Did you shed a tear while watching the prince and the commoner exchange vows in London the other day? Did you spent the next morning gossiping about all those royals in the audience?
C’mon, you know you did.
Oops. Wrong demographic, I guess. I spent so many years writing for New York anglophiles that I forgot my audience. My apologies.
We Irish Americans know better, of course. We know that the media’s breathless coverage of Billy and Kate was so much opium for the masses, at least the masses who inhabit some of America’s premier media outlets.
The cable news channels, slick magazines, and faux British tabloids that still can’t get enough of the royal couple certainly don’t reflect good old-fashioned American ideals based on our collective rejection of inherited privilege, unearned wealth, and empty fame.
Yes, we Irish Americans can proudly say that we don’t need no stinkin’ royals. We can feel morally superior to those silly star-struck Brits who invaded our media outlets over the last few weeks, painting a picture of British royalty that surely would have amused our ancestors, both in Ireland and in the U.S.
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The media claimed that Americans were infatuated with all things British and all things royal, but we know better. It was all so much hype, imposed on the republic by anglophiles and British expatriates who swoon at the sound of an Oxbridge accent and who appear to believe that members of the royal family got where they are today through hard work, determination, and high intellectual ability.
The rest of us, of course, recognize farce when we see it.
Or do we?
We may not have a royal family on this side of the pond, and we may snicker over the media’s fawning coverage of all things related to the royal family, but that doesn’t stop many of us from acting like fools when a movie star gives birth, a television actor gets hitched, or a so-called reality television character winds up in handcuffs.
Let’s face it, we Americans are suckers for our own kind of royalty: celebrities, many of whom are far less deserving of our admiration than, yes, some members of the British royal family.
What’s more, we’re beginning to show a decided affection for political aristocracy, something which the Founders surely would have regarded as undemocratic (except, perhaps, for the Adams family).
The number of political figures in the U.S. who are themselves the sons or daughters of politicians is far too long to list here. They may well be good politicians themselves, but does anybody think they got where they are today strictly on merits?
And aren’t we supposed to be a meritocracy, that is, a society based on talent, not accident of birth, orunearned privilege?
Like many Irish Americans, I was not particularly interested in all the royal blah-blah that dominated our news cycle for a few days last week. But I have to admit that both Prince William and his younger brother Harry are a lot more admirable than most of our air-head faux royals in the American kingdom of celebrity.
The world’s most-famous groom apparently plans to apply for active service in Afghanistan as soon as he finishes his tour of duty as a search-and-rescue pilot on the home island. The powers that be probably won’t allow it, but you have to admire the young man’s determination. His brother Harry, you might remember, already has served in Afghanistan and very likely will return there next year.
What that means, of course, is that these two young princes are willing to put their lives on the line in defense of the United States as well as the United Kingdom. After all, the fight in Afghanistan began after the U.S. was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.
Anyone engaged in the battle against Islamic terrorists abroad is fighting to protect the U.S. as well as most of the non-Islamic world. The two princes are part of that fight. What American celebrity-royals can say the same thing? (Only, as far as I know, former NFL star Pat Tillman, who was killed by friendly fire.)
Knee jerk royal-bashing comes naturally to many of us, and not without reason. The last few weeks have offered curmudgeons a wonderful opportunity to roll our eyes and mutter about the inherent stupidity of monarchy and undeserved privilege.
But when you move from the abstract to the personal, you realize that it’s a bit too easy to write off the royals as mere upper-class twits. I find a good deal to admire in the service of the two princes, both of whom could have spent their lives in mindless pleasure-seeking (as more than a few of their ancestors did, including the future kings Edward VII and Edward VIII).
I don’t doubt that they’ve had their share of youthful fun, but I also know that one has served in a war that is, in essence, an American-led conflict against mindless terrorism, and the other is determined to serve, too.
Maybe they’re not such a bad lot after all.