Queen Elizabeth, that relic of more regal times, has become the first British monarch to visit the country of Ireland in a whole century, since the country has been independent of the British Empire. This might seem unimportant on the surface, and it kinda is, but in fact this is some form of bridge building.
There is protest in Ireland over the visit, graffiti and disparaging signs littering the streets of Dublin, which is perhaps to be expected. In Belfast, word is the queen was called a "fair target". On a bus a bomb was found, just a few hours before the queen’s arrival. The dissidence is freaky.
I have to admit right here and now: I find the history of Ireland hopelessly complicated. Just when I think that the Cranberries or James Joyce has given me some insight into what’s happening and what has happened, I find another turn that makes the last turns I’d pretended to understand ununderstanable. All I know is: this is a country that’s had it rough, largely because the empire building tendencies of Great Britain have alienated them, just as the American propensity for sticking their nose everywhere has pissed off a large portion of the world. Isaac Newton stood on the shoulders of giants—the rest of us live under them.
I suppose Dublin being shut down for the day and becoming a car free zone doesn’t help the resentment. I’ve never understood why major centers still put on this show for royalty. Things ain’t the way they used to be, when us commoners would bow down before a better class and thank our lucky stars to be able to behold such a sight. People get pissed off when you block their path to work in the morning, and their anger is not pacified by the fact that their city is in the presence of greatness.
I don’t want to come off anti-queen, because in fact, I believe that there’s something charming about the continuing presence of royalty (as anyone who saw my coverage on the royal wedding obsession knows). Sure, she looks like death personified, and I haven’t seen eyes that red since Half Baked, but let’s give the old broad some credit. She turned 85 last month, which is an achievement for anyone, no matter how pampered. Lest we forget, Michael Jackson died at 50.
I know that I spout these things from a privileged perspective: my country has not the troubled history with England that Ireland does. Once Canada got the French out of the way, we were quite eager to be a part of the empire; and we live in that shadow still, the victims of a continuing identity crisis that threatens to Americanize us. I look on the English culture with some reverence. I would rather be a Briton than an American. But really, I’d prefer neither.
Queen Elizabeth II might be doing everyone a valuable service by making an appearance in Dublin. She might be pissing everyone off. But even for a figurehead, it’s better than sitting at home.