• Mike Matson

An American View

This column was published September 17, 2022 in the Manhattan Mercury.


 

The good people of the United Kingdom will bury their queen on Monday. As a human being, I can sympathize with fellow human beings who feel loss. As an American, it’s hard for me to get exercised over the monarchy, but it is a vivid reminder about who we are, why we broke away, and to think and act in ways that will preserve it.


There’s no doubt the pomp and pageantry are compelling. There’s something to be said for the preservation, dusting off, and trotting out of centuries of tradition, even if the outcome has zero impact on governance.


Over the decades, the rituals have been usurped by drama worthy of Spielberg and Scorsese. After her uncle abdicated and her father died, Elizabeth brought 70 years of duty, grooming an heir apparent, and “defence” of the crown. Seventy years of steady as she goes.


When the heir apparent-cum-King of England was eclipsed in the spotlight, and as a consequence, in the hearts of his would-be subjects by his princess bride and that marriage fell apart, she was done. Good riddance to bad rubbish. Diana lost her life, literally trying to outrun the drama. When she died, the next heir apparent lost not only his mother, but a voice of wisdom – gleaned from experience – encouraging the next thought. Like his father, William seems weighed down with the inertia of centuries of tradition.


Unburdened by heir apparentness, Harry seems to be following in his mother’s footsteps. Watch how fast he and Meghan haul back to Santa Barbara at the first polite opportunity.


By design, monarchies were autocratic. Past tense. The Age of Enlightenment brought intellectual and philosophical thought that fostered reason, individualism, and skepticism. It translated into critical thought surrounding the notion of governance in thirteen New World colonies.

In writing the Hamilton lyrics, Lin-Manuel Miranda nailed it when King George belts out, “You say the price of my love’s not a price that you’re willing to pay.”


We don’t want to pay taxes on their tea, so maybe we chuck it into Boston harbor? What will happen if we do? Will the king get angry and dispatch the Royal Navy? Revolution was a price we were willing to pay.


These days, I sometimes worry we’re in the midst of a social media-driven Age of Ignorance. Dumbing us down, reacting to the first idea or the loudest voice without examining implications. In certain chemical dependency recovery circles, this principle is described as “contempt prior to investigation.”


Truths once deemed to be self-evident may need some bolstering arguments. What’s the price to preserve in the 21st century what we paid for in the 18th? The one thing – the only thing – that will prevent autocracy, is investigation and enlightenment.


I feel this way precisely because of the circumstances of my birth and upbringing. Had I been born in Manchester instead of Manhattan, I would likely shed a tear for the queen. As a proud American, I want to grab some popcorn, settle in and watch the pomp and drama, content with the peace of mind derived from knowing that my country revolted, declared independence, and established governance deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed.


Consent I express every time I vote.


Nearly 250 years after we declared independence, for me to think any other way, seems un-American.

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