Ross: Why my moment with Queen Elizabeth changed my view of American politics

Sep 9, 2022, 8:03 AM

The union jack is flown at half mast at Hillsborough castle, her place of residence when in Norther...

The union jack is flown at half mast at Hillsborough castle, her place of residence when in Northern Ireland on September 9, 2022 in Hillsborough, United Kingdom. (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

I found myself more affected by Queen Elizabeth’s death than I thought I would be.

I do have a superficial connection: she became queen the year I was born, and when you’ve heard the name Queen Elizabeth for 70 years, it takes on a permanence that’s hard to shake.

Plus – I got to see her in person. In 1977 my wife and I were in Newcastle-on-Tyne to spend a week living with a British couple as part of Jimmy Carter’s short-lived Friendship Force. That year also happened to be the Queen’s Silver Jubilee – the 25th anniversary of her reign. And she had come to Newcastle aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia. She appeared before a crowd of admirers.

We were part of that crowd. And to our delight, the Queen stepped out of the car:

“There was one unscheduled stall ordered by the Queen to enable her to accept a gift of flowers,” a newscast of the event details.

She walked right by us – and my wife recalls actually touching her gloved hand.

OK, so not quite a Forrest Gump moment.

But the other thing I remember about that day in Newcastle was that there were no protestors, barely a security detail, just a lot of people who wanted to wave and smile at their queen. I can only compare it to the kind of love Seattle felt when Marshawn Lynch tossed Skittles at the Superbowl parade.

As an American, of course, I should have nothing but scorn for the institution of the monarchy.

But there is something to be said for having a figure whose job it is to maintain a sense of dignity no matter how ugly the politics become.

The Queen never gave a public interview. She was there to be the Queen – dignified, and distant.

A chaperone at the political prom – who could talk to a prime minister in private – not give orders – but to calm things down. And to serve as a reminder that politicians come and go, but for a nation to endure, its people have to find a way to stick together.

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