My Name Is My Name, Which Is My Name, Except To Uncle Sam

Posted Thursday, 21 December 2006, 8:02 pm | 1 comment

I’ve bored a handful of friends with this minor tale of woe, but hey, nothing like a wider audience to bore.

My name is Paul Theodoropoulos. It’s my legal name. Every bill I get, every ( $#!!$$@!!!) "We can lower your mortgage!" junkmail I get, my driver license, my credit cards, my costco card, my REI card, everything – they all say "Paul Theodoropoulos".

California recognizes the common law practice of a name change. That means that if you choose to use a particular name, and do so consistently, then it is your legal name.

Way back in 1959, the era of ‘space cars are just around the corner’ and TV dinners and labor saving devices…well, that’s the year I was born. My dad had used "Pete Theodor" for some time, as it was shorter and easier and more practical than his birth name of Pete Theodoropoulos. it was a labor savings device! Well, my parents thought they’d do me a favor, and shorten my name for me. So on my birth certificate, my name is Paul Christopher Theodor. That’s the name I was given. My parents, good citizens that they were, also got me a Social Security card shortly after I was born, so I’d be all official-like for the bright future.

But I thought Theodoropoulos was cool! I was proud of the unusual name. So, from the age of—oh, probably seven years old or so—I started using Paul Theodoropoulos as my name.  No problem. I submitted my homework as Paul Theodoropoulos. I got my first savings account as Paul Theodoropoulos. As i got older, I got my driver license, my credit cards, etc, as Paul Theodoropoulos.

Social Security of course, still considered me Paul Christopher Theodor. In the last decade or so, since they began publishing them, I’ve gotten my social security ‘balance sheet’ mailed to me as Paul Christopher Theodor. All of my earnings have always been there, even though every job I’ve had, i was paid as Paul Theodoropoulos.

I had lost my social security card years earlier. Most employers never even asked to see it—they just asked for the number, and that was that. Seven or eight years ago, I decided I should replace the darned thing, so I went to the local SocSec office, and ordered a replacement. No problem, even with the discrepancy between my ID and who they thought I was (regrettably, when the thing came in the mail a couple of weeks later, it seems I scooped it up with the normal half dozen junk mails that came every day, and tossed it, because i’ve never been able to find it since then).

Things have changed since 9/11 however. Boy have they changed.

I went to the SocSec office a couple of months ago to really get a replacement card. I was going to start a new job, and they required that I show my social security card for employment (the job ultimately didn’t work out, that’s another long, boring story!).

Problem was, I got a great big N-O when I went in for a new card.

SocSec:  "Our records show you as Paul Christopher Theodor. You must provide photo identification in that name in order to get a replacement card."

Me: "But, uh, I’ve used Paul Theodoropoulos as my legal name for about forty years. I have no photo ID with that other name."

SocSec: "I’m sorry. But that’s the rules. There are no exceptions, period. "

Me: "Okay. Um. So what do I do?"

SocSec: "Well, you can go to DMV and have them reissue your driver license with your birth name."

Me: "But that’s not my legal name any more."

SocSec: "That doesn’t matter. That’s the only way we can give you a new card."

Me: "How is it that you won’t give me a new card with my current legal name, but you’ve taken in thousands of dollars in Social Security taxes from my paychecks for the last couple of decades, all as Paul Theodoropoulos?"

SocSec: "We don’t care what name the taxes are associated with when we collect them, just the number."

Me: "But then, doesn’t that potentially mean that—twenty or so years from now, when I apply for social security benefits—I might have a big problem getting those benefits, since my name doesn’t match your records?"

SocSec: "Oh, no, it shouldn’t be any  problem!"

Me: "Oh that’s reassuring."

SocSec: "The only other way to do it is to get your name legally changed by the court, and present the granted petition to us, then we can change the name associated with the number to your current name."

Me: "Well, I suppose, even though it sounds utterly ridiculous to change my legal name to my legal name, I’ll have to do that."

And that’s what I’m doing. For the low low fee of $320 for the filing, and the $15 for each certified copy of the granted petition, and the $75 to have the petition published in the local advertising rag for four weeks, I get a piece of paper saying my legally recognized name of Paul Theodoropoulos is now Paul Theodoropoulos.

Okay, the petition is to have my legal name changed from Paul Christopher Theodor to Paul Theodoropoulos. But you get the idea.

Now just you wait—how much do you want to bet that Social Security will still deny it? "Well yes, we do have the granted petition for change of name. And your driver license photo ID that matches that. But how do we know that you’re the same Paul Christopher Theodor that’s shown on your birth certificate? That’s the name we have on record for this Social Security number, and we must have a matching ID for what’s in our records".

Your government at work.

**Update, 26 January 2007: At the Social Security office, I stepped up with my granted petition and photo ID, and barely two minutes later, "You’ll receive your new card in the mail in approximately five to seven business days".

Your government at work indeed.

There’s been a ‘resurgence’ of atheism in recent years. You’ll find people who call themselves atheists prattling on and on all over the net. ‘Flying Spaghetti Monster’ is a popular meme. Bitching about the creationists (not much argument from me on that score).

The problem is, these people—for the most part—are not atheists. They’re misusing the term. An atheist is someone who doesn’t have God. God isn’t a part of their life. They grill a burger just like anyone else, they sleep like anyone else, they just don’t care about God—it’s not something that matters to them. Atheists are fine by me. You live your life, I’ll live mine. Groovy.

But that’s not what this resurgence is. It’s not atheism, it’s antitheism. Yes, it’s merely three more letters added in there, but it far more accurately describes the current mindset, which is one of being against God. Against the idea of God. In most cases, really hating the notions of God and religion. And I don’t mean ‘hate’ in the sense of "shoot, I hate country music" (words that have passed my lips more than once). I don’t really *hate* country music, I just don’t care for it, so I avoid listening to it. The antitheists HATE God and religion, and they are all too happy to bitch and piss and moan endlessly about how much they hate it, and bitch and piss and moan about how religion is always being "forced upon them". Which is just so much wanking nonsense. Oh sure, there’s lots of ‘religious’ people who won’t stop telling people (who didn’t ask) that they’re going to go to hell if they don’t take Jesus into their heart. Sure, they’re annoying. But gosh, I just don’t answer the door when they knock. I’m not being held down, having my eyelids retracted, and forced to watch "The Ten Commandments" or "The Passion of the Christ" on an endless loop. In this country, my country, the United States, 99.9995% of the time, there’s no ‘force’ involved. Change the damned channel. Don’t open the door. Close the tab on that religious site (how did it get opened i wonder?). Don’t go to the church that’s not  of your choice. We have freedom of religion, and freedom from religion in this country, and it’s so incredibly free, I think people have lost all sense of proportion. Yeah, there’s nitwits who want to force science teachers to teach creationism. I think it’s dumb. Genesis is a myth (not in the idiomatic ‘bad’ sense of one, that is). Stories of how the universe came to be are a part of virtually every culture that’s ever existed. There’s nothing in Genesis that defines a day as 86,400 seconds. Maybe those seven days were "God Days", like measuring a dog’s age – one day being the equivalent of our contemporary billion years. Who knows? Who cares?

One of the most absurd examples of this genuine hatred for God/people who believe in God—while falsely packaging it as simple atheism—is this jackass:

I realize this was for a comedy program. He does a delightful turn at being sarcastic and sardonic, about how he doesn’t care what your religion is, that his only concern – his only concern – is that the Mormons knock on his door early on weekends. So what does he do? I’m reluctant to describe it, it’s so ironically offensive, but….He goes around early on a Saturday and bangs on people’s doors to tell them about atheism and ‘Darwinism’. Ha ha ha. What a clueless twit! So—a certain religious sect—apparently either in Australia or New Zealand, as that seems the source of the clip—annoys people by knocking on their doors early on Saturday. Here in my part of the US, it’s mostly Jehovah’s Witnesses who do this. But—think about it. He’s bothered because Joe Mormon annoys him. So what does he do? He goes and bothers people—people other than Joe Mormon who bothered him—in just the same way that he’s being bothered. In all likelyhood, many of them who aren’t Mormons, and who may have tied-one-on the night before, and who possibly don’t give a shit about Darwin or God. This guy’s frothing vitriol so completely consumes him, he presumes that he’s somehow ‘getting even’ with Joe Mormon by bothering Bob Couldn’t-Give-A-Rat’s-Ass, Where’s-My-Latest-MotorTrend-magazine. Brilliant! How better to show people that you’re not an atheist, you’re an antitheist zealot!  

That one however doesn’t truly do justice to the antitheist mentality.

I’m reluctant to give the guy the free press, but frankly, he’s so disturbingly creepy in his delivery, and so overtly filled with seething hatred for those who aren’t like him, what the heck. Wanna see what a full-blown antitheist is? Watch on:

(Regrettably, the fellow whose video used to be here closed his youtube account, taking his videos with him)

If you think that’s atheism, then you’re badly in need of a dictionary, and a sense of proportion.

Am I an atheist? No. But what you could call me is an atheist-by-proxy. I ‘believe in’ God. But frankly, I’d just as soon pick lint from my navel while watching Mary Tyler Moore Show reruns than give the slightest care for whether or not someone else believes in God. You don’t care about God—you’re an atheist? Rock on my brother! You’re a Catholic who rejects the anglicized mass in preference for the Latin mass? Rock on my sister!

But when you go around denouncing people who believe in God, hating people who believe in God, and in general acting like a self-centered jackass because other people have beliefs different from you—while using a term that very specifically means that you don’t care about God—then I’ll gladly call you on it, and point out that not only are you being an ignorant, self-centered jackass, you’re as much of a charlatan as Robert Tilton—

—only twice as childish and half as funny. And comporting yourself with as much zealotry as those whom you deign to hate so much.

Come on, antitheists—be proud of what you are! Stop referring to yourselves with that wimpy, non-committal ‘atheist’ label. What are you afraid of, being struck down by God? Show your true colors, so the real atheists don’t have to suffer the additional stigmatization.

Irony of that last intended.

Moribund

Posted Tuesday, 19 December 2006, 10:24 am | 3 comments

That would be the word used to describe a blog that’s idle for more than five months.

Not that there’s a soul on earth who was aware that it was idle. In that characteristic, I share a wealth of comrades across the net. One can only imagine how many blogs are out there, started in good faith, with freshly washed face and apple cheeks, only to slide into the oblivion that’s inevitable when one ruminates with the general interest value of ‘Dear Diary’ without a lock on it. Or alternatively, when one ruminates on self-referential ruminations on self-reference. There! I did it again!  …And again, right there! Wow.

Most people really don’t have much to say—or at least, much to say that others would care to hear. We’ve all got our own little theories on life, the meaning of same, and how we fit into the vast cosmos. Some can write on the matter effortlessly and with grace. Most however merely prattle on, their inner voice laid bare in text. I’m not the first to point out that blogs are merely the immediate, electronic version of Vanity Publishing. We all think we have the makings of an author. Alright—that’s not true of course. Vast numbers of people don’t give the slightest thought to being an author. Millions live their lives without ever putting fingers to keyboard and laying bear their inner torment. Possibly it means that millions don’t have inner torment. or possibly it means they haven’t got a computer yet. Who knows?

I certainly don’t. I’m a master at prattling on about nothing of any significance at all, while patting myself on the back for the crisp delivery of same. There! I did it again!

I have a lot on my mind. a lot. Matters of faith, matters of ethics and politics, matters of love, and matters of annoyance. The question remains—do I write that shit down? Whose life will be enriched by sharing my inner torment? In what way will humanity benefit? On the other hand, who says anyone has to be enriched by it? And furthermore, why do I assume that this metablathering is even being read by anyone? I’m the only one reading it right this very instant, as I have yet to post it. I might just hit the ‘draft’ button, and leave it all in the dark.  Wouldn’t that be a tasty twist. I’ve written all this crap, meta-meta-blathering, and now i can leave it locked up, as if never written. What a challenging idea.

Eeesh. This is most definitely one of my worst traits. Second-guessing, and indulgent introspection and analysis. See? I’m doing it again!!!

 

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