It began with the uncontrollable – the terrible tornados that spun through the South and devastated so many towns, including the beautiful college town of Tuscaloosa, Ala. But then, as if seeking escape, all TV news channels switched en masse to one of the most controllable forms of human endeavor – the royal wedding.
We watched it, of course, even after hearing a fellow ethnic say, “Why should I join a celebration of a race that tried to exterminate our race for hundreds of years?” That refers to the disagreeable history of dear old Ireland under the polished British heel, from before the age of Cromwell to the time of Michael Collins, centuries of various degrees of distress. We prefer the estimate of some historian, perhaps Lord Chesterton, who summed up that relationship as something along the lines of “the most unkind thing that one gentle people ever did to another.”
In that light, as well as the recognition of the undeniable contributions that British culture and government have made to America, and many other lands, it is possible to enjoy a good show, and the recent wedding surely was. A handsome groom in a fancy red military tunic, a stunningly attractive bride from a background the common Englishman or common everyman could appreciate, and all the glory of architecture, music and liturgical pomp that only a long history could produce – it was pretty hard to resist, first live (for many that meant getting up at 4 a.m.) then in countless revisits throughout the day.
It was also hard to resist, in the context of the times, a certain worry that this spectacle made a glowing target for those who hold in contempt all that it represented in terms of privilege moderated by Western democratic ideals. One wondered how even the most stringent security could possible control all those people, pressing and cheering. One knew the church itself would be impossible for an evildoer to penetrate, and it would take true art for a terrorist to be disguised as one of the horses pulling the carriage.
Yet it was not hard to imagine a suicide attacker breaking out from the crowd that lined the routes of the grand procession, or, far from harming a royal, just blowing himself and all around him to pieces in celebration of the balcony kiss. Britain has been attacked in such deadly form before. The entire fairy tale day was marked by a back-room feeling that it was too good, too beautifully planned and executed, to go on without a flaw. Yet it did, and when night ended the memorable moment, a parting thought that somewhere in the world the prince of darkness was seething in envy of opportunity lost, of majestic towers beyond reach. In whatever cave he might be hiding.