Saturday, May 5, 2007

Citizens vs. Subjects

Kitty Kelley teases out a fascinating difference between the U.S. and the U.K.:

The evening began with a black-tie dinner. But before a spoon could be lifted, the host stood and solemnly raised his glass for the Loyal Toast: "The queen" [Elizabeth II]. Standing erect, everyone echoed him: "The queen." As an American who puts hand to heart for the Star-Spangled Banner or the Pledge of Allegiance, I was puzzled by a salute to the sovereign. "Why to the queen rather than the prime minister, who is elected by the people?" I asked. My Oxford host squirmed, then replied: "You are a citizen. We are subjects". . . .

As [Elizabeth] toured Jamestown on Thursday, there were about 300 cheering Americans—but no Loyal Toast. And if some bowed or curtsied as the queen passed by, you may be sure that such obsequies are only out of respect, not obligation. After all, democracy in the United States means never having to say "your majesty."