The Power Everlasting
“Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father.”
— G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
Queen Elizabeth II of England flew to her eternal reward on the Feast of the Nativity of Mary, anno Domini 2022, after 96 years of earthly life, 70 of which were spent on the throne of England, leaving behind, as the commentator Russell Brand pithily phrased it, “many questions”. In her wake, her son becomes King Charles III, first to take that name since his predecessor King Charles II, who restored the British monarchy in 1660 after the tired theme of psychopathic Puritans attempting to immanentize the eschaton came to its expected conclusion.
Screeds have been written in the wake of the Queen’s passing, with the Anglophone media unconsciously navel-gazing about its own political existential crisis in the light of the British monarchy. Is monarchy meaningful “in 2022”? Why should the taxpayer fund a rather quaint and semi-inbred family and their very energy inefficient housing? Isn’t all this pomp and nonsense some relic of the past? Worst of all, isn’t a monarchy an exemplar of the contemporary age’s most cardinal sin: anti-democratic?
But monarchy is a much older instinct than modernists would have us to believe: after all, apes, important relatives of ours for a look into the human past, are seldom observed voting. Nor are we Americans as immune to the effects of monarchy as we would like to believe: even President Biden invokes monarchial aspects to his role through the use of emergency orders, which bypass the more ostensibly democratic legislative process. Before we discard monarchy to the dustbin of history, as our modernist impulses demand we do with anything dating roughly 18 months back from our present, let us examine monarchy and its meaning.
King as Sacrifice Delayed
René Girard writes in Violence and the Sacred:
“But what about the king? Is he not at the very heart of the community? Undoubtedly—but it is precisely his position at the center that serves to isolate him from his fellow men, to render him casteless. He escapes from society, so to speak, via the roof, just as the pharmakos escapes through the cellar. The king has a sort of foil, however, in the person of his fool. The fool shares his master’s status as an outsider—an isolation whose literal truth is often of greater significance than the easily reversible symbolic values often attributed to it. From every point of view the fool is eminently “sacrificable,” and the king can use him to vent his own anger. But it sometimes happens that the king himself is sacrificed, and that (among certain African societies) in a thoroughly regulated and highly ritualistic manner.”
The king is the scapegoat held captive in time by his ability to use the attraction that he holds as the potential unifier of the community as leverage to gain power, by which he can hopefully lengthen the number of his days. So the king is nothing more than a scapegoat suspended across time. The hymn “Crown Him with Many Crowns” lauds upon Christ the title “the Potentate of Time,” and this is true in more ways than one. Christ is a special case, of course, but He only represents at the broadest scale the ability of kings to inhabit the space where they are both dead (as they soon will be scapegoated) but also alive (as they have forestalled their own death by seizing power). As Girard covers in Violence and the Sacred, kings date back to many “primitive” African societies, who were only later colonized by Westerners into newer, more egalitarian rituals like voting and democratic systems, but even today’s Africa counts many king-like strongmen among her leaders, even amongst the pageantry and the illusion of voting.
Africa Report inquires:
“On the one hand, surveys show us that a strong majority of citizens want to live in a democracy with multiparty elections and civil liberties in almost every African country.
On the other, President Kagame clearly has considerable domestic support to remain in office, while the recent coup in Mali deposed an elected president but was nonetheless celebrated in the streets.
What explains this discrepancy?”
Non, Je Ne Regrette Rein?
We'll leave each other cold as ice
And high and dry, the desert wind
Is blowin', is blowin'
Remember what you said to me?
We were drunk in love in Tennessee
And I hold it, we both know it
Mmm, that nothing, nothing, nothing gonna save us now
Nothing, nothing, nothing gonna save us now
— Mark Ronson, “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart” (YT)
I almost spit out my pumpkin spice latte when the Algorithm revealed this to me this on my YouTube feed:
Fox News Channel represents the patriot’s patriot: the red-blooded Republicans who shamelessly celebrate the Fourth of July all decked out in the red-white-and-blue, heard loudly singing the Star-Spangled Banner at every baseball game, one hand over the heart and one on the Coors Light. This audience reveres the American founding, the secession of the colonies from Great Britain in a rebellion against the throne of King George III. The Founding Fathers of America were bold in the vision of “self-governance” (although it remains unclear what exactly this means) and something called “representative democracy”. Kings were not only not a distinguishing feature from this vision, they were explicitly excluded from it — at least, in name, which is when we all started lying instead.
When the Patriots’ Channel begins broadcasting clips with favorable lines like, “Monarchy is a rock of stability,” we must peer closer. This is not quite the “Join or Die” ethos of 1776. In a conversation with Ann Coulter and another very forgettable commentator, Piers Morgan commented to Ms. Coulter that Americans were enamored of the British monarchy because they had “buyers’ remorse for getting rid of George the Third — you wish you’d never got rid of him.”
Ms. Coulter replied with a reasserting of her commitment to a monarch-free United States, but how serious can this be? In the America of 2022, the “national divorce” between “red states” and “blue states” is now an open and acceptable topic of conversation. Americans have an increasing sense that there is little cultural cohesion between “Blue America” and “Red America”.
Dr. Peter Coleman opined in 2020 for Columbia Magazine:
“By some measures, Americans are more deeply divided, politically and culturally, than we have ever been before in our history. The situation has now reached a pathological state. You can see this in voting patterns in Congress, where Republicans and Democrats rarely cross the aisle to support one another’s bills, which means they’re getting almost nothing done. You can see it in the loss of decorum in the Senate and in the deterioration of civil discourse in general. And you can see it in the attitudes of ordinary Americans, who have grown more loyal to their own party and more contemptuous toward people on the other side. The Pew Research Center has good data on this. […] They find that the level of enmity, distrust, and hostility that Republicans and Democrats now feel toward each other is at a historic high. More alarmingly, researchers at Louisiana State University and the University of Maryland recently found that 18 percent of Democrats and 13 percent of Republicans would condone violence if their party loses the presidential election in November. This is dangerous territory we’re entering.”
Jonathan Pageau notes: “One of the things a king, royalty, can do is act as visible point above multiplicity, which is able to gather attention and make us recognize that we are one, that we are together, that we share an identity.”
Kings of the Earth Rail Against Monarchy
You're dying, for the hope is gone
From here we go nowhere again
Oh, I'm trapped in my face and I'm changing too much
I can't climb out the way I fell in
— Robert Smith, “Piggy in the Mirror” (YT)
Of course, what moderns have failed to understand is that monarchies exist anyway, even if they are not explicitly titled as such or directly tied to political systems or nation-state endeavors. The Algorithm also gifted me with a clip (caution: language) titled “Robert Smith ranting about the monarchy for 7 minutes straight”, which amused me greatly. Mr. Smith is a monarch. Anyone familiar with the history of The Cure knows how Mr. Smith has always tightly controlled the entire vision of the band and its music since the band’s inception; this is why the band’s 1984 album “The Top” sounds functionally no different than the rest of the The Cure’s discography despite Mr. Smith playing almost all the instruments on that album. Moreover, Mr. Smith, who has publicly voiced his interest in openness and inclusion, could not be expected at all to tolerate an instance of abuse toward a marginalized person at one of his concerts if he was aware of it. He would certainly use his authority as the star of the show to have an abusive person escorted out of his concert: which is exactly how a well-functioning monarch performs, exercising power on behalf of the common good and expelling those who would harm that good from their dominion.
Similarly, Mr. Brand, whose political views seem to be something like those of a Monty Python and the Holy Grail-esque anarcho-syndicalist collectivist, is also a monarch, with a following of over six million subscribers on YouTube and more than 11 million on Twitter. He has been an advocate of multiple working-class causes, most famously arguing with a reporter in 2014 as he befriended and advocated for a group of single mothers who illegally occupied a set of vacant homes in London.
Monarchies exist everywhere: in bands, in companies, in families, in non-profits. Anywhere where there is a form of human togetherness, monarchies may arise and often do unless there are external constraints imposed. Monarchies are attractive forms of human togetherness because they rely on mankind’s most fundamental instinct to scapegoat and kill, holding this death in abeyance with the awe of the would-be scapegoat. The project of the nation-state has, in many instances, linked itself to monarchy in order to prolong its own existence. One may point to the American secession as evidence that nation-states can successfully exist without titled monarchies, but the present-day borders of England have been preserved alongside a monarchy for more than a thousand years, and it seems unlikely that the United States will survive nearly as long.
The Mystical Body of Donald Trump
Only time will fully unpack the Donald J. Trump phenomenon, but we are able to first set a few reasonable parameters.
In his candidacy, Pres. Trump appealed to disaffected working-class rural voters in the Rust Belt swing states who felt economically and culturally left behind from the reach of the American Dream, personally visiting them far and wide in multiple far-flung, single-digit-stoplight rural towns that often lacked even a Starbucks. Such alliances are tales as old as time: plebs rustica often find support in an anti-patrician patrician candidate, as did Julius Caesar. Pres. Trump, who is so gauche as to drink Diet Coke out of wine glasses, behavior that would be quite frowned upon at French Laundry, is notably an anti-patrician patrician.
Unbeknownst even to himself (most likely), Pres. Trump tapped into this ancient, powerful pattern. He was a patrician, a member of the elite, someone with access to worldly riches and influence, someone who married not one but several beautiful women (admittedly not all at once), someone whose name was emblazoned across an airplane and a skyscraper in the middle of New York City, someone who has made himself manifest in the physical world. Then, in both running for president and becoming president, he gave voice to the concerns of the lower classes and reached out to them, visiting them where they were, donning an all-American and quite anti-patrician baseball cap. In giving them his voice and amplifying their own concerns — the decay of good-paying jobs, broken families, drug addiction, hopelessness — he shared his power with them. That is how a successful monarchy operates. The monarch aggregates the patterns of all, most importantly, the lower classes at the very bottom of the social and economic totem pole. The high inhabits the low and the low is permitted to inhabit the high, rather than being expelled from it. This dynamic is why Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2016-era comment calling Trump supporters a “basket of deplorables” was so poorly taken, because she was not offering them an alternative means by which they could participate in the exchange of power, but rather summarily expelling them from participation in society altogether.
But Pres. Trump has allowed for this participation in his body. Trump rallies, now taking on as their latest inspiration the mantle of the Great Awakening in the “ReAwaken America Tour”, are akin to an ecstatic religious experience, with anointed prophets swaying in communion with large crowds, their hands uplifted, praying over Pres. Trump and invoking the protection of the Lord against demons, the Kingdom of Darkness, and those most fearsome of all foes, the RINOs:
Sharing in this participation in the mystical body of Donald Trump, his supporters manifest his body on their own bodies. The mother-son couple below, neither likely to be college graduates or even enrollees, wear his face and symbolically share in his power to manifest in the realms far above their own:
From the onset of his presidency to the present day, Pres. Trump has been besieged by a host of legal challenges and scandals. What half the country views as reasonable prosecution of crimes committed by the former president, the other half views as more arrows to his martyred body, as if he were some St. Sebastian. The latter half partake in the joys and the sufferings of their chosen martyr, because, to them, he represents their body, and they his. A not-uncommon sight is the “Ride with Trump Car Decal”, which perfectly encapsulates this phenomenon:
The driver who pastes this (life-size) decal on their own vehicle invokes themselves as an agent of Pres. Trump, as driving the former president around. They are symbolically offering to Pres. Trump the use of their own property, their vehicle, even as they participate in their own life of going to Wednesday night Bible studies at Harvest Glory Baptist Church followed by nuggets and Sun-tea at Chick-fil-A. But Pres. Trump remains with them, in a sense, in all these ordinary activities far distant from any meaningful centers of power, even as they make themselves available as his agent. This is the participation in a mystical body, the giving up of service and property to someone who is higher status in exchange for understanding, reach, empathy, access, and protection.
But this point seems missed among the corridors of power. The Washington Post covered the ReAwaken America tour with the same keen understanding that buttoned-up, suit-and-tie-wearing reporters covered Bob Dylan in 1965:
“A growing number of Republicans are embracing the ideology of Christian nationalism, which advocates the fusion of American civic life with a particular kind of white, conservative Christianity, according to Samuel Perry, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Oklahoma and the co-author of the book ‘The Flag and the Cross: White Christian Nationalism and the Threat to American Democracy.’
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) sells T-shirts that proclaim ‘Proud Christian nationalist.’ Trump-endorsed Mastriano — who was seen at the Capitol on Jan. 6 although he says he left before the riot began — has made Christian nationalist ideology a centerpiece of his campaign, although he has rejected the term. At a recent campaign stop for Mastriano in Pittsburgh, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) urged the crowd to “put on the full armor of God” and “take a stand against the left’s schemes.’”
“Something is happening here and you don’t know what it is, Mr. Jones.” The only reason the Trump movement remotely associates itself with the term “Christian nationalism” is because outlets like the Post gave it that name and the Trump movement loves nothing more than to fully embrace labels they believe are intended to shame them. Rep. Greene never would have herself conjured a tweedy, eggheady phrase like “Christian nationalism”, much less understood it as being applicable to anything remotely in her ideological and performative vicinity, had the Post and the Times and MSNBC not told her and those like her so. The Trump and Trump-adjacent movement is not Christian nationalism by any stretch of the imagination: Pres. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are a very far cry from imperial Catholic nationalist monarchs ala King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. But by labeling the movement as “Christian nationalism”, and warning that this is bad, the press frees itself from needing to understand the quite peculiar and organic relationship between Pres. Trump and his devotees, which would require comprehending the appealing and instinctive construction of hierarchies and the very real need to incorporate the unwashed, downtrodden, ill-educated Rust Belters and Southerners into those structures of power, lest one be consumed by a body that will, at the very least, successfully feign such understanding and access.
The Crownless Again Shall be King
How are we to understand monarchy with the passing of the longest-serving modern monarch? Like this: reality does not care about our facts. Rationalist moderns are free to carry around notepads full of helpful facts like, “This is 2022 — we need to end monarchies,” as if the number of rotations of the Earth around the Sun has any meaningful relevance to political systems, but humans do naturally organize themselves into hierarchies and monarch-like figures always emerge from the democratic ether.
Moreover, rather than wandering around, mouths agape like five-year-olds at the number of odd wares (tinfoil hats! supplements! MyPillows!) at ReAwaken America, the Post would do better to ask itself: had there been a monarch, would there have been a Trump? The forgettable commentator in the Morgan-Coulter dialogue referenced above did, I must admit, make one memorable comment: “The Royal Family serves no real actual function.” Perhaps it does: perhaps it provides a means of organizing a nation-state that is outside an overtly political and democratic system and provides a scapegoat-in-abeyance around which a populace can commune, preventing people from needing to essentially eat each other alive in a desperate effort to inhabit bodies large and successful enough to prevent their own deaths by mimetic rivalry. That outcome, one may argue, is an actual function.
But we do live in a monarchy, even if it is a sort of quasi-post-political one, that is even now erupting into this world as our political systems erode and descend into non-functionality. We live, whether we choose to recognize it or not, within the Kingdom of Christ, Who allows us to both consume His Body and be consumed by It, possessing fully and completely for us and in us the power that is truly everlasting:
Before the hills in order stood,
or earth received its frame,
from everlasting you are God,
to endless years the same.
A thousand ages in your sight
are like an evening gone,
short as the watch that ends the night
before the rising sun.
— Isaac Watts, “O God Our Help in Ages Past” (YT)