William and Kate: Let’s call the whole thing off, please.
A nice young English couple, William Windsor and Kate Middleton, announce their engagement, and lo, 10 days later the first book is published, with the promise of scads more to follow. Another fairytale royal wedding — or an opportunity for Britain to grow up and end the monarchy?
I vote resoundingly for the latter. Only, of course, as an American, I don’t get a vote. And some, no doubt, will angrily suggest I don’t even merit an opinion. Well, neener-neener-neener: I am an American, which means I have the right to an opinion on everything.
Which is not to say I disrespect the British in general, I mean, oh my God, you gotta love the British. Not only do they pronounce words correctly, as the clever BBC America promo has it, but they also transformed themselves, in the course of a generation, from the rulers of the world to the silliest people in the known universe.
How grateful I am, too, for the yucks — great and small, intended and accidental.
Consider: One Royal event Kate Middleton attended was Prince William’s “Passing Out Parade.” I can hear the snickers mounting already, thank you very much my fellow Americans. Yes, yes, I know (because I looked it up on Yahoo Answers) that a Passing Out Parade is a sort of training graduation ceremony with a long tradition in the British military.
But given the Royal Sibs reputation for partying, plus the American sense of humor (set at just above the potty training level by the Farrelly brothers, Will Ferrell, Judd Apatow and their ilky ilk), it’s hard not to think of another gigglesome meaning for the term. “Passing Out Parade” –ha-ha-ha-ha-HA!
But please, if you bear with me a moment as I seek to regain my decorum, I wish to make a serious point: No more odious, no more useless institution exists than the British monarchy.
On the one hand, the monarch (presently that nice dowdy old lady, Queen Elizabeth, with her dogs and hats and jewelry stolen by her predecessors from India and other far-flung points) plays no role whatsoever in ruling the modern-day United Kingdom, which is, after all, a variety of parliamentary democracy.
On the other hand, however, the monarchy, as embodied by the Royal Family, symbolizes nothing so much as the very acme of anti-democratic privilege, unmerited hereditary classist advantage, the unself-evident notion that all men are not created equal, but that some are superior to others because, I don’t know, God says so, or some ambitious ancestor became the True King by the Divine Right of deposing and assassinating a previous True King.
So I say: Instead of turning the wedding of Prince William and the unfortunate Ms. Middleton (yes, unfortunate — just wait and see: remember Diana?) into a pompous spectacle signifying nothing, let’s do away with the whole kebosh!
Cashier the queen! Put her on the dole! As for the princelings, they can work, can they not? Charles can run some nonprofit, lobbying to preserve quaint old buildings, while William and Harry can be soldiers or security guards or something.
Of course, if the British want to spend their hard won taxes and tax their attention with the mummery of the Royal Family, well, that’s their lookout. It’s not like we use our money wisely: Look how much we pay for toys for boys.
I’m referring, of course, to the risible U.S. military budget, which is something like 46 percent of all military spending in the world — six times that of China, and more than twice that of China, Russia, Venezuela, Iran and North Korea combined.
Why, you’d think we could simultaneously defeat the Romulans, the Cardassians and the Klingons (now there’s an axis of evil for you). And yet all our shiny high-tech toys can’t seem to pacify the medieval population of Afghanistan.
Really, then, I can’t justly say the British should stop subsidizing what amounts to the longest running reality show in history: Big Brother Buckingham Palace!
But what I can say is that I hope my fellow Americans, aware of our proud history of anti-royalist principle and sentiment, do not buy into the folderol of William and Kate’s wedding. And for Pete’s sake, don’t buy any of the books that will be roundly trumpeted to the buying public over the next few months.
What’s the harm? I’m glad you asked.
I remember my shame, back in the ’80s or ’90s, when Charles came to Florida on a polo tour (remember? He kept falling off his horsey?), and the nightly news showed Americans — Americans! — all a-twitter over the chance to meet real royalty, anxious over royal protocol.
It was a disgusting display, and it put me in mind of a story I read once long ago about the way our forefathers dealt with royalty. I can’t recall the names involved, so I can’t even Google the historical reference, but it went like this:
Shortly after the Revolution, an American ambassador was sent to the court of a continental monarch. This king or emperor or whatever poo-bah he was had heard Americans made a great show of not bowing to their betters. So the king refitted the door to his royal chamber so anyone entering had to get down on all fours. This American would be forced to bow if he wanted to see the king and conduct diplomatic business.
The American ambassador, may God bless his heart for all eternity, when confronted with the new door to the king’s receiving hall, got down on all fours all right, but he crawled backwards into the room — so that the first thing the king saw was his republican backside.
As this anecdote illustrates, monarchy is an affront to any conception of human dignity and equality. It’s past the time the Brits should have shrugged off the whole institution, like a smelly, moth-eaten cloak. Meanwhile, and until they do, the proper American attitude to all things royal is: Contempt.
P.S. If anyone can provide the names of the personages in my little anecdote, I’d be ever so grateful.