Friday, March 23, 2012

Fumbling towards Republicanism

I'm thinking of becoming a republican. Or whatever you're called when you disagree with an institution that hold themselves above others, expects deference and rules by birthright rather than having earned their positions.

I'm not planning on signing a petition or becoming a card carrying member of the republican party. Not planning to make a donation, buy a mug or go door to door to spread the word. Nor do I have any interest in going toe-to-toe with a die-hard monarchist to argue whether the monarchy is relevant or not. It's just a slow leaning I've had over time. Getting stronger as the Diamond Jubilee approaches and people bend over backwards to commemorate it.

Case in point. This morning I learned that members of the British parliament are considering renaming the tower commonly referred to as Big Ben to the Elizabeth Tower. Big Ben is the name of the bell within the tower, which is more accurately called the Clock Tower. Unimaginative? Maybe, but why change the guidebooks unnecessarily?
The Diamond Jubilee stained glass window in Westminster Hall
Via British Monarchy Flickr

I'm not against commemorating the Diamond Jubilee. But I'm wondering whether her subjects have already done enough. Plans include a concert, service at St Paul's Cathedral, a pageant of 1000 boats on the Thames, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Jubilee windows, coins, medals and stamps to mark the occasion. Not to mention all of the plaudits in Commonwealth countries where she is head of state. Considering all of those things I tend to wonder whether people are going overboard with this too.

Royal Visit to Ottawa, Canada
Via British Monarchy Flickr
But would the Queen appreciate yet another Jubilee gift? Looking at photographs of the Queen, notice the lack of enthusiasm as she unveils yet another window, school or plaque with her name on it. Why add to it? It's quite possible that the Queen does not remember all of the things named in her honor. And why should she? Isn't it just another day at work for her?

A plaque unveiled by The Earl and Countess of Wessex commemorating the Diamond Jubilee
Via British Monarchy Flickr
I'm in Canada and Elizabeth II is the Queen of Canada. It would stand to reason that I should support the monarchy. I should be unquestioningly loyal. When it was announced that the government of Canada would be putting aside $7.5 million to celebrate the jubilee, I thought it was appalling. Not to be a party-pooper, but when there are cut-backs left, right and center, I have a hard time with putting this amount towards the Jubilee. Not that the Queen isn't worth it. There's no arguing with the Queen's dedication. It's undeniable and admirable. When she's gone, we will not see her like again.

The jubilee, like the royal wedding, is a time to celebrate. To do the same job well for 60 years is an accomplishment that should not be ignored. It's an event that may make people forget their problems but ultimately watching privileged people, with unimaginable wealth, celebrate on a lavish scale is not something people struggling can put in the bank or on the dinner table. I have a difficultly reconciling this.

Embracing republicanism could be problematic. I've never made any secret that I'm not a monarchist. It's in the tag-line of this blog. I've never been able to reconcile my interest in them with my indifference towards the institution itself. (Do Americans have this dilemma?) Previously I couldn't care one way or the other. Now I seem to be caring more and more. And it took a historic event to take a hard look at it. But questions linger. Will I be able to collect books? Stamps and coins? What will I do with my commemorative china? Can I go to England and enjoy the royal landmarks? Will I need to turn off television specials? Avert my eyes from pomp and pageantry?  I'll cross that bridge when I make a final decision.

© Marilyn Braun 2012

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Andrew said...

Queen Victoria has a waterfall, cities, an entire Australian state named after her. Maybe a good place to draw the line will be after Manitoba is renamed "Elizabeth." (And Saskatchewan can be "Philippa.")

Marilyn Braun said...

I see that overkill isn't a new concept then? Sheesh, save something for Charles and William.

Why would you waste the name Elizabeth on Manitoba? Hardly majestic enough terrain.

Rman said...

Lol, I guess I can understand why you and others may think all this stuff being done for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee is a bit much, Marilyn.

I guess everyone is coming together with all these ideas to say thank you to the Queen and make this Jubilee very special. Britisn and the Empire/Commonwealth haven't celebrated a monarch's Diamond Jubliee since Queen Victoria's 1897Jubilee, so I guess everyone has decided to go out with a bang on Elizabeth's.

Also, none of us really know if the Queen will be here for another Jubilee, so this could be the last one for a very long time. It's like it's important to give her all her flowers and thanks now and just honor while you can.

Of course i'm American but i'm personally looking forward to watching these celebrations on the internet and on TV (because you know the US will televise the Thanksgiving Service at St Pauls).

Sometimes I wish we could honor our Presidents in some way. I think us Americans spend so much time beating them down and protesting against them, that I don't think we take enough time to say thank for for keeping us out of harm of the terrorist or thank you for standing up for more education or something. I think it's great that the people of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth is just loosing themselves in coming together to thank the Queen for 60 years of dedication and service to the nation.

Marilyn Braun said...

It's great to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee but I don't think people need to name everything that's nailed down after her.She has done a great job, but I honestly think there are limits. Not to mention I don't think she would ultimately appreciate it. Having had so many of these types of tributes throughout her long life.

Like in Canada with our historical figures, many of your presidents have landmarks named after them. I don't think we majorly celebrate any particular Prime Minister beyond a building or school named after them. Maybe the reason why people do not celebrate presidents for what they do is that there are those who disagree with what the actual celebration may stand for.

You'll find this in any event but if people celebrate George W Bush for starting the war on terrorism it would give people a major forum in order to stage a large protest about it. Whereas if you celebrate your Independance and Freedom, there wouldn't be many people (if anyone) who would disagree with doing so. Independance takes no sides but war does. I hope that makes some sense.