Today the celebrations for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee took place in, around, and on the Thames River, and it was just about the biggest thing to hit London since the premiere of the last Harry Potter movie. Or maybe bigger than that.
Now I've made no secret that I'm a monarchist, or at least if it is a secret it's been unintentional. Call me crazy, but I think the monarchy still has meaning in the 21st century. Maybe there's something to being reminded that power was once held be an elite few who only shared it with blood, and that now their power is granted by the continued good graces of the people. Or maybe the monarchy still matters because we still look to the Queen for comfort in times of distress, the Commonwealth's mutual grandmother for all intents and purposes. Or just maybe, the monarchy plays into our collective love of pageantry, playing dress up in elaborate costumes, getting to take part in parades, wearing awesome hats, etc.
But the real question is why so many people came out in the pouring rain to celebrate a woman who many say represents and old-fashioned and out-dated institution representing oppressive aristocracy? Or at least they say that the other 364 days of the year. Maybe people just like a celebration, especially in these days of near persistent doom and gloom. Maybe they like the reminder of consistency: an institution that's survived the time and the centuries, wars based foreign and domestic, and tremendous upheavals across all social, political and cultural spectrums.
At least the fuss being made is understandable if you're a subject. If your citizen of the U.K. or one the Commonwealth countries, the Queen still has significance whether it's symbolic or if she's still literally your head of state (like here in Canada). So why do the Americans give a damn?
Let's put this another way, does it make sense that a country that fought a war against the crown because they felt they were being oppressed by a freedom-stealing oligarch would submit to the same level of obsession for the descendants of that oligarch by giving them the kind of attention they lavish on their own heads of state (or celebrities)? To put it another way, the highly vaunted Founding Fathers of America hated the British crown, and one of my favourite pieces of American lore is about how the statue of George Washington at the American embassy in London had to have imported American dirt placed under it because Washington swore he's never step foot on British soil again. So imagine how he would have felt this morning watching CNN with front row seats on the Thames fawning over George III's great-great-great-etc-granddaughter.
Indeed any American obsession with the Royal family is bizarre. Last summer when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited Canada after their wedding, CNN's Wolf Blitzer practically had a temper tantrum, why were William and Kate spending so much time in Canada? Don't they know that America is awesome? Well, it might have something to do with Canada still being a member of the British Commonwealth, we had an amicable divorce from the U.K., not a violent blood bath where the house was ruined. And why wasn't America invited to the last Commonwealth games, Bill O'Reilly asked on his eponymous talk show. Well, I think the question answers itself.
I remember watching Godzilla 1985 as a kid, and there's a whole portion of it where American military personnel monitor the situation in Tokyo from the Pentagon and ponder ways they can help. My mom said something to the effect of how Americans always seem to make everything about them, even a monster attack on a foreign country. She's right, of course. I can think of numerous examples, both real and fictional, where this has been the case and the American hoopla over the Royal family is another. Sorry gang, a lot of red coats were killed so you could prove that you didn't want or need a monarchy anymore. Seems like kind of waste now that so many of you want to be subjects willingly.