Monday, July 4, 2011

Welcome and "Thanks for Coming" to William and Kate...

Royal Protester in Quebec City   (photo, Toronto Star)

Signs like the one above and shouts of "abolir la monarchie" say much more about the people doing the protesting than about the institution they want destroyed. In fact, the signs and the shouting and the banging on whatever noise- makers to get attention demonstrates a kind of insensitivity to the changes that are before the eyes of these protesters, if they would only open them.
"It is an honour to inspect the VanDoos," and a full speech in French by William, as one would expect, are indications that the "royals" are far more in touch with their hosts than some of those hosts are in touch with their guests.
Protesting that it is not "against Kate and William" that we are protesting, but against the monarchy as an institution is no excuse. It may provide cover and a little less danger for police and security while the royal guests move from car to building, and to city hall and from car to boat, given that the protest is not specifically directed at these two newly-weds, one of whom will likely someday be monarch.
But it is the word "parasite" that demands a rebuttal.
Parasite is an organism living off another. The parasite is unable to survive without the life-sustaining "juices" of the other. The parasite makes no contribution to the host organism. The parasite has no value except as a "drain" on the host, and as a model of how not to live.
Clearly, this so-called parasite would do more than survive without the host of the government of Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries, although, unwanted, there would be little reason to continue. Furthermore, both William and Catherine are making more of a contribution to the people of Canada that some would like to admit. They are showing deference, respect and gratitude for the hospitality they are being shown. They are honouring the people of this country, albeit the "official" people first, their formal hosts, and then the ordinary people, by their attitude, their words, and their very generously extended presence.
It may seem trivial to some that literally hundreds of hands have been shaken, thousands of pictures have been shot and hours of both camping out and watching in person and on television, not to mention the sick children that they visited, or the cooking lessons they absorbed, or the content of the private conversations.
And in a world that worships only money, when the job description of a Duke and Duchess defies the Human Resources department's capacity for "objectively measureable" data, one can easily see how cutting to the quick of the fiscal "waste" and the "non-contributing" factor in the relationship would generate signs like "parasite go home."
However, for those still in touch with poetry and symbolism, for those whose reading in secondary school has not been reduced to "how-to manuals" because of a dearth of imagination of the so-called educators who could not design a curriculum for dog training, let alone for fertile imaginations like those of adolescent males and females, the monarchy is re-inventing itself, right before our eyes.
Those hand shakes, in a time of ever-present terror and the danger of sabotage by terrorists, are a monumental gift of connection, of making oneself vulnerable, of offering to actually "touch" another human being, (something that has become almost completely off-limits in many schools) and they demonstrate a kind of courage and compassion and empathy and humanity that is literally eroding from our body politic and being excised from our social discourse. We are being reduced, and are permitting ourselves to be reduced, to a kind of robotic, objective professionalism that defies both our nature and our needs.
The story of this royal visit bears reflection by all Canadians if for no other reason than to remind ourselves that ideology and political issues, as defined by a party in power, are not ultimate reality. These young people, as symbols of an institution that does not take sides in a political debate, (unless one considers the legitimate controversy surrounding Princess Diana's long-standing fight with the paparazzi a political debate). They are not scarred by the headlines depicting their "stand" on a tax hike, or a jet purchase, or a prison construction project. In that regard, they remain detached from such debates, and because of that they can remind us all of a larger and more important truth: that there will be other issues for other people at other times in the life of any country or town or city. These debates do not and must not be our only connection with the body politic; nor must the body politic be reduced to such mundane goals and objectives. There is, and there always has been, and there always will be a different and a more inspiring and a more symbolic and a more transcendent reality...and if it takes a few million dollars to sustain the symbols of that truth, then who can legitimately call such spending "parasitic" or useless or dangerous.
Who would want to have had a last twenty years of the last century without Princess Diana, her children and her tragic marriage and death? They are stories that mark a period in our lives, and in history generally, that speak to the emptiness of a marriage triad, that will never work. And when we learn that, when asked if the Prince of Wales were to come on bended knee seeking her permission to re-enter the marriage, after the divorce, after a very long pause, Princess Diana answered, "Yes," we learn about the humanity of a woman whose tutelage of her sons, and specifically of William, will be a gift that continues to give to him, to the people of his realm, if and when he assumes the throne, and to the world.
And, clearly from the reaching out of hundreds of thousands of people to catch a glimpse, to touch, to take a photo, just to be in the presence of Catherine and William, we can see explicitly and implicitly, just how hungry those people are/were for some of that "royal dust" to become a part of their family's history. And it is that bridging of the realities of humdrum and fairytale, of mortgages and fantasy, of budgets and romances, of mundane and meta history, of this finite moment and the infinite possibility both past and future, of modes of transportation and flights of dreams...that come with such a visit.
And while Canada and perhaps other countries in the Commonwealth have struggled with the "colonialism" of their state, as compared with independent nations, there is nothing either evil or cheap or debilitating or redundant in a royal family whose brokenness lies on the front pages for all to mourn, and whose hopes and dreams can and have been passed to a new generation for everyone, for all faiths, for all classes, for all languages and for all ethnicities.
And any who call such a gift "parasitic" have lost sight of the blessings and the graces that attend compassion, empathy and a world becoming nearly devoid of all of that.

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