Prince William and Kate Middleton have banned guests from drinking beer at their wedding reception. The prospect of guests downing pints has been deemed unsuitable for such a prestigious occasion. Instead, the couple will treat their 650 guests to flutes of champagne and wine to accompany their canapés as they mingle in the palace’s 19 state rooms.Now, I come from a land where our most important rhetorical document is a screed against the King of Britain. (Sample sentence: "The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.") Had he been handy--as opposed to, say, located across the Atlantic Ocean--beer-swilling revolutionaries might well have separated his head from his shoulders and mounted it on a pike.
“Let’s face it, it isn’t really an appropriate drink to be serving in the Queen’s presence at such an occasion.... “It was always their intention to give their guests a sophisticated experience and they have chosen the food and drink with this in mind.”
So, when I see the royals raise long noses toward one of the proudest traditions of their people and sniff, when I hear them declare this tradition offensive to her Highness, the language of Hancock rises within me. They eschew this great standard of British culture in favor of the drink of France. France. It suggests that their sympathies lie with their own kind--other exceedingly pampered hereditary lords--rather than their own subjects. (Even "subjects" raises the dander.)
There is an interesting paradox here. Britain, with its House of Commons and House of Lords, explicitly acknowledges class. All men are not created equal: some are lords. But if the few are lords, the many are not, and in this they have solidarity. They are the ale-drinkers, the laborers, those who will never become king and therefore must look out for their own interests.
In the US, by contrast, we have the illusion of equality. We proudly note that "all men are created equal"--even though the men who wrote those fine sentiments actually thought some men were only 3/5ths equal. As to "women"--the thought didn't trouble their minds. This is the fiction of America. We are good about sending cultural cues of equality--the rich dress like us, commingle with us, drink beer with us, and refuse to build massive castles on the moor. The virtue here is that all Americans tend to believe they enjoy social mobility. The trouble is that, when social mobility turns out to be a crock, the bottom 60% of the country do not see themselves as fellow-travelers and find fellowship with one another. Like Groucho Marx, they don't care to belong to the club that will have them as a member.
So maybe it's good the royals will enjoy champagne while marrying off the heir to the throne. It keeps things in perspective. They are they and we are we. While they sip champagne and sup on caviar, the rabble will watch the telly, beer in hand.
It's not without its downsides, however. We Yankee dogs will use the occasion to smugly point out our leader is not offended by the humble--and delicious--beer. And so I do:
Update: I should have checked out Pete Brown before posting this. If anything, his makes mine look obsequious. We are, however, much of the same mind. Sample sentence: "Particularly given that £1 of every pint sold in the UK consists of duty and VAT, which goes to the public purse, which is in turn paying for the event, the contempt shown by the royals towards their subjects, their economy, and the icons and traditions of their kingdom, is sickening." Fun. But: where's the pike?
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