Keep Calm and God Save the Queen
2018 is here, bringing another Royal Wedding and another year of Americans surging with adoration and infatuation with the Royal Family of another country. Specifically, a country that Americans rebelled against, removing any trace of the monarchy from our shores and replacing it with a system that called for civil service and the preservation of human rights, not subservience.
But this is the 21st century, a time in which humanity is far more informed and connected than it ever has been before; surely this obsession with royalty is only a product of Disney-fueled fantasies, of which even this author is guilty.
Americans have a weakness, we are drawn to unobtainable celebrity, most often among reality television stars, or celebrities who are famous for simply existing. We idolize those who should not be idolized and imitate those who should not be imitated. The Kardashians are the most famous example of an American society that loves to follow the “lives” of those who would appear to be, oddly enough, our betters. But, for every one person who follows the Kardashian family, there are two persons who condemn and chastise them, and at least another person who follows them in the hopes of seeing catastrophe. We relish celebrity scandal in this country, without hesitation. It is the open worship and closeted hatred of our betters that defines so many Americans. Not all Americans, certainly, but many of us.
This celebrity gossip obsession leads Americans directly to the Royal Family of Great Britain, whom we look upon fondly from a great distance. American tabloids spread rumors and share photos of the family, ranging from Kate and William to Elizabeth and Philip, as if they were another Hollywood star, whose life is worth exposing to the masses. Americans look to the beauty of unobtainable styles and fashions, experiences and trips, properties and assets, as something to be admired. The respect that the family is shown from across the globe is also surely worthy of envy. And while Americans may wait on pins and needles for the Royal Wedding between Harry and Meghan (and we surely wish them well), we are compelled to ask the questions: does a monarchy have a place in the 21st century and should a nation born of rebellion be so inclined to show one such adoration?
The excuse given for the preservation of the British Monarchy, and so often given by Americans, is that it is a “Constitutional Monarchy”, suggesting that it is neither absolute nor powerful. In other words, it is a “Pointless Monarchy”, one that cannot wield any such powers associated with a Crown. While tyranny and oppression are two things which should be eradicated from existence, having a monarch without either seems like a wasted effort. Essentially, a powerless monarchy is nothing more than the government subsidization of a single family and its descendants. Put bluntly, the monarchy is a waste of taxpayer money.
And, while the fairytale version of a monarchy is what Americans want to see, there is a very subtle, but crucial thing that cannot be overlooked; the part of Disney movies that is never shown before the credits. The persistence of an elite class, one that stands above the masses, is both degrading and embarrassing for a nation who purports itself as the pinnacle of western society. While the pomp and circumstance are delightful to the eye, the small act of self-subjugation is hardly something that should be welcome by anyone. While cultures may vary around the world, the act of lowering one’s eyes, in a kind of compulsory genuflection, to another human being is surely universally demeaning. While Americans worship celebrities and suffer under career politicians, there is an understanding that any one person may not hold greater value or worth than another, regardless of wealth, power, status, position, fame, or standing. Subservience, however subtle, is not a natural state that humanity can sustain for any significant period of time. If it were, revolution would not be a concept known to our species, while complacency would be the order of the day.
Budgeting, semantics, and human dignity aside, support for the British Crown is incredibly high, with seventy-six percent of respondents calling for the monarchy to remain, while only seventeen percent call for a Republic. The only number more shocking is the seventy-five percent that believe that the monarchy will have a continued role in the future. It is understandable to say that there is a strong sense of comfort in the familiar as humanity is a species that seeks out the familiar. But to have a beacon on the hill leading the country, even symbolically, leads to the problem of nationalism, which materialized spectacularly with Brexit.
Nationalism can be found in every country, if one were to look hard enough, and over the last several years, the ideology has been given new life and a mainstream voice through charismatic politicians and public figures that speak to the lowest common denominator. In the United States, white nationalist, anti-immigration, and neo-nazi groups have suddenly found validation through the election of Donald Trump. Whether this was his intention remains a strong point of contention, but his words and policies have been taken by these groups as endorsement and they have grown bolder. The riots in Charlottesville are only one example of the determination of American nationalists to make their beliefs more mainstream. The result was violence. Those who find themselves on either of the far ends of the political spectrum have found their voice and have applied it with radical indifference, taking the schism that has existed for some time in American politics and widening it even further. “Make America Great Again” is not without its costs, namely America’s standing and relationship with the world. In a global society, one cannot simply shut the door without consequences. But more than that, it is an assertion that Americans have more worth as human beings than the rest of the world, which a basic understanding of human rights will tell anyone is a false belief.
Brexit had its own characters in Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, men who used almost identical rhetoric as the Trump Campaign to sway just enough voters to side with the Leave Campaign, facilitated by the significant disproportion of population size between England and the rest of the United Kingdom. While leaving the European Union is not without its merits, as a centralized European government has been shown to strip the sovereignty of member nations, the reasons for Brexit could be summed up as simple bigotry and fearmongering. By making the rest of the world the enemy of the UK, or at a minimum, lesser, and holding steadfast to the belief that the British Empire will one day rise again, it could certainly be seen as anyone in favor of remaining in the EU would be an enemy of the state.
It should come as no wonder that Brexit appealed to a very specific demographic in the United Kingdom. The political parties that championed leaving the EU are the same parties that hold onto the ideal of “God, Queen, and Country”. This ideal can be found among the Conservatives, Democratic Unionist Party, and Traditional Unionist Voice, the more radical of the Northern Irish Unionists. The same parties and groups who called for voters to support Brexit are the same groups who call for voters to support maintaining a United Kingdom; sovereignty stops at the UK and cannot be allowed to trickle down to the four individual countries that make up the Kingdom. Unions are dangerous, but Kingdoms are ordained.
Just as President Trump has become a living embodiment of American nationalism, which is both supported and vilified, the British Crown is a longstanding embodiment of British nationalism which spans generations. Being taught from birth that one must accept that there will always be a class above oneself, in standing, wealth, liberty, and prestige, is harmful to each generation of British citizens, who have grown complacent with the idea of being a subject to another. While hereditary title may be deemed simply a part of “British Culture”, it has given many the belief that Britain is meant to be the beacon of the world. Groups, such as Britain First, have come forward, not only as advocacy groups, but as political parties seeking election. With anti-immigration, anti-Islamic, and anti-minority rhetoric, these groups have demonstrated the dangers of Loyalism. The murder of MP Jo Cox, a prominent European Union and immigration supporter, by Thomas Mair, a frequent visitor and supporter of British nationalist groups, was a shocking admonition, but has neither stopped nor slowed the outpour of pro-British sentiment.
As Americans sit, tickled pink, at the chance to watch another Royal Wedding, some look around in confusion. Yes, everyone loves a wedding (most folks anyway), but the celebrity adoration from the former colonies is perplexing. The American political system offers multiple routes of change, whether it comes through impeachment, loss of Congress via midterm elections, a presidential election, or term limits. Great Britain has no such means of escape and current polling suggests that no one is looking for such means. If there are those who continue to exist under the very system that we, as former colonists and British subjects, threw off through violent rebellion and philosophical revolution, our support should lie with the people, not with the head of state.
Our friends across the pond continue to accept and support a monarch which has no authority and continue to lower their eyes to a family that still wields powerful influence over the political system without election. Loyalism is growing and could soon threaten seats in parliament as more buy into the belief that Britain is the Erewhon of their dreams. Look no further than Northern Ireland to see the dangers of such Loyalism. One hopes, however, with time, effort, and a recognition of human worth and dignity, that the British people may one day come to realize that genuflection is a matter of choice, not a matter of compulsion. Bowing is beneath you, Britain.