The latest test, albeit an obscure one, came at the passing of Stirling Moss.
The big boys with their editorial standards got it right.
The fawning little nobodies inside the industry got it wrong.
We excuse the Guardian, the Daily Mail, the Formula 1 offices, und der Spiegel from this critique; they aren’t American institutions. Excuse them from WHAT, exactly!?
We excuse Europeans for using (and therefore ratifying) titles of nobility and any associated ranks.
If foreign rags wish to run “Sir Stirling Moss,” I don’t care that they still have not learned any better. But things should be better on the western shores of the Atlantic:
We should abhor the enduring tendency in the United States to acknowledge such titles, particularly the British “Sir” and “Dame”
But they survive and even thrive in our popular lexicon. While hardly a national institution of record, Good Morning America continues this presentation, suggesting that there’s a certain appetite amongst heavy day-time viewers for this sort of nonsense. The trend persists in pop culture widely, often heard on late night during an introduction; of course, James Corden is a British subject and doesn’t know any better, but should NPR outlets corrupt their coverage with such usage?
Well, this sad little habit would not matter at all if it didn’t have a serious residue: the structural evil of monarchy is caricatured. The corollary of this cartooning is that the rightful motives of the Founders and the plain meaning of their documents are ignored. That is to say: it is not normal for Americans to regard any hat-tip to nobility with outrage; it should be, but it is not. Indeed, what flies in the face of We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal more effectively than to recognize separate ranks of personages such as some crown in some foreign island has ordained?
The correct responses to “Sir Elton John” are a shudder and a pity than any American would casually promote a visiting pianist above Washington and Lincoln; the easy embrace of such honorifics (the excusing of them as mere social token) diminishes and disrespects plain history: (George III) has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. How should we regard the regalia and heraldry, the petty insignia of the very same throne that visited those horrors upon us? The Founders, with clear minds and fresh recollection, easily agreed: No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States (Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8).
But isn’t a hereditary title quite different from an award for achievement? It is a matter of degree, but the social consequences are the same: a deference to some deemed as our betters. At a minimum, the crown inherited the right to decide who the achievers are, so the very investment should be moot. Can we agree that recognizing knighthood is preposterous: ranking Patrick Stewart above Medal of Honor winners?
These latter have come closest to ideals of service and sacrifice and loyalty, and yet we do not refer to “Sir Audie Murphy.” What exactly is the lesson of recognizing the foreign knighting of a Star Trek actor other than to agree that distant crowns are the ultimate arbiters of rank and worth.
The proper American posture on royalty is disgust: we abhor the wide track of horrors paved by familial entities, inheriting unchecked power, compelling their subjects to prosecute every sort of crime against not only foreign peoples but their very own neighbors. We should regard the holdings, the works of art, the lands, and the castles of aristocrats as ill-gotten, as symbols of the least legitimate of institutions.
Royal weddings should be ignored by Americans; notions of nobility should be stripped from the Disneyfied culture; the tiniest acknowledgement of noble structures and rituals must be purged from any accepting (much less adoring) acknowledgements. Borrowing from Edward Stanton’s dismissal of Lincoln’s assassins from the discourse: We wish to hear their titles no more.