Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Final Appeal

It is now after midnight in the United Kingdom, with less than seven hours before polls open. For the second time in my life, the first time being the Australian referendum of 1999, a vote is being held about which I care deeply and passionately, and once again there is nothing I can do but hope and pray. I love the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland with all my heart. I love it more than any other country on earth, certainly much more than the one in which I inexplicably was born and perhaps indefensibly still live. I cannot believe that a majority of the people of Scotland, which I so loved visiting in 2007, really want to destroy the greatest narrative of national union and cooperation in the history of mankind. Together the English, Welsh, and Scottish made the small damp island of Great Britain a leader in the world with an impact far more profound than a country its size would be expected to have. But Britain, the nation that defeated Napoleon and Hitler, the nation that gave the world so much innovation and culture, cannot be Great without Scotland. And its majestic Monarchy is as Scottish as it is English. To lose the iconic Union Jack, the most beautiful and perfect flag ever designed, alone would break my heart, but its symbolism would be empty without the continued union of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland with the bonny land that St Andrew's Cross represents. Ultimately this is not about economics, as important as those questions are, though I certainly agree with those who predict that separation could have disastrous consequences. This is about love for what the idea of Great Britain and its unified civilisation has meant not only for its own people but for the entire world. Please, Scottish voters, keep that flame alive today. Please vote NO. God Save the Queen.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Meeting the Duchess of York

With Sarah, Duchess of York at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra AT&T Gala, Meyerson Symphony Center, September 13, 2014
Tuesday night my boss, Dallas Symphony Orchestra president Jonathan Martin (who took this photo) mischievously informed me that while he couldn't tell me why, it would be in my interest to arrive early at the Gala and find him in the lobby. I suspected royalty was involved but had no idea who and actually guessed it would be a member of the Dutch royal family, given our music director's nationality. But the guest of honour turned out to be none other than Her Grace the Duchess of York (a friend of gala chairs Jan Miller and Jeff Rich). Needless to say I was thrilled.

I didn't even have to ask for this picture; when I told her I was known in the orchestra for my love of Britain and the royal family, she said "oh then we must get a picture." The professional photographer took a couple shots first with her camera but I wanted one with my own so Jonathan obliged. Later on, backstage before the concert, the Duchess met other members of the symphony as well, saying to me "I already know you" (at that point I called her attention to my Union Flag lapel pin which I had not been wearing earlier). I was elated to have been the first member of the orchestra to meet her and am grateful to Jonathan for making it possible.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

More Unionist Than The Queen?

I yield to no one in my love for the United Kingdom, and have made it abundantly clear that I am hoping and praying with every fibre in my being for a NO vote on Thursday. That said, it is totally unacceptable that some Unionists (including a now-ex-Facebook-Friend) have taken to attacking HM the Queen for not having explicitly and publicly told her Scottish subjects how to vote. Either one accepts the British form of parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy or one doesn't. It is all very well to pine for the kind of monarchy in which the Sovereign wields real power, as I often do myself, but that is not the reality that we have at the moment. Whatever one thinks of Alex Salmond, and monarchists certainly have cause to dislike and distrust him, the fact is that in Scotland he is Her Majesty's duly elected First Minister, attempting to do what those who voted for him knew he would attempt to do, and as a constitutional monarch the Queen _cannot_ openly set herself against his government's central policy agenda. And what if a royal intervention backfired, having a negligible effect on changing minds on the Union but pushing some moderately pro-monarchy nationalists towards republicanism? It would be extremely short-sighted to put the Union before the Monarchy. Without disparaging the greatness of the Union one iota, the Crown predates it on both sides of the border by almost a thousand years and is ultimately even more important. God Save the Queen.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Countdown

Only two weeks until the fate of one of the greatest countries in history, where unlike the rest of the world relative political stability has been the norm for over three centuries, is decided. Outside of Scotland itself far too little heed has been paid to the ramifications as the world focuses on other matters. This is the most important vote anywhere since the 1999 Australian referendum, one of the few times voting has actually really mattered. Unfortunately there is little that supporters of the United Kingdom ineligible to vote or donate can do besides hope and pray. It will be a monumental tragedy if petty misguided "nationalism" based on historically illiterate lies and bullying is allowed to destroy the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. And if Unionists lose the battle for the Union, make no mistake: whatever Alex Salmond says, the battle for the Crown in Scotland will begin the next day.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Democracy

When monarchists, traditionalists, and reactionaries criticize "Democracy," we do not necessarily reject the very idea of elections or legislatures (though some might). Rather, we reject the modern idea that Democracy (a word disliked even by most of the American founders) is always the best form of government, and that "democratic" is necessarily good and "undemocratic" necessarily bad. We deny that democracy is the only source of political legitimacy. We deny that Democracy is an end in itself. The existence of some sort of elected legislature as a check on the power of the monarch or his chief minister may be a good thing in particular circumstances. Democratic structures make the most sense at the local level. But the genuine common good is not necessarily best served by universal suffrage, and an elected legislative chamber should in turn be checked by a hereditary component (e.g. the pre-1999 or better yet pre-1911 British House of Lords). Of course all this is sadly quite theoretical in the West today, but perhaps times will change.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Altar and Throne

It would be hard to deny that when Monarchical Government and Hierarchical Society were the Established Order of things in Europe (largely the case until 1917-18), the major Christian Churches (Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran) appeared, at least, to bless, affirm, and sanctify that order, teaching obedience to it as God's will. But institutional Christianity has proved more flexible than some of its more traditionalist adherents would like (or than its revolutionary enemies thought it could be), generally today appearing to endorse Democracy and Equality now that these very different values are dominant in Western society, a transformation that applies to many Christians who would consider themselves "orthodox" or "conservative" as much as it does to Christians who would consider themselves "progressive." There is a lot that has been and could be written about this, but the observation I'd like to make here is that Christians (and for now I'm really referring only to the sort who even bother to think about this sort of thing, and primarily liturgical Christians who believe in a hierarchical institutional Church) can perhaps be roughly divided into three basic groups according to how they react to this shift.

For traditionalists (and it should come as no surprise that I count myself among this group), the human element of the Church were right then but are largely wrong now: Monarchy and Hierarchy remain the proper order of things established and desired by God, against which the world has been in revolt for the past 225 years, a revolt the Church should not at all appear to endorse or accommodate. For conservatives, the Church was right then and is right now: prudence requires the Church to adapt to whatever circumstances she finds herself in; forms of government and social structure are not all that important and what matters politically is order and stability. For progressives, the Church was wrong then but is increasingly right now: the ancien regime Church's collaboration with Feudalism is a shameful embarrassment and only recently is the Church beginning to see the light of Equality which is what Jesus really wanted all along. (Technically, a fourth permutation--wrong then and wrong now--could exist, but that wouldn't make any sense: it's unlikely anyone believes that the Church should not have been monarchist in the past but should be monarchist today.)

Note that the above classification applies only to issues related to monarchy/hierarchy versus democracy/equality; it is quite possible that a Christian could hold "conservative" views on theological and sexual matters but fall in the "progressive" category when it comes to perspectives on the relationship of Altar and Throne. Conversely, a Christian could be sympathetic to monarchy and aristocracy past and present without being particularly traditionalist on some other issues. While there is plenty of room in today's Churches for both conservatives and progressives as I've described them, genuine traditionalists may sometimes feel deeply uncomfortable with the state and apparent messages of their Churches today, especially with regard to their most visible clerical leaders. But what is the alternative to perseverance? Politically conservative and politically progressive Christians need to know, at least, that the politically traditionalist Christian viewpoint still exists, and why.

On the subject of Altar and Throne, here is a fascinating 1945 documentary on Westminster Abbey, produced not without difficulty during the war. Viewers familiar with the Abbey today will notice that the exterior was much dirtier. But in general it's reassuringly familiar if you've been there, despite all the changes in Britain and the world since then. [I first visited in 2002 (the only time I had to pay admission), had the great honour of singing daily services with The Incarnation Choir for a week in both 2009 and 2011, and attended services in 2012 and 2013.] The seven decades that have passed since this was fiilmed are but a blip in the Abbey's 900+year history.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

More on the WW1 centennial

I would have liked to watch or listen to the service at Westminster Abbey yesterday, the leaflet for which is available online, but it was not available live outside the UK. The end of it was led by HRH the Duchess of Cornwall, extinguishing the last candle.



The boys of The Choir of Westminster Abbey must have been brought back from their summer holiday specially for this. One hundred years ago, a lot of boys only a few years older than they are, some of whom had surely been choristers too, went away and didn't come back.

I don't endorse every point, but Peter Hitchens's sobering article "The Foul Tornado" is worth reading.