I don’t think too many Britons say nasty things about their Queen.
They don’t object to her politics because she really doesn’t have any. They may get mad at all the money – their money – she spends on palaces and servants, but they get over that.
What she represents is them, the collective whole, and they seem to appreciate it, rally round it, and draw strength from it.
A keen memory of mine is from a dinner toast at a British embassy. It consisted of two words that meant 10,000. It was simple and so reverent:
The leader and figurehead of the United States, by contrast, is called names and blamed for all kinds of bad things. His motives are questioned, as if he refuses out of spite to use clear and easy solution to big and complicated problems. It is frequently suggested that he is out to destroy America — on purpose.
Not so with a queen.
I was never much for monarchy. In fact, a favorite movie line of mine comes from Monty Python after, I think, a noble personage advises a lowly peasant, “I’m your king,” and gets the answer, “Well I didn’t vote for you.”
But seeing Queen Elizabeth at the Olympics, sitting there as an honored representation of all Great Britain, inspired envy.
From afar, and perhaps in fact, the British seem to have a cultural homogeneity that the U.S. does not. While Britain is markedly divided by class and is mixed racially (from immigration), there is something holding all together.
You only have to listen to the way the Brits sing their anthem “Jerusalem” to know this. They did so at the Olympics and it moved even me, a non-Brit. The final, powerful verse is:
I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green and pleasant Land
Americans love being Americans, but we are a country of individualists. We can be distrustful of each other. Our tendency is to work on our own to improve our lives, not to work collectively for a new Jerusalem. In Britain and much of Europe, there is a collective desire to see that all have health care, that all can afford higher education, that all can get around on trains, subways and buses.
We don’t have that in the states. We do have the Interstate Highway system, but only because the military needed evacuation routes in case of nuclear war.
The American continent does have a distant legacy of working as a tribe. But the ways of the Native American people never had an impact on the rugged, go-it-alone settlers.
Hardworking, innovative Americans have performed technological and economic miracles working alone. It was this kind of culture that allowed us to break from the English, better them and pretty much rule the world.
Still, I feel as if we lack something as a people. When I see the Queen of England, who I didn’t vote for, I have this wish that we could get behind our leaders in a forceful way that lifts our spirits and moves us ahead quicker. Of course, such a system would require that leaders be pure of heart and dedicated to the American cause and not their own.
This would be the hardest thing to accomplish, even if we gave them all palaces.