To: The Usual Media
Re: Use of a Particular Cliche
1. I refer, of course, to the lazy habit of more than a few of you to refer to the Kennedy family, of Hyannisport, late of the White House, and Camelot, as “royalty”, without use of the appropriate viciously skeptical quote marks. Please cease doing this immediately, lest I snap my mental moorings entirely, track down the most current offender, and beat him/her bloody with a rolled-up copy of the Constitution. This is the US of A, for god’s sake. We do not have royalty.
2. We did, once, as an agreeable and moderately loyal colony of His Majesty, Geo. III, before becoming first rather testy and then quite unreasonable about the taxation and representation thingy, but we put paid to the whole notion of hereditary monarchy for ourselves some two centuries and change ago. There is a certain amount of respect and affection for certain of Geo. III’s descendants, including the current incumbent; a lady of certain age with the curious and old-fashioned habit of always wearing distinctive hats, and carrying a handbag with no discernible reason for doing so. (What does Queen E. II have in her handbag, anyway? Not her house-key to all the residences; not her car keys; not a checkbook and credit cards, not a pocket calendar or business card case, not a spare pair of stockings— I understand the lady-in-waiting takes care of that — handkerchief, maybe? In the case of her late mother, a flask of gin?) Oh, anyway, back to the subject: royalty, or why we, a free people, should feel any need to grovel before the descendants of particularly successful freebooters, mercenary businessmen, and social climbing whores of both sexes.
3. We do still have all of the above, BTW, but locally grown. Sort of like the Kennedys, come to think on it, but without coronets and courts. Considered in that sense, perhaps they could be construed “royalty”; descendants of an energetic and ambitious and wildly successful (and not too scrupulous) progenitor, given to hubris, excess, degradation and (with luck) an eventual downfall, usually a drama that takes place over centuries. But around here, unless the descendants are competent and careful, and wily, or failing that, in possession of an enormous trust fund that they can be kept from frittering away, without the aid of a political structure that enforces the power of an hereditary aristocracy and monarchy, our native versions tend to fade away after three or four generations, sort of like we hope Paris Hilton eventually will.
4. We do have, however, in many places and professions, certain old and established families. There are business and banking families, show business families, military families, even newspaper families. Over generations, they produce more of the same; entrepreneurs, bankers, actors, generals and newspaper magnates, some better known than others. There are also regional “old families”, those associated with certain towns or counties, prominent in a quiet local way, sometimes wealthy, most often not. Describing any such as “royalty” ought to be punished by something painful, as a grim offense against small “d” democratic ideals.
5. There have also been from the very beginning of this nation, political families: Adamses and Roosevelts, continuing to this present with Bushes, Gores and of course, the Kennedys, who were pungently described by humorist PJ O’Rourke some years ago as “sewer trout (who) managed to swim upstream into our body politic”. How they ever got to where they did is as mysterious as Joseph Kennedy, Senior’s business dealings. We can be sure of it involving brutal ambition, lots unsavory back-room dealing, and a lot of money, though. If the whole Kennedy saga were one of those operatic, generational telenovelas, what we have seen working out ever since is the result of an implacable curse old Joe earned on himself for wronging some old gypsy witch in the 1920ies.
6. I do not care for the Kennedys, the whole Camelot thing, the whole lot of manufactured glamour and I mean glamour in the old, fairy-tale way; an elaborate fraud practiced on the American people, with the aid of journalists and intellectuals who should have known better. Just about everything about JFK was a pretense and fraud, from the state of his health to the state of his marriage. He was a handsome showboat, with a court of paid lickspittles, whose political ascension was stage-managed by his father. The rest of the clan has been coasting on that bought reputation, and shreds of illusion ever since.
7. They are not royalty; they are only a rich, recklessly self-indulgent political family, with a predisposition to think that consequences are just something that happens to other, lesser people. Get up off your knees, and shake off that old Camelot spell. You’ll feel all the better for it.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.