Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The U.S. royal family

Many years ago, I read a thin, richly illustrated book called Motel of the Mysteries, about a future archaeologist who unearths the remains of a hotel room from our time. He thinks it is a burial site of the ancient Usa people. Among the artifacts he discovers there are a Sacred Seal (a "do not disturb" sign), a Portable Shrine (credit card), a Great Altar (television set), and a Sacred Urn (toilet).

I believe that when anthropologists of the future look back at our society, they might conclude we live in a monarchy. Sure, we think we've moved past Great Britain's antiquated system. We laugh at them for still having kings, queens, and princesses, even if the positions are only ceremonial. We don't put up with such nonsense as the divine right of kings, the royal family, right? In America, we like to say, anyone can become president.

Uh-huh. Some facts should sober us up. The majority of U.S. presidents have been related to other U.S. presidents, and a large number have been related to British royalty. (See here for the details.) If you think about it, we're presently nearing the end of the reign of King George II.

If Hilary gets elected this fall and goes on to serve two terms, our nation will have experienced nearly 30 consecutive years in which the president was either a Bush or a Clinton. (And then maybe Jeb, and George P. Bush, and later Chelsea and the Bush twins, can continue the cycle.... Scary, isn't it?)

Everyone knows that the U.S. presidents have mostly been White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. We haven't even had much in the way of European ethnicities. Imagine there being presidents of primarily Polish or Swedish or Belgian extraction. Even that seems off most people's radar.

I'm not saying we haven't had minorities. WASPs are a minority!

What is wrong with us? We're supposed to be this diverse, multicultural nation, and the presidency still operates like an old country club. (No wonder they all play golf!)

Now you're saying, "But wait, this year is different. Look who's been running: a woman, a black, a Latino, an Italian-American, and a Mormon!"

Yeah, sure. I'm reminded of the old quip about Barry Goldwater: "I always knew the first Jew on a U.S. presidential ticket would be an Episcopalian." If Obama gets the Democratic nomination, we can say, "I always knew the first black on a U.S. presidential ticket would be a cousin of Dick Cheney."

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