When the cyclone hit Myanmar (also known as Burma), I thought it was kind of odd reporters kept being referring to the country as Myanmar-also-known-as-Burma. It seemed to me the name changed back when I was in college. Russia ceased being the Soviet Union around the same time. Since then, Czechoslovakia has split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Yugoslavia has been subdivided as well. Yet we don’t hear any of them still being referred to by their old names. What made Myanmar (also known as Burma) so special?
Was it the country’s isolation? Until the cyclone hit, the country had been pretty much closed off to the outside world since 1962. This means the last time anyone remembered Myanmar (also known as Burma), it was Burma (not known as anything else). Older readers might recall U Thant, who was Secretary General of the U.N., or maybe tales of “The Burma Road” from World War II. Perhaps it had something to do with U.S. relations with the country. Even in these days of supporting some pretty scary regimes in the name of anti-terror, the Bush Administration decided the human rights abuses in Myanmar (also known as Burma) are too much. I thought perhaps it was akin to Ho-Chi-Min City in Vietnam always being referred to as “Formerly Saigon”; just a little verbal salt being rubbed into a national wound.
It turned out it really had nothing to do with the United States. The ruling junta there in Myanmar (also known as Burma) just decided to rename the country and never let their own people in on the decision.
That I can understand. We have a similar problem. The Chicago White Sox used to play in Comiskey Park. They still play in the park, but the White Sox organization sold off the naming rights and now it’s officially U.S. Cellular Field. On the north side of town, the Tribune company is looking to sell off the naming rights to Wrigley Field to whatever investment group would like to pony up for the privilege of being the most hated organization ever.
So, I stand in solidarity with my Myanmarian (also known as Burmese) brothers and sisters. I promise I will think of their nation as Burma as long as “The Cell” remains Comiskey in my father’s black and white heart, until the Cubs actually make it to a World Series, or until the ruling junta coughs up enough cash to make the name worth changing all the maps. In other words: forever.