Brett Stephens of the Wall Street Journal thinks, or at least seems to hope, so:
It seems to me there’s a reason why films about the British monarchy—not just “The King’s Speech,” but also “The Queen” and “Mrs. Brown”—always seem to capture our imaginations. It isn’t simply that they part the veil on the privileges of royalty, or that they humanize their subjects. Mainly, they’re about people who have been asked to personify a vaguely defined—but deeply felt—idea of national identity through the performance of tedious duties they have no serious option to forgo. These aren’t celebrities, but servants. And the “events” in which they participate aren’t “pseudo.” They are the thin line between Britain and anarchy.
Normal people understand what that’s like. Great countries make monarchs of those who provide fitting examples. For that, Kate and Will deserve our respect—and even a toast.
The British monarch stands as a thin line between civilization and anarchy? Wow. And all along, I thought it was just a bunch of very average people who happened to have in their DNA a distant memory of the genes of William the Conqueror, who, though his descendants are considered nobility, was himself a bastard. A great country did not make William a monarch. William made himself a monarch by murder, theft and rape, like most of the rest of the founders of great countries have done. And he wasn’t even British. He was Norman-French.
Americans claiming to believe, as the Wall Street Journal claims it does, that awards and accolades should be allocated based on merit, don’t seem to get the repugnancy of a genetics-based monarchy. There is nothing meritorious about an inheritance such as is a monarchy; the whole affair is vaguely racist, but we humans just can’t seem to shake the idea that blood-lines matter. Even Christ’s New Testament apologists felt it incumbent to somehow genetically link Jesus to David, the Jewish version of William the Conqueror.
We in America like to believe England understands that at least since America rode to her rescue in World War Two, England’s empire is over and done. Thus it may surprise some to engage the average Brit in conversation over a tankard of ale and find that he believes a) that England single-handedly defeated the Germans during World War Two, with only a minor bit of logistical aid from the Americans, and b) that England, not America, is the most powerful empire in the world because America simply does England’s bidding in managing her empire. On that last point, it would be difficult to argue, because that’s effectively what we’ve been doing. Remember Maggie Thatcher’s admonition to the first George Bush contemplating an Iraq invasion, “Don’t go wobbly on me, George”? Don’t forget that Iraq was a creature of English imperialism, having been created from whole cloth with the help of none other than Winston Churchill. Indeed, I vividly remember riding with a couple of British grunts in the back of deuce and a half (an Army truck) during the Iraq war when a discussion ensued about the relative contributions of the British versus the American military in the conflict. The US had committed something like twenty divisions to the war, the Brits only one. Any guess as to who those guys thought had contributed most to winning the war?
The fascination with the “royal wedding” (a phrase capturing with great economy nearly all that is despicable about the event) in America is something akin to the fascination the ancient Romans had for Greek culture. And Greece had about the same opinion of Rome as England has for America–that it was a vulgar and cheap imitation of its refined culture. Why we Americans are doped into agreeing with the Brits in order to worship at the altar of their cultural icons is beyond me.
Stephens hopes the wedding may, like the birth of the Christ child was hoped would do for the Jews, lead to a rebirth of the empire. He apparently thinks the British empire was once so noble that it should be reborn. Incredible. Never mind the rape, murder and plunder of America’s natives. Never mind the rape, murder and plunder of India’s and Pakistan’s natives. Never mind the rape, murder and plunder of Australia’s natives. Everywhere the empire spread, it brought death, disease and exploitation. Yet apparently Stephens believes the British Empire was a force for good. I guess it was, if you happened to be British, or a British apologist, like the war-mongering cabal of opinionists of the Wall Street Journal.
Anything short of reassertive Britishness won’t do:
“My Son the Fanatic” was a work ahead of its time, foreshadowing the homegrown Islamist terrorism that was later to befall the U.K. and raising some anxious questions about what Britain is, or should be, about. In a speech earlier this year, David Cameron made a stab at an answer, inveighing against “a passively tolerant society [that] says to its citizens, as long as you obey the law we will just leave you alone.” In its place, the prime minister championed a “muscular liberalism” that “believes in certain values and actively promotes them.” Among those values: freedom of worship, democracy, equal rights—in short, everything the modern West is all about.
Mr. Cameron’s speech is a start. But left out is the question of what is uniquely British in his vision for Britain. Should the U.K. be just another responsible member of the “international community,” and sometimes America’s junior partner in this or that military intervention? It’s so . . . depressing. And not quite worthy of a country that still retains a sense of its own larger purpose.
What is depressing about being a nation grown up enough to realize that it has no larger purpose and never did? It would be a blessed event if ever there were to arise a nation that understood its sole purpose was derived from the individuals comprising it; that it had no larger purpose and never would. It is barbarism in the service of larger purposes that destroy any hopes for civilization. Indeed, if men were ever just left alone to pursue life, liberty and happiness as Englishman John Locke proposed was their innate right, civilization might then have a chance to flourish. Instead, America has become nothing more or less than the most barbaric of the British empire’s many progeny.
Obama’s Kenyan heritage seems to have given him a different, and welcome, perspective to the British and American relationship. He doesn’t seem so smitten by the English bug; it would be hard to imagine David Cameron warning Obama not to go wobbly. If the apparent chill between the imperial British and their American lackeys is due to Obama’s unique perspective as the son of an anti-colonialist, then that alone might make all the rest of his governmental hijinks worthwhile. It’s long past time America shake the British monkey off its back.