Mark Krikorian crystallizes the problem of naming ships after living people.
Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Mark Krikorian, the Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies. He is the author of The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal.
FP: Mark Krikorian, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
The USS Enterprise is leaving on its final voyage. Tell us a bit about the USS Enterprise, why this is its last voyage, and what significance there is to this development.
Krikorian: The carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65) is the eighth Navy ship to bear that name, the first being in the Continental Navy in 1775. It was launched in 1961, the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, and was the successor to Enterprise CV-6, the famed World War II aircraft carrier, the most decorated ship in US Navy history.
Today’s USS Enterprise, nicknamed the “Big E”, is the second-oldest ship in the US Navy, after the wooden sailing ship USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”). After more than half a century of service, the Big E will be decommissioned at the end of this year. The question is whether the glorious name Enterprise will continue in the Navy. There’s an effort underway to transfer the name to the next planned carrier, CVN-80. This would seem like a no-brainer, but unfortunately, it’s not. The two carriers already under construction, CVN-78 and 79, are already named the USS Gerald R. Ford and the USS John F. Kennedy. There’s a real possibility CVN-80 could be named the USS Bill Clinton, given that he’s next in line, as it were, with all the recent ex-presidents before him already having carriers named after them.
FP: All of this raises the broader question of our practices in naming warships, and even more broadly, the naming of anything by government. Your thoughts on this phenomenon?
Krikorian: I’m afraid the naming of ships, and a lot of other things owned by the government, has become politicized. The Navy used to name ships after battles, like the USS Yorktown, or states, like the USS Arizona, or characteristics of the nation or the ship, like the USS Intrepid or the USS Hornet. Now, getting a ship named after you is a kind of political payoff.
Most recently, the Navy named a new littoral combat ship the USS Gabrielle Giffords. I feel for the woman, as do we all, but what possible justification can there be for naming a warship after her? Is that really likely to inspire its crews to patriotic exertions? We also have USS John Murtha – apart from the late congressman’s many flaws, he was chairman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, so the Navy is basically buying congressional support for new ships by naming them after the lawmakers who vote for them? Unbelievable.
Naming ships after living people is inappropriate even if they might actually warrant such an honor. The Navy’s newest carrier, launched in 2009, is named the USS George H. W. Bush. President Bush was a naval aviator in WWII, so naming a warship after him would have been a good idea – someday. Likewise with other ships – Ronald Reagan certainly warrants such an honor, but it was bestowed on him almost 10 years before his death. Same with Hyman Rickover, father of the nuclear Navy; Bob Hope, who spent so much time and energy lifting the spirits of our soldiers; and even the hapless Jimmy Carter, who was a Navy submariner.
Naming ships – or government buildings or anything else – after living politicians is the kind of thing you’d expect from an empire, not a republic. This is part of a trend that has sprung up elsewhere as government has grown and elected officials have come to think they own their jobs and the taxpayer money they disburse.
Exhibit A: Exalted Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan Robert Byrd (D-WV), who named practically every federal installation in West Virginia after himself.
How far are we, really, from Saparmurat Niyazov, the late dictator of Turkmenistan, who renamed the days of the week and the months of the year after himself and his family? OK, we’re not likely to see Christmas changed to the 25th of MichelleObama, but the impulse is the same – vanity and self-glorification, the very opposite of the humility and self-restraint required of a self-governing people.
Living persons are barred by law from being depicted on US currency – there was an attempt to put Washington’s image on the first US dollar, and he rightly declined it as an unseemly, un-republican act. The Postal Service used to have such a rule, requiring a person to be dead 10 years before they could be honored with a stamp, the only exception being former presidents, and even they are not so honored until one year after their death. Then, the time was reduced to five years, and just last fall, in a desperate attempt to raise money by selling stamps of celebrities, the Post Office announced it would make stamps of living persons. CBS News conducted an internet poll of which living American should be honored with a stamp. The winner?
How far we’ve sunk.
And as we’re naming warships after living politicians – can a USS Nancy Pelosi be far behind? – we no longer have US Navy ships bearing some of the most important names of our history. There is no USS Lexington or USS Saratoga or USS Midway or USS Khe Sanh. Nor is there any US Navy vessel named for Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison,
James Monroe, or Andrew Jackson. Any one of the nearly 1,000 Marines and sailors who have given their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan is a more appropriate source of a ship’s name than any politician.
FP: Mark Krikorian, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
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