Sunday, June 27, 2010

20 June 2010 - London

I've never really understood royalty. For centuries people were oppressed by monarchies. This royalty stood in the way of progress. Yet many of today's most free democracies treat their royal families as divine leaders. Perhaps it is my American upbringing, but I will bow down to no person, especially if that person is in his or her position due to ancestry.

I have tried to understand the importance of royalty and have primarily heard two arguments. First, there is the rational, capitalistic reason that royal families bring in lots of tourist money. Next, there is the purely emotional argument--which I don't understand--that as my British friend so eloquently states, "I love the queen because she is my queen."

Today I tried to better understand this phenomenon by taking to the streets of London. I started with a walk to Buckingham Palace where thousands of tourists and some locals fought for the best spot to see the palace and the official band which was playing Abba's Dancing Queen. I wasn't as excited as the average onlooker. Perhaps I'm cynical, but I saw an obscenely large and gaudy house, flanked by old royal grounds financed by the sweat and the resources of serfs and colonies from around the world. It sure was great to oppress India so this family could have some gold cutlery and some more hunting ground.

After Buckingham, I headed towards 10 Downing Street, the home of the Prime Minister. I was excited to see this, but I firs passed by it, expecting more of a crowd. Instead, I proceeded on to a cavalry museum where hoards of tourists clamored to get their picture taken with a real live horse and soldier. Only after I realized my mistake did I notice the five or six people standing by the gate of Downing Street. Of this handful, only about three of us were tourists while the others were protesters. At least it showed some evidence of democracy. What happens if you protest about the queen?

I ended the day with no better idea on royalty than when I started. Fortunately, I have three months in this country to better understand. Britain, please be patient with me.

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