If I needed one more reminder of what we have to celebrate on the 4th of July, I got it last week – when the Daily Telegraph reported that Kate Middleton is required to curtsy to her husband’s aunt and female cousins, unless (of course! I should have guessed!) her husband is with her. (Whether he’s with her or not, she must always curtsy to the Queen and Prince Phillip, which I’m sure is every granddaughter-in-law’s idea of how to adjust to a new family.)
It’s typical anti-democratic poppycock from the Royal Family, which goes against everything we Americans stand for. You see, Kate Middleton is – despite achieving through marriage the title of “Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge” – still a commoner; she is still not royal enough for the Royal Family. She’s still not one of the cool kids.
Look, I’m not so naí¯ve that I would insist that ours is a classless society; it’s clearly not. And of course I realize that all of us curtsy or bow, metaphorically, to bosses and other higher-ups every day. And yes, despite significant inroads made – thank goodness – over the past 50 years by women and people of color, power in American society is still held disproportionately by white men.
But still: curtsying to your husband’s relatives every time you see them? Seriously?
So let’s review why we celebrate July 4th: after our Founders declared independence from Britain and mad King George III on that day in 1776 (well, actually on July 2) the colonists fought the Brits for seven years — losing some 25,000 men in the process. The result of the hard-fought American victory? Our messy, imperfect, still evolving democracy, based on the principle that all people are created equal – a principle that most of us now take for granted, but one that was utterly, well, revolutionary at the time. It’s a principle expressed perfectly by that great American philosopher, Aunt Eller of the musical Oklahoma!, when she declares “I don’t say I’m better than anybody else, but I’ll be damned if I ain’t just as good.” It’s a principle echoed by Bob Dylan in “To Ramona,” when he sings “I’ve heard you say many times that you’re better than no one, and no one is better than you.” And it’s a principle, of course, that is completely antithetical to the institution of monarchy.
Because make no mistake about it: the Royals, who are direct descendants of mad King George, fundamentally believe they’re better than you are, simply because of who their parents are and who your parents aren’t. They even think they’re better than people who marry into their family, for goodness sake.
Well, I don’t. This July 4th, as every July 4th, I’m going to treat the fireworks as candles lit in the memory of every American who’s given his or her life — from the Revolutionary War, to the Civil War, to the civil rights movements, and other pivotal moments in our history — in the fight against tyranny, monarchy, injustice and those who believe they were born better than you or me. Let the Brits have Will and Kate; we’ve got Aunt Eller and Bob Dylan. And, to my mind, we come out way ahead in that deal.
Photo credit: brian.gratwicke via flickr.