May 19, 2018

At least they are better than the Kardashians

Sam Smith – I confess. For four hours last week I watched a trashy royal wedding preview series on PBS. And then, even more inexplicably, I slept through the wedding itself.

In retrospect I became aware that I was far more interested in the media and public reaction to the royal marriage than to the event. I assumed, once inside the chapel at Windsor Castle, every one would behave according to rules that only those regularly allowed inside the castle fully understand.

One reason for my interest in the public and media stems from the residuals of a major in anthropology. How people treat positive myth is often as interesting as how they handle, say, conspiracy theories. After all, there is no more logic in putting so much power in the hands of one family and its descendants as there is in declaring climate change to be a liberal plot. But the former is far less dangerous.

Myth is universal in human existence and while one can come up with no logical explanation for the same culture that produced William Shakespeare and Oxford University getting ready to name Prince Charles as its next king, a nation with Donald Trump as its elected president shouldn’t be too critical.

In the end, it is the results of a myth that truly count. As I tell people of my religious status as a Seventh Day Agnostic, “I don’t give a shit about what you believe; it’s what you do with it that counts.”

In fact, religious participation is declining. Even schools seem to have lost interest in our moral status as humans and the media couldn’t care less. Without shared reminders such as at church or an event that reflect values such as love, loyalty, or – in this case – cross ethnic potential, we now are often pretty much on our own. So the wedding reminded us of things we tend to forget these days.

Besides such noble reflections, however, I must also confess that I suffer from a journalistic addiction to trashy behavior. Not because I approve of it, but because it makes such a good story.

Watching the royal wedding previews, I was reminded of an incident back in the 1960s that I once described thus:
A friend at Congressional Quarterly called with news that a mutual acquaintance -- a deputy editor at the National Enquirer - was looking for a Washington column. The Enquirer was willing to pay $800 a week -- an enormous sum at the time albeit some of it intended for loosening lips.

My friend's scheme was brilliant. Four of us would write under a single pseudonym. Thus we could all keep our day jobs while writing one quarter of a column for a fee greater than my recent salary as a Coast Guard lieutenant.

For five hours, we sat in the dark, dignified dining hall of the Mayflower Hotel discussing the project with the tabloid's chief editor, a small, dapper Englishman who moved from national politics to the importance of dog stories in perfect segue. We sold each other on ourselves and the three other conspirators -- all of whom worked for Congressional Quarterly -- returned to broach the subject with their publisher, Nelson Pointer. Pointer pointedly responded that they could either work for CQ or for the Enquirer but not for both. The scheme disintegrated. I did get paid $100 for a one paragraph item the Enquirer published, but afterwards I felt a little tawdry and never submitted anything else.

I was introduced to the grandmother of Prince Harry when I was in high school and my parents bought their first TV so they could watch her coronation. Queen Elizabeth has been the most consistent public figure in my life (beating out Fidel Castro by about eight years).

On the whole, I find the Queen and her family fairly dull but infinitely better than, say, the Kardashians.  I will now put them aside and return to real matters such as the fact that Donald Trump has lied again.

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