Opening up the WaPo op-ed pages today gave me a nasty jolt. "Mr. Kilgore's False Start" was the title of the lead editorial, which rapped the Republican Attorney General of Virginia for a typically demagogic comment pointing out that Lieutenant Governor Tim Kaine, his probable opponent for the governorship next year, once defended death row inmates.
I've been dreading this for a while. Certainly people who happened to be named Bush or Nixon or Reagan have gone through this in the past, but my own name is rare enough outside Georgia, Alabama and Texas that people just naturally assume I'm related to ol' Jerry, especially since I live in Virginia. Already I've gotten used to introducing myself to Virginia Democratic folk with the immediate disclaimer: "No relation, biologically or ideologically."
There's certainly nothing about the name that would naturally connote the infinitely snooty Virginia Republican pedigree. "Kilgore" is a classic Scotch-Irish Appalachian name, redolent of red clay hills, pioneer rambling, and a taste for 100 proof Calvinism and moonshine, often at the same time. The name itself means "tender of goats," or perhaps "church by the goat stream," with "goats" being the unmistakable root.
But to my sorrow, this honorable cracker name will be associated for at least the next year with the agenda of the Virginia GOP. I've thought of avoiding the problem by temporarily adopting a hip-hop name like "Special K" or something. But why should I? I'm older than Jerry, and am putting our common name to a better use.
It kinda reminds me of an incident back in the McCarthy era, when some Republican Congressman arose on the House floor to demand that the Cincinnati Reds baseball team change its name to avoid association with Godless Communism. One of the Reds' players (doubtless with a jaw full of Red Man to clinch the point) quickly responded: "Let the Communists change their name. We had it first."