Shameful Bowing Before the Crown

By Marc Fisher
Sunday, May 6, 2007

In Richmond's Capitol Square and along the streets of Colonial Williamsburg, Americans wearing Burger King crowns greeted the visiting British monarch. Women who had lined up hours in advance sported tiaras. Gracious hospitality, all in good fun.

But look closer:

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine gave state workers a day off to celebrate Queen Elizabeth's visit. Cost to the taxpayers: about $11 million, in a state where legislators this year rejected raising the minimum wage, which has not changed in a decade.

When the queen met with four Virginia Tech students who were injured in last month's horrific shootings, one of the students presented the visitor with a gift, a custom-designed silver bracelet featuring 32 orange and maroon stones, one for each person killed.

And get this: Inside the Virginia Capitol -- a building designed by the American revolutionary Thomas Jefferson -- the majority leader of the House of Delegates, Morgan Griffith, paused before ushering the queen into the House chamber and then bowed his head.

The hype and hoopla over the royal visit has driven too many of us to forget who we are.

"We are Elizabeth's subjects and she our monarch for a day," editorialized the Virginian-Pilot newspaper.

No. We are no one's subjects. We do not bow to kings and queens. When we forget this, we sully ourselves.

In our country, all men are created equal. "Exalting one man so greatly above the rest cannot be justified on the equal rights of nature," Thomas Paine wrote in "Common Sense," the 46-page tract that called on colonial Americans to revolt.

Our revolution was not against King George III so much as the concept of the monarch, the notion that power and status are inherited from one generation to the next. Paine called this idea "unwise, unjust, unnatural -- an insult and an imposition on posterity."

Every word of Paine's booklet applies as much today as it did in 1776, when he warned that people who believe they are born to be in charge of others "are early poisoned by importance. . . . The world they act in differs so materially from the world at large that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests."

Today, as we enter the eighth consecutive presidential campaign involving a Clinton or a Bush on the ticket -- a span of 28 years -- it is sad to see Americans bowing and curtsying to a monarch, a descendant of the very king against whom we fought a revolution.

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