Well now that Wills and Kate have left American soil, leaving everyone with all the trappings of Royal Fever (there’s a special shampoo that’ll get rid of it in two weeks, if you’re good), I think it’s important to note that, for an unabashedly patriotist nation that spent an awful lot of time, money, and heartache getting rid of the crowned heads of Britain over two centuries ago, we’ve never quite managed to loose our grip on our obsession with them.
Which leads me to my shocking assertion: Wouldn’t it be a fantastic idea to relegitamize the monarch as our head of state? Just think of it – the portrait industry would skyrocket.
Now before you go get all patriotic with cries foul of “blood debt” and “Limey bastards” on me, just hear out my reasoning, m’kay?
The head of government is too controversial to serve as an effective head of state. That’s why US soldiers swear allegiance to a document (The Constitution) and British soldiers swear allegiance to the sovereign. The state, in its purest form, is meant to be representative of all the people, while a government (in a democracy) is merely representative of the voting majority. The Constitution to which our soldiers swear allegiance, is a poor facsimile for the apolitical concept of the State, because it’s still an instrument of a political government.
Since our inception as a nation, we’ve been at a loss for a focal point for national unity, and that’s arguably one of our biggest problems. Without said national unity, the overarcing political debate since we’ve been founded has been federalism vs. states’ rights. We’ve even fought a war over it (and you thought the Civil War was about slavery, phssht). Too federal, and we’re no better than the monarchy we separated ourselves from, too localized, and our nation becomes a collection of microcosms of haves and have-nots – a Jim Crow-esque system in which rights and freedoms enjoyed by those in some states aren’t awarded to the same citizens should they travel to another (oh wait… gay marriage anyone?). Federalist or not, a neutral head of state like a monarch at the end of the day still serves to remind everyone of their similarities rather than their differences – sort of a non-government representative of the nation. We simply don’t have that.
There’s legitimacy in lineage. Every nation needs its legitimization myth – a part of the national lore that connects the nation to those before it and gives it a reason for being. In the US, ours is that of revolution – that we shook off the shackles of a ruler and decided to go it alone. In the form most Americans understand, it’s generally believed that we invented the concept of Western democracy (that was Greece, and Venice had been a democracy for over a thousand years before the revolution), or freedom itself (still a rather abstract concept). You see, there has to be some sort of explanation that says we weren’t simply a bunch of thugs who wanted to evade paying taxes (especially considering that, although thought to be unrepresented, American colonists paid a fraction of a percent of the taxes paid by subjects within the British Isles). Britain itself is no stranger to the legitimization myth – most British writers spent a great deal of their efforts highlighting the links between Britain and Classical Greece and Rome to smokescreen the fact that the islands were really nothing more than a backwater invaded by a land-hungry French warlord at the turn of the first millennium.
Monarchies are the most developed countries in the world. Let’s take a look at the Human Development Index, shall we? The United States ranks fourth. The three countries ranked higher (New Zealand, Australia, and Norway) all count a monarch as their official head of state. Of the top twenty nations, just over half count a monarch as their head of state.
Regicide is uncommon. Let’s face it. Since we’ve had a president as head of State, there have been four successful assassinations, and attempts on at least ten others. And that’s just in the last 200 years. Britain, by comparison, hasn’t had a regicide since 1649 (or has the rest of the Western World since 1934).
Not quite still on the subject of monarchy, but isn’t it interesting to note that the monarchy the patriots felt was such an enemy to freedom was later a full score of years ahead of the United States in abolishing slavery?
So, the proposal: keep the government in its current form, but install Her Majesty as the figurehead for the US? We could re-style ourselves as the United Kingdom of American States, and in turn get rid of those old bewigged men on our currency in exchange for that bombshell of a Queen.