A week ago, my good friend Anne invited me to a Royal Wedding slumber party. We would nosh on all things English, and stay up late to watch Prince William of Britain, et al, marry Kate Middleton, commoner. As much as I would have loved to spend the time with my friends, I demurred. I had a yoga class that night and had to take my grandmother to an early morning Neurology appointment the next day. I didn’t think much about it. I don’t have access to cable or satellite television so I missed most of the hoopla surrounding the nuptuals. I realized in the abstract–through the odd tweet or snippet of conversation overheard at the gym– that this was a big deal to a great many Americans.
For the life of me I do not understand why.
Don’t get me wrong, I wish the young couple well. I have great admiration for anyone who decides to take the marital leap these days, given the high divorce rate and current global instability. The fact that they will no doubt have children shows a real commitment to the future. So, like the rest of the world, I hope that their marriage is full of many joys, few sorrows, and lots of healthy children.
I just wonder what all the fuss is about.
I understand why the British are happy. Barring some unforseen disaster, this most popular young man will be their (titular) head of state someday. He’s moved up with the times by marrying a commoner and this couple shows every indication of actually enjoying each other’s company. These are good things. And if the English people are actually comfortable with footing a thirty-two million dollar bill for this shindig, then more power to them.
I just don’t understand the American fervor.
Did we not fight two wars to remove the British Monarchy and form our own government? We did. In fact, my ancestors fought in both of those wars. On the American side. And we won. We shed blood for the right to self determination. To not have a king stealing our riches while giving nothing back. To elect our own representatives. To choose our own destinies. Even with our public education in a shambles, surely our children know about the American Revolution. Of course they know. Everyone knows. The problem is that no one seems to care.
Or is there something deeper going on here?
Americans idolize royalty. The Kennedys are often referred to as, “American Royalty.” One might argue that assassins’ bullets and a series of mishaps prevented us from becoming a de facto monarchy. Who could forget that, after her recent death, most publications referred to Elizabeth Taylor as, “Hollywood Royalty.” Real royalty, like William’s mother, Princess Diana, captured the U.S. imagination like few others in history. Even though she went on international television and admitted to behavior that would have, in the past, found her head forcibly separated from her body.
Welcome to the land of doublethink.
Here in the U.S., we like to think that we are all equal. Our whole society is built upon the concept. “One man one vote!”, “No taxation without representation!” Our majority supports civil right, women’s rights, animal rights, children’s rights, everyone’s rights. We like to think that we are a truly egalitarian country. Truth is, we aren’t. And we really don’t want to be. As our deep relationship with right wing politics and Fundamentalist Christianity indicates, Americans like having a Big Daddy–either in the form of Neo Fascists like “W” Bush and company, or by some vengeful, perpetually premenstrual male God represented by a preacher in a thousand dollar suit and too much blow dried hair threatening the congregation with eternal Hellfire (and much Bible bashing) if they don’t completely submit to His (whose?) will.
To this I say, “Hail Cthulu!”
Seriously, I believe that part of this is the natural human longing for a simpler time. Over the past few decades, our culture (and that of the world at large) has changed at a logrithmic rate. Society has evolved– is still evolving–so rapidly that few people have any sense of their “place” in it. Unlike our grandparents, we seldom spend twenty years in the same house, job or even state. Our friends change, our social and economic status is on the decline; we have no feeling of true permanence anymore. And we find this unsettling.
Royalty is permanent.
Well, not really, as the French, American, and Russian Revolutions will attest. But with it’s giant stone castles and fantastic jewelry it sure seems so. A monarchy upholds standards and maintains traditions. It moves forward through the generations. Through the centuries. Possibly through the eons. These are traits that we, a very young (only around two hundred fifty year old) nation in the throes of our own social revolution, covet. And this, in itself, is not a bad thing.
It’s what we, as Americans, do with that desire that becomes the issue.
This fascination might be treated as a harmless pastime. After all, who isn’t interested in attractive, young, impossibly rich people with normal figures, receding hairlines, and bizarre taste in headwear? This wedding was akin to visiting a sociological zoo. My Pomeranian (favorite pet of Queen Victoria, by the way), found the spectacle interesting. Our fascination only becomes a problem when we attempt to incorporate that thinking into our own societal makeup. It’s when we elevate others–our elected representatives, judges, or celebrities–to a status where they lack accountability to those they represent (us) that this becomes a problem. Our founding fathers worried about this, which is why the United States of America is a Democratic Republic, instead of a true democracy. It’s why we have an Electoral College and require our presidents to be born in this country. This is why we have a written template of what we, the people, stand for.
We call it the Constitution of the United States. Anything else is just smoke, mirrors, and eye candy. It would be good for us to remember it…
Thank you for reading…