Exploring Human Potential

Connect The Dots: Britain’s Coronation and Health Disparities in America.

Posted on | May 12, 2023 | 2 Comments

Mike Magee

And so the week of the long-awaited coronation of a new British Monarch has come to an end. Of course the debate over this practice will continue as long as the practice lasts. The question was posed in wide range of blaring headliners like, “Is the British Monarchy a Worthy Institution or Outdated Relic?” 

As Charles III assumed the throne, one analyst summed it up this way, “The British monarchy is UK society’s most exquisite display of romanticism – at once representing the grandness of the past and the promise of the future. However, it is both expensive to uphold and may be trapping the British in a past they no longer connect with (just ask Harry). Do you think the British monarchy should be preserved, or, in the absence of Queen Elizabeth, is it time for a change?”

Almost all agree, the Queen impressed with her longevity, consistency, and commitment to the role. This week’s reporting was laced with kind remembrances of her, like the story told by Royal Protection Officer, Richard Griffin, about the time he and the Queen were strolling the grounds of Balmoral Castle in Scotland, when they encountered two American hikers who did not recognize her. She stopped to greet them, which was her custom, and one of the hikers volunteered where he was from, and then inquired of the Queen where she lived. 

In Griffin’s words, “She said, ‘Well I live in London, but I’ve got a holiday home just on the other side of the hills. And he said, ‘How often have you been coming up here?’ She replied that she had walked these hills for over 80 years, from the time she was a little girl. The American replied, ‘Well, have you ever met the Queen?’ Without missing a beat, she replied, ‘Well I haven’t, but Dick here meets her regularly.’ Turning to Griffin, the tourist boldly asked, ‘Oh, you’ve met the Queen? What’s she like?’ Griffin’s response, ‘Oh, she can be very cantankerous at times, but she’s got a lovely sense of humor.’” The tourist then took out his camera, gave it to the Queen, threw his arm around Griffin, and asked the Queen to shoot a selfie of the two, and she happily obliged. Not to offend, he then asked the elderly lady for a picture with her as well, and Griffin took the shot, and left it to the tourist to later discover who she really was.

Of course, the centuries which preceded Queen Elizabeth’s arrival were not nearly as light-hearted, and at the core of the differences that drew their ancient relatives to war with each other was the very ground these two tread that day. It was the land and the landed gentry that anchored their dispute.

As legal historian, Lawrence Friedman, wrote this about Britain, “The lord of the manor was a little sovereign in his domain. Only people with land or land rights really mattered: the gentry, the nobles, the upper clergy. Land was the source of their wealth, and the source and seat of their power…The social system of the kingdom turned on the rights in land… Clearly American traditions were quite different. There was no landed gentry. The land was widely held. But in America too, land was the basic form of wealth…After 1787, the vast stock of public land was at once a problem and an opportunity…Once land was surveyed, the idea was to dispose of it…The land was a commodity, an asset. The land was not on the whole, to be treated as a capital asset of the government…the goal was to privatize it, as soon as humanly possible…(compared to England) It no longer carried its ‘premodern role as the foundation for social hierarchy and family position.’” Primogeniture, the British lines of inheritance of land, was dead.

Possession of land for white males gave access to voting rights in those early years in America. And over the next two centuries, women, native Americans and African Americans, were denied access to land and home ownership, laying the grounds for wide disparities  that persist to this day. As one recent study documented, “A study in Boston found that for 25- to 44-year-olds, the mortality rate was 9 times higher for men who are homeless and 10 times higher for women who are homeless compared to the general population of Massachusetts — and the mortality rate for 45- to 65-year-olds was 5 times higher for people who are homeless. The health effects of homelessness can begin early in life, as pregnant women who are homeless are more likely to deliver preterm and low birthweight babies.”

The problems with American health care didn’t come out of nowhere. But as with Queen Elizabeth’s accidental tourist above, the naivete’ of leaders who believe in the possibility of “American exceptionalism” in the absense of universal health services and an enlightened social safety net, is strikingly laughable.


2 Responses to “Connect The Dots: Britain’s Coronation and Health Disparities in America.”

  1. Lawrence Williams
    May 13th, 2023 @ 5:20 am

    Mike, I agree with your conclusion. But when we look at the millions of MAGA Trump supporters I think that one of the main differences between “us” and “them” is our definitions of “American exceptionalism”. And I make that a plural because I believe those definitions to be hugely different. When the words we use mean different things to different people it is very difficult to come to a consensus. For example, MAGA folks keep throwing around the word “woke” but I have never heard any two of them define the word the same way. I point of fact I have never heard a definition that I could understand.
    Thanks again for an interesting subject and perspective. As always I send my best to you and yours.

  2. Mike Magee
    May 13th, 2023 @ 10:38 am

    I agree, Larry. Seems to me that our original aspirations were exceptional. But turning those words into practice, when dealing with homo sapiens, has been elusive. Best, Mike

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