"The institution of royalty in any form is an insult to the human race." - Notebook, 1888
A Royal Birth
Earlier today, millions of Americans watched their televisions with rapt attention as they awaited news of the most recent Royal Birth in Britain. I am sure millions more watched in other countries around the world, but I am not concerned with foreign fascination. I am concerned only with the American fascination for this event. It is a zeal that is as misplaced as it is inordinate. It is an interest that reveals what is most troubling about so many Americans today.
During one channel's coverage, the following statistic was reported: When Duke William expressed an interest in finding a wife, countless women wrote to him, apparently applying for the position. Among these, those from American women far outnumbered those from any other country--even Britain! Such a fact makes me wince with pain. Apparently the Revolutionary War has not yet ended. There are still Colonists among us.
The fanatic interest in this and other Royal events is perhaps the best indication of the worst malaise to strike the land of the free and the home of the brave since redcoats marched up Bunker Hill.
In order to get our bearings we are apparently in need of an historical primer.
The Revolutionary War was fought that a new country might be established on a principle unprecedented on this earth: that men, ordinary men, were no longer to be considered ordinary. The commoner was now King. There was nothing common about him. He was born valuable and had innate rights from which he could not be alienated because he had them from the moment he was born. No government granted them. No vote brought them about. They were there with the first cry of the baby fresh from his mother's womb. If America meant anything to those who fought and died for it at Lexington and Concord, it meant a place where royalty was now meaningless and irrelevant.
In his great essay, "Self-Reliance," Emerson explains the new value of the American:
"That popular fable of the sot who was picked up dead drunk in the street, carried to the duke's bed, and, on his waking, treated with all obsequious ceremonies like the duke, and assured that he had been insane — owes its popularity to the fact that it symbolizes so well the state of man, who is in the world a sort of sot, but now and then wakes up, exercises his reason and finds himself a true prince."
A mere two paragraphs later, Emerson explains the only real value kings should have for Americans:
"The world has indeed been instructed by its kings, who have so magnetized the eyes of nations. It has been taught by this colossal symbol the mutual reverence that is due from man to man. The joyful loyalty with which men have everywhere suffered the king, the noble, or the great proprietor to walk among them by a law of his own, make his own scale of men and things, and reverse theirs, pay for benefits not with money but with honor, and represent the Law in his person, was the hieroglyphic by which they obscurely signified their consciousness of their own right and comeliness, the right of every man."
In short, kings, for Emerson, are for one thing: the respect shown them is merely an example for us of how we should treat each other. Every man is this important. Every man should be treated like a King. Ironically, this is possible only when monarchy is abolished. And America did just that. The document says, "We the People, " not "I, the King."
Why, then, the American fascination with British royalty? The reason is simple: some of us still do not know who we are. Some of us still believe that some of us are better than others. Some of us still labor under the fatuous belief that human value is somehow genetic, passed down from one highly valuable person to another, like so many thoroughbreds sired by Kentucky Derby winners, their seed collected and sold to produce more seed producers. Some of us still cling to an idea that, though depicted with the utmost attempt at creating a sense of pleasantry, is actually the principle upon which was built some of the ugliest iniquities in human history: slavery, genocide, the caste system.
Every moment spent gawking at royals is an insult to every baby born in the world. Do you want to see a royal? Go to your local hospital's maternity ward, and you shall see your fill. A royal in every incubator. A queen mother. A Prince father. Do you want to see a royal marriage? Go the the Bronx, pick any church on any Saturday, and watch two strangers plight their troth up on the altar. It should, if you are honest, fascinate every bit as much as what is happening at Westminster Abbey. If you are a true American, every church is Westminster.
Let us cease this infantile obsequiousness at all things British. Blood was spilled to cut our ties with our mother country. Let us stop mocking our own mothers by looking away with wistful eyes across the Atlantic. Let us stop mocking our own babies' births by salivating over the imminent birth of a boy thousands of miles away, while ignoring the one born a thousand feet away. Let us renew our interest and respect for the greatest of births, the birth of our country. And let us treat the birth of William and Kate's boy with the respect it truly deserves: the same respect we give to ourselves.