South Dakota Top Blogs

News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Sunday, September 18, 2022

That gorgeous history of feudalism consumes us again

The United States are destined either to surmount the gorgeous history of feudalism, or else prove the most tremendous failure of time.--Walt Whitman, Democratic Vistas

The death and funeral arrangements of Queen Elizabeth II has dominated America's attention and news for the past weeks.    The United States have serious problems to confront, such as the overt criminality of Donald Trump and his deflation of the nation, but people are too absorbed in the British monarchy, whose rejection was the founding of our nation, to give much concern to the state of America.   Americans are generally not very savvy about what defines their republic, and raise the question, as Ben Franklin did, of whether we can keep it.

Americans are enamored of royalty.  Pomp and luxury define for many status and success.  Some prefer a monarch to an elected president, despite the fact that the British monarch wields little political power.   British royalty is a matter of feudal nostalgia, not functioning government.  Where democracy has taken root, homages to royalty are reminders of a rejected past.

Some members of my mother's family claimed to have royal blood.  My oldest brother and some cousins did a genealogy of the family and found it wasn't true.  When we asked my grandmother, who with her sisters emigrated to America from Sweden, about it, she said no: royalty was what they came to America to get away from. 

But the fascination with royalty lingers on in many who think it distinguishes them from the rest of the American hoi polloi.  This fondness for a higher status reveals a misunderstanding and sometimes an outright rejection of the concept of equality as the basis for our government and culture.   Many people, if not most, believe in social ranking as an organizing principle.  They believe in class stratification as an inherent force in society.  They accept class division and intensify it. They really don't like democracy.

No one understood the attraction and destructive effect of feudalism better than Mark Twain.  He portrays it in all its forms in his written works.  Slavery, he shows, is the extension of the feudal mentality.  And so is the mind and manner of Donald Trump.  His regime as president was a return to feudalism.

The point to understand is that it is what many Americans want.

1 comment:

All Mammal said...

At the conclusion to the article, I couldn’t help drawing the back of my hand to my forehead and crying out, “No! Say it isn’t so!”
Drama aside, the truth sucks so bad. Thanks for telling it anyway.

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States