Friday, March 28, 2003

Ribbing the Allies: Since we’re working so closely with the British in this war, I figured it would help if I learned a little more about our close allies. It turns out their an interesting bunch, despite the misperception that they are our "cousins across the pond." Take, for example, this foolish notion that we share a common language. This, of course, is a ridiculous claim. I watched the press conference with George Bush and Tony Blair, and I was only able to understand one of them. The language the other was speaking was totally foreign.

I’ve read, too, that we share a political heritage with the British, the heritage of democracy. This is also bunk. Now it is true that they have a citizen assembly in Britain that bears some superficial resemblance to our own. For example, their House of Lords is said to be roughly analogous to our Senate. Insofar as nothing really happens there, this is true. Plus, both are populated by old farts. But their old-fart house seems to be a sort of hall of fame for repeat winners of the upperclass twit of the year award. Ours, instead, is a menagerie of pumpkin-roller selectmen and huckleberry dog wardens who capture the Peter Principle like Sargent captured fading twilight. This difference can be shown by the hyphenation in names. They hyphenate the last name (e.g., Smith-Smythe) while we hyphenate the first (e.g., Billy-Bob).

The House of Commons is roughly like our House of Representatives: members represent the interests of regions of the country. However, given that England is smaller than North Carolina, and contains this many members of Commons, we can safely assume that being an MP (as they jauntily call members) is a bit like being a member of the town council in West Petunia, Massachusetts: everyone gets a chance sooner or later, and you just hope your turn doesn't coincide with the chairmanship of the 90-year-old retired bureaucrat who has memorized Roberts Rules of Order.

Another odd difference is the whole "Commons" thing. In America, we would react pretty harshly to being labeled "common." Oddly, in the land that pretty much invented class hatred, this seems to bother members of the House of Commons little or not at all.

Finally, there is the issue of royalty. I wonder what benefits a monarchy confers when the monarch wields the power of, say, Mamie Eisenhower. Really, what's the point of being King (or Queen, for that matter) now that the off-with-your-head routine is pretty clearly out of bounds? You've got to figure that either you're a monarch because god said so, or you're not. If god said so, that's dandy (who am I to quibble with god, plus the very monarchical off-with-your-head stuff is back on again). If not, why exactly is it that we're all supposed to treat you like it's the 1980s and you're Mike Ovitz? In the end, though, I suppose an impotent figurehead chosen by a lucky-sperm accident is no sillier than our method of relying on palsied pensioneers wheeling their medicare sleds around the streets of Florida to stab blindly at odd-shaped ballot sheets.

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