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Reign?

 

I wonder often why people who campaign for equality and fight with their lives for democracy choose to be ‘reigned over’, thus venerating inequality?

I wonder, too, why a nation of reigned-over people need to ‘house’ and ‘dress’ the ‘reigners’ in displays of entirely we-are-better-than-you layers of top-of-the-ladder wealth?

And that leads me to this: if a bequeathed, bloodline-based position of Head of State were held by a poor family living on a housing estate and speaking from a tiny balcony of a paint-peeling apartment there, would the country still revere and bow to that family? Isn’t the visible material divide between the venerators and the venerated essential to the veneration?

I’m an American and a British citizen. So I come by this query predictably. And I puzzle fervently over the conflation of equality and inequality.

In particular I stand bemused when I hear the radically different interpretations of democracy embedded in these two versions of our patriotic songs – same tune, unsettlingly different lyrics.

USA:

 

My country, ’tis of thee,

Sweet land of liberty,

Of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died,

Land of the pilgrims’ pride,

From every mountainside

Let freedom ring!

UK:

 

God save our gracious King,

Long live our noble King,

God save the King!

Send him victorious,

Happy and glorious,

Long to reign over us,

God save the King!

I love both countries. I am a grateful and admiring citizen of both. And I know that there is no such thing as a pristine democracy. I also know that pure equality does not exist (algebraic equations notwithstanding). I know as well that there are a few practical advantages to an inherited Head of State, riches-bedecked or not. Such is the never-simple nature of human social inventions.

 

But I won’t, because I can’t, make peace with the institutionalised oxymoron of ‘democratic constitutional monarchy’. If we espouse equality and democracy, we must, I believe, foreswear bloodline-inherited structures, however stirring their rituals, however dazzling their dress. Democratic republics are dull by comparison, but the radiance of their consistency of values and structure is worthy of their people. And thus glorious.

 

Every so often I need to say that.

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