A modest proposal

Might I suggest a change in social policy towards how we mourn public figures?

Robin Doyscher, Managing Editor

It seems the British royal monarchs are no longer being stored at room temperature, nor in the life-preserving gelatin sustained by the corpses of London sewer rats, as both Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II have died as of 2021 and 2022 respectively. 

With Elizabeth II’s death there has been an outpour of grief from many across the world, especially in the United Kingdom. However, there has also been an outpour of a different kind of emotion, one that I’d describe as rapturous joy. 

From TikToks featuring well-dressed groups of lads dancing in front of Buckingham Palace to an entire stadium filled with Irish soccer fans chanting “Lizzy’s in a box,” it seems that the overall reaction to the Queen’s death has been somewhat split.

Of course, there is a backlash to most of the reactions that are not mournful statements of affirmation of the United Kingdom’s grief. Some suggest that it is disrespectful to celebrate the death of a public figure, especially one who was a working lady at 96 years old. 

Many non-politician Americans have also expressed such feelings, upset at a perceived lack of empathy among American citizens towards the U.K.

However, I’d like to add a different perspective — and yes, I do see the irony of an American saying they’d like to offer an alternative perspective. Especially given the existence of a mythological creature known as the Ouroboros, a large reptilian serpent eternally eating its own tail in a stunningly accurate display of how Americans view themselves in wider global discourse.

The effects of British colonization can be felt in almost every corner of the world. The legacy of colonialism is a driving force behind the sustaining of capitalism, patriarchy, cisheteronormativity and a bunch of other words that disaffected students of the humanities repeat to themselves over and over in the silence of their own rooms in order to feel something. 

It is felt in our schools, hospitals, city halls, building developers, even our dentists and eye doctors. There is a lingering sense of failed restorative justice that plagues our modern society. They have displaced so many in our conquest for a united world that the dominant cultural narrative became “well, why can’t they just be as good as us?” Completely ignoring how breaking someone’s fingers — an action most recommend whenever that one friend pulls out their guitar at a party and starts strumming a four chord song — isn’t really setting anyone up for a fair chess match.

In fact, the British have long been peddlers of aspects of various cultures under the guise of innovative iteration. Chicken tikka masala is one of the most popular and iconic dishes in Britain, and I think most of us know that it originated from India and was brought over through the cross-cultural mixing during colonization. Similarly, Britain has long adopted styles of fashion popular in Northern African countries as part of their high fashion culture. 

Look. Is it wrong to say an average old lady dying is kind of a good thing? Yes. 

Is it wrong to say an old lady whose family nearly enslaved the world and stole scores of cultural relics dying is a good thing? Well, that’s just more complicated. I can’t really fault those expressing elation and relief that a symbol of collective human suffering has disappeared from the planet.

Can we really blame those who have spent their whole lives fighting to be on an equal level with their oppressors for celebrating the death of their most prominent figurehead? Are we not just shaming those that Western imperialism has denied equity a right to feel a little differently than Larry from Liverpool? I personally think that public figures, as prominent as and with as much far reaching consequences as Queen Elizabeth II, deserve to be examined with scrutiny and critical analysis.

Yes, she was someone’s mother and sister and aunt and cousin and maybe two or three of those things at the same time, but do you know what other people had families? The near unimaginable scores of countrymen killed defending their own homes from British rule. The millions in the Global South who die each year of strict and harsh colonial policies that have left much of these nations in a perpetual economic slump. 

Sure, it’s rude and in poor taste to celebrate the death of someone’s mom, but if that person’s mom stole and wore your ancestral relics on her body nearly every day, maybe you’d feel somewhat differently.