Photo: Henry Dallal Photography
Just my two cents on the passing of the Queen, late and inconsequential as my two cents are.
In a way, the Queen's passing reminds me of Michael Jackson's passing, insofar as they'd both always been embedded into the background of my tiny life when they died. I felt a little sad hearing the news about Elizabeth, though I'm not sure why. When Diana died, I found myself heartbroken, though I wasn't a royal follower otherwise. Maybe that just says something about losing larger-than-life figures. In any case, if we measure it by the collated experiences contained in an individual life, Elizabeth may have had the richest life (metaphorically) of anyone on earth. Of course, she epitomized intergenerational wealth and had access to exclusive systems that extended her life. But that she composed herself as she did is pretty extraordinary. I'd have written a tell-all. She stoically worked until two days before her death. I objectively admire that.
I am a leftist though (and not the boutique kind), so I am inherently against monarchies. I mean all monarchies here – they are predicated on the notion that some human lives are intrinsically worth more than others and thus they perpetuate explicit and implicit caste systems. The Marxist in me fundamentally rejects this. I see Elizabeth as the figurehead of an institution that has no real political function in the modern world (and shouldn't, really), save bringing together those who feel affection for it (and those who don't, well, they have a right to feel that way too). And I see her family's inordinate wealth and strongly feel that, without wading too much into the muck of its historical acquisition, one entity should not be in possession of that much wealth. Where that much wealth is concentrated, most certainly it would have arrived through unethical means.
I watched the Proclamation of the incipient reign of Charles and heard several Scots booing. My back straightened when I heard them. They have a right to boo. Of course they do. Scotland has long had its bones to pick with England. Monarchs have always been booed, even if most historical subjects had to do it within their own heads for fear of otherwise losing them.
But I also see the Queen's grandmotherly-ness, and I see that many British people (and yes, even some throughout the Commonwealth) genuinely love Elizabeth. To those people, she is a matriarch. When I hear them talk about her, I am reminded of how some in Hawaiʻi talk about Queen Liliʻuokalani – with profound reverence and affection and tenderness. Like one would about a grandmother.
Because we humans are highly complicated (and I happen to think our complexities will either damn us or lead us kicking or screaming to our enlightenment), it then seems appropriate that the emotional outpouring we are now witnessing (both glowing and not) is projected onto the image of a tiny, frail, elderly woman. Of course, only a woman would inspire this range of emotions. But remember, no matter what corner of the world you come from, we all love our grandmothers. So if you see some of the negative reactions to Elizabeth and tsk and shake your head and wonder how people could project such emotions onto a grandmother, then I'll just remind you that the people criticizing Elizabeth have grandmothers too. They don't need lessons in how to love them. So just sit with it, because this is the human experience. This means whatever is emerging is complicated and real and rooted in life and death. That means something. The Crown knows what it inspires. It will be fine.
When I see the RF, I see beloved figureheads and glorified celebrities. I see incredibly privileged people who understand the ridiculousness they were born into and try to do good with it, and I see incredibly privileged people who could not give a shit about the likes of you or me or anyone in the Commonwealth. But most of all, I see the embers of a long-dead empire publicly struggling to find its relevance in our world (and it's up for debate what that relevance is). As a US American who does not pay taxes to the Crown but instead pays taxes to support the fattest, richest military industrial complex in our fading world, I wonder when our time will come to publicly reflect. Or if we will have the time at all.
Incidentally, I think if the RF paid for the Kohinoor diamond and India invested this payment into universities and social programs, this would be a huge start. Google the GDPs of India before and after colonialism. (Oh, but the railroad network! If you get it, you get it.)