There’s a lot to be said for symbolism too. Here’s an 86-year-old woman floating down the Thames in a pouring rain and people are ecstatic. As a cynic it’s easy to snigger at the waste and hollowness of the British monarchy, but then you wonder: What would it take to get a like number of Americans to don patriotic apparel and crowd the banks of the Potomac? Lady Gaga? An assemblage of American Idol winners? Probably not even then, if it was raining. When it comes to symbols of national identity, we just don’t have much.
That’s because nothing in America lasts a lot longer than eight years — the length of a couple of presidential terms and the approximate half-life of pop-culture fame. At this point, the nearest thing we have to a unifying tradition is the 20-years-old Simpsons. I don’t think we should elect a queen any time soon, but watching the coverage on TV — and watching American viewers eat it up — you can definitely see that the British monarchy still has its uses and its charms.
Queen Elizabeth II is about the same age as my mom. As mother to four flawed children, I’m sure she’s known similar frustrations. As mother to an often flawed nation, she’s probably known quite a few more. But depressing and frustrating as the job may get, she can’t ever quit. Can’t really even take sides. Sixty years now, going on 61. That’s a pretty good run, through some turbulent times. These days, you deserve a lot of credit just for flawless attendance.
By today’s standards, she’s pretty lackluster as a celebrity. But by the same standards, she’s solid gold as a symbol. I like the queen. And I say, God save her.