Randi Kreiss

Is our democracy becoming a royal pain?


Is it too late to bring back King George III? We had all the right intentions in 1776, and a terrific starting lineup, but we seem to be making a mess of this experiment called democracy.
Lately I’ve been thinking that everything British is better. Well, not everything (Boris Johnson) but many things. Maybe not the food.
Still, God Save the Queen. You have to love a woman who embraces stoicism as her reason for being. Her Majesty does everything the old-fashioned way, and with such grace. She even wears a tiara with aplomb.
She is heroic in her steadfast devotion to duty. No matter how the world turns, no matter the dalliances of her children or her in-law kids, she embraces tradition with dignity and, I imagine, personal sacrifice. Democracy is so messy and divisive, but there is real comfort in the elaborate ritual of royal pomp. As evolved as I am as a woman in the 21st century, I would still enjoy a spin in a Cinderella carriage. With footmen, of course.
How sweet it would be here and now in America to have a royal figure to maintain some decorum as so many elected officials run off the rails. I’m telling you, we just didn’t think the whole 1776 thing all the way through.

Part of my escape over the Pond includes immersion in World War II novels and nonfiction. Literature featuring British history has all the elements of real-life thrillers. This month I listened to “In the Garden of the Beasts” and “The Splendid and the Vile,” both by Erik Larson, and “Munich,” by Robert Harris, all superb nonfiction accounts of the days and months leading up to and into World War II.
The Brits had an uphill fight to beat back the Nazis. They were blessed with a brave and self-sacrificing queen and a once-in-a-lifetime prime minister in Winston Churchill, who inspired his people with soaring rhetoric and unflappable courage.
I keep thinking about the Londoners during the blitz, not knowing how it would end but getting up every morning to drag bodies out of the rubble and then go to work. The high-mindedness of it all contrasts painfully with the skeevy machinations of today’s American politics. Half the people running for office can’t compose or articulate a proper English sentence.
When I turn on the telly, it is to mysteries and thrillers on BritBox or Acorn TV. The stories presume some intelligence on the part of the viewer. No one shoots anyone in British police procedurals. They chase one another up and down buildings and across the countryside, but you rarely see a weapon other than a bloody knife. The writing is nuanced, which means every other word isn’t a four-letter one. Characters sometimes quote Shakespeare.
British TV actors look like real people. That’s key. They have wrinkles and messy hair, lumpy bodies in shabby clothes. You see very few scantily clad women; when you do, they usually have a compelling story, something beyond their cascading curls and rising flesh. The character actors are especially talented, commanding their scenes without affecting cheap technique or $200 hairstyles. They look like regular people, which is the idea of acting, isn’t it?
One of my favorite series is “Midsomer Murders,” which has been on the air so long that the actor playing the main character, the village detective, retired from the role and passed it to his younger onscreen “brother.” Every episode features a ghastly murder in a village of 150 people. They just don’t run out of bodies. And it isn’t so much a whodunit as a walking tour of the village eccentrics, all of whom are played by marvelous actors.
In my escape to the United Kingdom, I include Irish novels, many of which are gems, little-known literary sleepers like “The All of It” and “Northern Spy.” For some reason, books about the Troubles and the lives of the people of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland just pull me in and pull me out of my worries.
In general, the Queen and her subjects elevate the conversation, any conversation, unlike here in the States, where incivility and aggressive ignorance are increasingly common.
In one of the big production numbers in the show “Hamilton,” King George sings a solo to the American rebels. “You’ll be back,” he warns, “soon, you’ll see. You’ll remember you belong to me . . .”
It has taken 246 years to come to this point, but maybe he was right.

Copyright 2022 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.