Enamored of a Queen, Is America wishing for a King of our very own?
THE QUEEN at the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, ending a 2007 U.S. tour. CREDIT: NASA
(NOTE: This post has been updated to emphasize the difference between ceremonial and actual monarchies).
I'M SORRY that Queen Elizabeth is dead. And I understand the wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling, day-after-day, week-after-week, 24-7 news coverage, because there’s no such thing as proportional news. There’s just no way to get the volume of the news right: it’s either too little, or way, way, way over the top. It’s sort of like the weather, never perfect. Of course, the difference between extreme news and extreme weather is that one morning, we’ll wake up, and, poof, Queen Elizabeth will have disappeared from our TV screens and front pages. But the hurricanes, floods, wildfires, mudslides, tornadoes of the modern era will be with us and getting worse until we either fix the climate or, alternatively, end up like the Queen. Look. I’m not a dolt. I realize that the Royal Family has a hold on the American psyche. We are fascinated. Who said What to Whom (or is it Whom said What to Who)? Who is the racist(s) in the Family? Will Harry and Meghan be re-enfolded into the Royal Fold? Explain to me Princess Anne, again? What to make of the latest cryptic dispatch from The Palace (In a land where Palaces speak)? Who’ll take care of the corgis? What’s a Consort? And, it's true: Queen Elizabeth had style.
MY PROBLEM IS WHY? Why are we so besotted bythe Royal Family? Didn’t we fight a war, crack the Liberty Bell, winter at Valley Forge, write a Constitution and pay a fortune to see “Hamilton” so we could be be rid of the Royals? It seems to me that the Queen, and now the King, are the polar opposites of what the United States of America is supposed to believe in, is supposed to be? Don't we believe in electing our leaders, not in DNA determinism mapped out on succession charts interpreted by soothsayers with British accents on loan to MSNBC, deciding who'll end up atop the national pyramid. We Americans believe in the Common Man, the Common Woman, the Common Nonbionary, not the aristocracy, the Super Rich, the cryptocrats and the kleptocrats. Yes, we want to be rich ourselves, but generally we don’t “like” anyone else who is, except maybe The Deserving Rich, such as those who figured out same-day delivery, IOS 16 software and soft-serve ice cream. Or the thousands of 20-somethings granted fortunes to play in the NFL, NBA, MLB and the Premier League. Or geniuses, who are truly meritorious and exceptional like Oprah, Taylor Swift and the Powerball winner who lives next door and darn well better remember who shoveled their sidewalks during the most savage winters.
QUEEN MARY, touring London's dockyard area with her granddaughters, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, May 1939. CREDIT: Federal News Photos / Library and Archives Canada
IT'S PRETTY CLEAR that long, long ago, when Britain, England, the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth - collectively The Empire - really amounted to something, and that it was run by murderers, militarists, racists, bullies and slave-runners – colonists, who exploited entire continents, but nowadays are left only with their pomp, their rituals, their uncomfortable costumes and a history of shame that deserves no honor, celebration or emulation. What worries me is whether that's what we want, too. A King. A functional one, as opposed to the ceremonial, symbolic variety. We’d settle for a Queen, of course. But a real King would be the real thing. Kings are easier. They know what to do. They’ll tell us how to think and when - or not. When to have an abortion, or, more to the point, when not to have an abortion. When we should wear a mask, and better still, when not to wear one. What books to read; or, better still, what books to ban; or even better, what books to burn. Who should immigrate into the country, and better still, who should not. A King will know which people should live in what neighborhoods; who should go to jail; who should treated politely by the police. Who should eat, who should be food-insecure. Who should be paid; who should be paid a lot; or not. Who should stay home; who should unload the dishwasher; who should own a dishwasher; our not. Democracy is hard. You have to make decisions, watch and/or read and listen to the news; have disagreements with your family and the people next door; go to city council meetings; donate to candidates; argue; settle for the lesser of two evils; figure out who’s telling the truth most of the time, or who’s lying the least. You have to worry who’ll win; worry whether you picked a loser; or worry that you've elected a winner who later you realize should have lost. Having a loving, empathetic, wise boss and doing what he says is easier than belonging to a union, and, regardless of whether your union gets you decent pay, and either way, still,having to pay dues.
PRINCESS ELIZABETH, in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the women's branch of the British army, April, 1945. She had been trained as a driver and mechanic. CREDIT: Imperial War Museums
THE KING SYSTEM Under the King System, you're likely to get out of jury duty. By decree, there'll be no building codes. The King understands. He knows what to do. Leave it to him. Listen to what he says, then do it. It’s the most important issue to be decided in the election to be held this fast-approaching November, and again, in the fateful presidential election of 2024. Can we, should we, will we leave the headaches and heartaches and uncertainties, the anguish and hard work of democracy behind? Perhaps, unlike has-been England, with its fairy tale Queens and pretend Kings, maybe our country is still mighty enough, prosperous enough and mean and cruel enough to warrant the real thing, a genuine King of our very own. We could have Donald J. Trump and be done with it.
QUEEN ELIZABETH in Berlin, Germany, 2015. CREDIT: Berlin Police
I'VE BEEN a reporter and writer for 58 years, long enough to have learned that journalists don't know very much, although I've met some smart ones. Mainly, what reporters know comes from asking other people questions and fretting about the answers. This blog is a successor to one inspired by our dog, Phoebe, who was smart, sweet and the antithesis of Donald Trump. She died Feb. 3, and I don't see getting over that very soon. Occasionally, I may try to reach her via cell phone.