I mostly ignored the fairy tale wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William. It’s not because I don’t like grand celebrations, romance, and rolling out the red carpet, to be sure. But there was drooling obsession by Americans (mostly women) who wanted to vicariously partake of this union. There was a glut of photos of Kate Middleton’s dress, bikini, hair, make up…I don’t get it, but I don’t get a lot of things. I like Carey Grant, George Eliot, Norman Wisdom, Catherine Cookson, Jane Austen, other British novelists, and many things British. However, I feel the royalty is a trifle laughable, archaic, and their history mostly shameful.
Yes, Queen Elizabeth is a special, unique woman; and one of my favorite movies last year was The King’s Speech. Both Queen Elizabeth and King George were born into a very public life of service, in spite of grandiose lifestyles. There was and is much sacrifice. I like learning real history and realizing that in spite of the foibles, ridiculous posturing, and egotistical ways of humankind that often leads to heartache and bloodshed, there can be found an elevation of the human spirit and golden stories threaded throughout the past. I like looking for these vibrant tales as a writer. But when I see the Irish people obsequiously proclaiming that they had their doubts but are now believers, believers in what? That now their history of oppression is given dignity because of a little bow by England? Certainly, Queen Elizabeth had nothing to do with An Gorta Mor (The Great Hunger, 1845-1850), but the visit can’t really wipe out the past with one gesture, the pomp of ceremonies, and the 10,000 police and military operation to protect her while in Ireland.
I agree with what I read in one article in Irish news, “no amount of grovelling, abject apologies and self-flagellation could ever atone for the injustices meted out by the evil English/British Crown.” Well, I sort of agree. I don’t believe that the royalty today is necessarily evil, but Good God Almighty, they certainly have blood on their historical hands. And so does our American government and all the governments of nations. So what do we do? When I learned that in 1598, Sir Edmond Spenser advised a different Queen Elizabeth, “Until Ireland is famished, it cannot be subdued,” and that in 1845 to 1850, over a million people perished in Ireland when there was food shipped out before their starving eyes, and how the Hunger Strikers suffered, and so forth…one bow is not enough for me to be a believer.
But I’m not an Irish citizen. I claim to be an Irish-American and I am, but I have English blood flowing through my veins, too. Likewise, when I learned that the Sun newspaper in 1857 New York City printed, “America would be a great nation if every Irishman killed a Negro and was hung for it,” I realized I would never be a flag waving American. I am not a believer in the status quo and never will be. I am a lover of my country and would only become an ex-patriot if certain ones (I will not name them) became president, but would only abandon my country until they were out of office! I would return to this land I love.
So for this historic gesture, it certainly is not wrong. It is a beginning. It rings with some hope, but like so much, it is made too much of. That’s my take on it. And don’t I have a right, especially as an American, to say what I want to say and believe and feel how I want to? Do I not have this freedom to do so? Even if the rest of ye are becoming right Anglophiles and salivating to learn that annoying British accent (oh, alright, I love that accent), I can like and dislike their ways if I want to.
I was flipping through More magazine and it’s a bit ironic to me to have come across a page of children with cleft palates in a magazine mostly focused on older women having it all. The eyes of these children nearly drilled holes in my heart. What I think this world should obsess over is these children and Operation Smile, Oxfam, Welcoming America, and so many other organizations, as well as individuals, such as one of my best friends who is living with gentle faith in her daily life while experiencing the recent death of her 23 year old son who fought cancer for over a year. Let the news repeat the stories of recovery in Joplin, and the stories of the Japanese overcoming and living with hope. Yes, we should hear about a Queen setting foot on Ireland to bow instead of command, and a little Hollywood does our Cinderella hearts good sometimes, but let’s not be Big Mac excessive with our news that mostly skews reality and truth. Tell the tragedies, yes…that is already done too well, but tell them slant! Tell the news slant with the colorful threads of hope. And bear with me for being a sappy idealist as well as a sometimes misanthrope.