Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Ugly American Royalty

The London Olympics is just the latest event where we Americans have been treated to the curiosity that is the British Royal Family. They are like the cheerleaders-in-chief, and not just for their national teams, but for their entire people. But should Americans admire them, or do they represent something anathema to who we are as a people? Dan Turner of the Los Angeles Times answered this question in an editorial on the 4th of July, as well as in a follow-up piece a few days later, both of which celebrated the Founding Fathers' rejection of monarchy, and the subjugation that goes with it.
I cannot imagine a more anti-monarchist document than the Declaration of Independence. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." To believe these words is to define oneself as an enemy of kings because the most fundamental aspect of kingship is inequality: The king is more equal than you are.
But do we really believe in this radical equality? We sure don't seem to live that way, as a Times reader pointed out in a letter to the editor: "We bow and curtsy far lower than the Brits. Here, cash is king and money rules."

A local example of this was highlighted by another Times editorial this May. Dozens of Newport Beach residents have illegally added landscaping to public beaches adjacent to their property, thereby discouraging the average person from using land belonging to the people of California, because the residents would prefer that space to be their own private backyard. Judging by the periodic news reports, this practice seems to be widespread in the wealthier beach communities of Southern California. I guess some of us are more equal than the rest. In fact, some of the residents plan to hire lawyers to prevent the landscaping's removal. As the Times incredulously remarked: "Really? On what grounds?" Apparently, royalty need never be ashamed of itself.

And so it seems that we did not banish royalty from our shores as much as we like to think. In many ways, the major populist movements of today are still fighting this battle. Occupy Wall Street tells us that the robber barons of history are alive and well in the present. The Tea Party rails against a snobbish elite that looks down its noses at the common people as if they were country bumpkins. Both claim that we are still being subjugated by a handful of lords and ladies who possess undeserved power.

If monarchy is inevitable, then perhaps our cousins were on to something when they retained their version. After all, how many modern American princes have served their country by putting their own lives on the line, as William, Harry, and many of their kin have done? You can almost hear the wayward residents of Newport Beach chant "let them eat cake," as they lounge on their lawns as squatters on our land.