In the face of American snark about the Queen’s death, many a newspaper reader in Britain was disgusted. With bad tidings imminent on Thursday last week, an academic at Carnegie Mellon tweeted: "I heard the chief monarch of a thieving raping genocidal empire is finally dying. May her pain be excruciating." An assistant professor in Rhode Island tweeted that she would "dance on the graves of every member of the royal family, especially hers."
Once the bleak news was in, a co-host of The View imagined this the ideal time to observe: "If you really think about...
In the face of American snark about the Queen’s death, many a newspaper reader in Britain was disgusted. With bad tidings imminent on Thursday last week, an academic at Carnegie Mellon tweeted: “I heard the chief monarch of a thieving raping genocidal empire is finally dying. May her pain be excruciating.” An assistant professor in Rhode Island tweeted that she would “dance on the graves of every member of the royal family, especially hers.”
Once the bleak news was in, a co-host of The View imagined this the ideal time to observe: “If you really think about what the monarchy was built on, it was built on the backs of black and brown people… She wore a crown with pillaged stones from India and Africa.”
Meanwhile, true to form, the New York Times simply hasn’t been able to control itself. Having waged a vicious propaganda campaign against the UK ever since the backward, disobedient country voted to make European tourism potentially more inconvenient — the condescending quasi-parental disappointment has evinced a distinct flavor of colonialism in reverse — the paper just had to commission British writer Hari Kunzru to poop on the Queen’s coffin. “Like many other people around the world whose families fought the British Empire, I reject its mythology of benevolence and enlightenment, and find the royal demand for deference repugnant.” The “white queen,” he wrote, “spent a lifetime smiling and waving at cheering native people around the world, a sort of living ghost of a system of rapacious and bloodthirsty extraction.”
With the same impeccable sense of decorum, the paper also commissioned a Harvard history professor to point out that “the Queen helped obscure a bloody history of decolonization.” (You can’t win. Colonization is evil; decolonization is evil.) The Commonwealth she headed “had its origins in a racist and paternalistic conception of British rule… She represented a living link to World War Two and a patriotic myth that Britain alone saved the world from fascism.” (I don’t know a single Brit who thinks that.) “And she was, of course, a white face on all the coins, notes and stamps circulated in a rapidly diversifying nation.” (Notice how “white” is now implicitly pejorative.)
A Washington Post reporter wrote: “Real question for the ‘now is not the appropriate time to talk about the negative impact of colonialism’ crowd: when is the appropriate time to talk about the negative impact of colonialism?” I will pay him the courtesy of a reply: any time but now, you moron. As we have been talking about the negative impact of colonialism non-stop in Britain for at least the past six or seven years, if not the past fifty, is it asking too much for you to shut up about it for a mere ten days of official national mourning? Just ten days to put a sock in it. Then you can go back to carping away to your heart’s content.
While disgust is understandable, these naysaying outliers provide me a curious satisfaction. Sometimes people we were already rather dark on to begin with show their true colors, and they turn out to be every bit as disagreeable as we’d imagined — or worse. Lo, these leftists are even more bitter and mean-spirited than we suspected. They’re also crass. Their sense of timing is non-existent.
Given the date last weekend, I’m reminded of the naysaying outliers in Britain who didn’t wait for the literal dust to settle in downtown Manhattan before proclaiming that the US had asked for 9/11 and deserved every casualty, every annihilated building, every grieving family and then some. Some Guardian writers were so blinded by raging anti-Americanism they couldn’t see that September 2001 was the very last month in history to go for the US jugular, much as the anti-Britishism of the New York Times is so overriding that it surmounts the restraint borne of common decency.
Fortunately, I can assure you that dancing on Elizabeth II’s grave has not been a commonplace pastime in America. Even the oppressively progressive PBS NewsHour has devoted long, reflective, admiring packages to the Queen’s legacy; more miraculously still, their perpetual British fifth columnist Malcolm Brabant has suppressed his kneejerk snideness. Billboard tributes have gone up across the nation. Most Americans are sad and nice.
Me, I’m always frustrated when big things happen in the UK and I’m not there. Yet I regard it as oddly fitting that I was spending the last days of my summer in New York when the news came in. I am sorrowful, but sorrowful at a slight remove. I’m reminded to be respectful of the fact that decades of residence in Britain do not make it, quite, my country. Elizabeth was not the sovereign of my childhood. My feelings are dolorous but soft. I’m not called to remember my own nation’s pride in its history. I can’t entirely share a Briton’s sense of unity in loss. For this signal ten days, I won’t be watching my own nation’s traditional pomp, its soothing ceremonies that go back hundreds of years. This is your country, about which I feel strongly, and warmly, and in which you have been kind enough to allow me to live for a long time. But at a juncture of such national reckoning, I accept my place. I am a foreigner. This is your sadness, not mine. I lay no claim to it.
My sole contribution is fictional. In my last novel, a drug is invented that reverses aging and effectively facilitates eternal life: “One of the first beneficiaries of the new restorative was the UK’s official head of state, who began discreetly popping the pills along with her nightly G&T whilst the drug trial, showing such early promise, was still under way.” Charles is disappointed, Camilla livid. “The country at large, however, was delighted. With the wildly popular Queen Elizabeth II installed in perpetuity, the monarchy was safe, a thriving British tourism industry guaranteed.” A small solace? At least in Should We Stay or Should We Go, Elizabeth still reigns.