Friday, March 8, 2013

American Royalty

The United States of America has always prided itself on not having a king or queen. In the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, we are all equal, so they say, and there are no class distinctions.

Then what are the velvet ropes for, the ones that line the red carpets leading into the theatres and auditoriums hosting the Emmys, the Grammys, the Oscars, and all these other awards shows? The velvet ropes are to keep the common people away from the American version of nobility, the stars and starlets who we honor and worship and fawn over as if they were a cut above the rest of us.

And who are the owners of all of those fancy yachts tied to the piers in Myrtle Beach, San Diego, and hundreds of other exclusive, high-priced communities along the sunny coasts? Who are the owners of the mansions in the Hamptons, Brentwood, Beverly Hills, Bloomfield Hills, Sausalito, Aspen, West Chester, and other high-priced enclaves from sea to shining sea? Who are these people that never have to ask how much something costs, and who carry black American Express cards? They are the American aristocracy. Not all of them live lives as public as the Kennedys, but they life lives of opulence that the rest of us cannot even imagine.

And do you know what happens to the people that we elect and send to Washington, D.C., or to those who are invited to accompany those elected ones to Washington, and never leave? They become the American royalty. Over time, they acquire all the trappings of royalty. They never leave Washington without their retinues, and they are always preceded by the 21st Century equivalent of the forerunners, crying "Make way for the king!" They gather power to themselves, becoming increasingly out of touch with the common people and eventually forgetting who sent them to Washington.

In many ways, the class distinctions of the old royalty and nobility still exist in the U.S.A., but we blindly refuse to acknowledge these distinctions. We cling to the myth of equality and equal opportunity, as voiced in our Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights ..." In truth, we are not even created equal, and that inequality grows larger as time passes. We may all be endowed with the same rights, but not with the same opportunities. In this country, as in every other country, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

I don't advocate class warfare, or a French revolution to bring down the upper classes. Honestly, I wouldn't mind living their lifestyle myself. And as an upper middle-class American, I don't have much to complain about. But I choose not to join in the obsession with these people, the obsession that fuels the popular media and gives us a constant flow of photos and stories about them. I would like to think that, if I were to encounter a member of the upper class, I wouldn't treat them any differently from anyone else.

1 comment:

Kellie said...

I've definitely done some thinking about the "American Royalty." Do they realize how much better off they are? Is it unfair to ask them to share a larger burden of the nation's operating cost? How far will the division spread of haves and have-nots spread before all is said and done?