Diamond Jubilee Weekend: Republican Three Ways

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? 

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4 responses

  1. Hey Paul thanks for adding me to your blog role. I have reciprocated ob my blog.Personally, I think Britain should have a Great Britain day every year. They're gagging for it, but will never admit to it in fear of being like Americans. 🙂

  2. Thanks, Duchess. I think your brand of journalism (whether you are reluctant to call it that or not), exposing corruption and goings on around Hackney is important and refreshing. I agree about the Great Britain Day, so long as it is a celebration of the anarchic multicultural mixture that is this country and not some blind flag-waving national BNP rally. Thanks again.

  3. What a lovely and insightful post on the jubilee and the confusion over the term Republican, which always makes me pause as I remind myself that the person speaking is likely not a registered member of the NRA. As for the Jubilee itself, I found the whole spectacle a bit strange, especially in a country where I often hear derogatory comments about American nationalism and pageantry (many of which are true, to be fair). I think the Jubilee was a protracted version of "Great Britain Day" as Duchess of Hackney suggested above. Thanks for stopping by my blog, and thanks for adding me to your blogroll. I'll do the same on my "Blogs We Follow" page.

  4. Thanks, Marina. I really like the layout of your blog and the polished look. Strange how we seem to be getting more and more Great Britain days and more and more clamoring for it. As in The States, there seems to be deeper and deeper insecurity and uncertainty a coherent sense of identity or 'Britishness'.

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