caste” thing.
    Makes Appalachia look darned inviting.
    But, like ‘Nam, it IS a learning expereince.


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