The debate got me thinking. Especially about the role of a monarchy in a democratic society,
In such a society, leaders are elected, and the citizens expect them to keep the nation safe and supply the individual security that allows the populace the opportunity to lead happy and productive lives. There is comfort in knowing that, if the current leaders are not providing this, they can be voted out of office at the next opportunity, and this can provide a titanic change in a country’s philosophy and actions. Of course, at any moment of time, about half the country would be pleased with the leadership and the other half disgruntled.
And this represents a problem.
Because a democratic country is more than the policies of whomever currently is elected to lead it. It is an idea that is bigger then those in power. It is a dream, a goal, a philosophy, an ideal. It is something worth remembering no matter who is occupying the top offices.
And that’s where a constitutional monarchy comes in. It is an enduring commitment to ideals that transcend time. It is a place where the citizens can be inspired about these ideals, reminded they exist, and that they are the heart and soul of the country. It is a representative of the intrinsic good of the people.
And I think this is exactly what the English monarchy provides, in general, and did spectacularly under Elizabeth II. Oh, they have fallen short at times. They mishandled the death of Diana. There remains a lot of resentment against Charles, now King Charles III, for his treatment of Diana. There have been hints of scandals and scandals that have been more than hints, providing salacious fodder for the press. In 1992 the Queen declared the year that had seen divorces, separations, and a fire as an “annus horribilis. “
But, in spite of all the problems, I think most of the populace still recognized the importance of the politically neutral steady influence provided by the monarchy. Witness the huge turnout of mourners already assembling.
In the United States we don’t have a monarchy. So our only type of leadership is political in nature. But our country’s ideals are so much more than whoever is in power, and I think the American people feel a need for the steadying hand a monarchy can provide.
So, given we don’t have a monarchy, what do we do? We try to find some source of equivalent comfort, often not wisely.
Sometimes we will worship an actor, or a sports icon, or a musician. Of course, such individuals supply their own version of the overall structure and there is no uniformity of national purpose.
Sometimes we look to a charismatic political leader to fill the void. A John Kennedy or a Ronald Reagan or a Barack Obama or, God help us, a Donald Trump. But this is doomed to failure. By the very nature of politics, such people can’t really be an inspiration to all, or even a majority of citizens. And, of course, the limited terms they serve cannot provide the continuity of fundamental purpose of the nation.
I’m not pushing for a monarchy in the United States. We, as a nation would never accept it, nor do I think we should. However, I believe there is an unrecognized need for something to make sure we don’t forget the basic principles of our country.
And that something is not the criminally weak civics classes our Florida governor is pushing onto our educational system.
But something definitely is needed in this trying and potentially devastating time for our country.
Meanwhile, at least for the foreseeable future, the United Kingdom monarchy is in place. I wish Charles well. I think there is more to him than many give him credit for.
And I hope we don’t lose our democracy because we don’t have a stable influencer accepted by almost all reminding us of our history and our goals and our higher purpose.