Thursday, July 23, 2009

You are your Name

In 1979 several of us took on the mentorship of a Vietnamese boat family that had been 2 years in a Malaysian camp. The father of the family spoke to me about 2 weeks after they had arrived, to tell me that the name he was given by the immigration at entry was incorrect. They had reversed his name, so as to describe his family name first, and the given name last. Moreover, it was misspelled as well. I said to him, "No problem. We'll just go down to the customs and immigration office and clear it up". Given that this was a busy time, he and I waited in a lineup for over an hour till we could be processed. I explained the situation carefully to the official at the wicket. She looked at me and said, " I'm afraid it is too late to change that now. He has been through customs and the name he has been provided is now his name." When I tried to explain the importance of his concern she treated us as if we were daft! Well! She didn't know that you are your name. When Jacob wrestled with the proxy for God, and given the name of Israel, he became Israel. It was the ground of his being. It is the label whereby we identify ourselves and our tribe and where we slot ourselves in the human race. It may not seem important to some that a man named Ysa Mak would now be a Canadian named Mac Ysa. About all that man had, at that time, was his name, and a suit of issued clothing, and me. We left the office and I phoned my MP, Don Munro, that minute and got him in Ottawa within minutes.I told him what happened and he said "That's bullshit! Go right back there right away! " I know it's a bit sinful of me but I felt a small surge of triumph. It's not that often that you can win against the bureaucracy. I forgot for the moment it was all about him, and not about me!

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