We’re just coming to the tail end of the long weekend commemorating HM the Q’s diamond anniversary as head of state for The UK and it feels timely and appropriate to mention my friend texting me on Sunday to say, ‘Watching the royal flotilla
on TV. Really makes me feel proud to be British.’ You cannot really do indignant in a text message and I suppose with some people’s upbringings, you can’t help the particularly unsavoury shape your patriotism takes, but it was difficult to imagine feeling some sense of pride welling up in your chest for a symbolic gesture of what has brought millions of pesky subalterns, colonials and orientals to heel as an empire on which the sun sets
is acquired. One does not feel amused.
Of course, in America, we tend to hold ourselves sceptically, righteously and disdainfully above unquestioning royalism and the notion of the monarchy in general, for a number of reasons, including among them that it seems a tad unjust to siphon off tax money into supporting an anachronistic institution leading a charmed existence within which individuals have had to do nothing of any merit in order to earn the privilege that is bestowed upon them every day of their lives. Poke or prod a bit into recent American political history, say around 1 May, 2003
, the presidential election of 2000
, The Watergate scandal
etc… and you start to scrape away very quickly at the crumbling integrity of the moral high ground on which we Yanks like to stand.
Neither here nor there. What I found funny was that my naval proud friend was the exception amongst our set this weekend. Probably because of the nature of my own political leanings or the general tendency of expatriates, perhaps because of the inevitable direction in which the zietgeisty wind is blowing, most of the friends I spoke to were keen to assert their antipathy for the royal family as an institution. Of course, the British say it much more concisely, but not more simply. If they are anti-royalist, which many are at pains to point out, they say, ‘Oh well, I’m republican.’ This claim still induces a double-take because the British can’t be simple. They can’t be like Cromwell’s Puritans during the English Civil War and call themselves Parliamentarians. And I do get it. They support the abolition of a costly and useless sham of a national tradition in favour of a completely representative
democracy. But why use one of the most confusingly connotative words in history?
When I think of Republican
, I think of people who are likely to subscribe to the philosophy of Ayn Rand
, the economic theory of Frederik Hayek
and the rock-solid belief that if you are unemployed and living on food stamps then you are simply as lazy as sin; and you are likely to misquote Patrick Henry
Then again, when Gerry Adams
thinks of a Republican
, he thinks of a freedom fighter who would like an ideal Irish-speaking paradise in which the Irish live in a Catholic Socialist society. But generally, there are quite a few who wouldn’t assert themselves as Republican
in many parts of Ireland any more, which is in stark contrast to many Irish Americans, who swear loyalty to the IRA, without a thought to what it might mean or who it might offend.
Don’t even get me started on what the term Republican might mean to an ancient Roman or a Frenchman circa 1789.
So, I support my liberal British friends in their Republicanism, but wouldn’t be easier and less confusing to declare anarchy in the UK?