A little class

Posted: Dec 26, 2004 12:00 AM

Apparently, my county doesn't have much class. In fact, we in Prince William County, Virginia, have so little class that we're actually having to import some. From overseas.

You see, we're feverishly preparing for the county's 275th anniversary. My goodness, it arrives in 2006! It's practically here.

Admittedly, a few short days ago I didn't even know that 275 was one of those magic, mandatory celebration numbers. Come to find out, it has its own word ? a really long, Spelling Bee quasi-stumper ? something like "semisesquicentennial."

Of course, to me, the whole "event" smacks of yet another excuse to spend tax dollars ? a fallback, just in case we don't extract quite enough civic pride from recently witnessing our elected officials slap down 56 million tax-dollars to build the county's new performing arts center, modeled after Milan's La Scala opera house.

No need to go to Milan now. Can't afford to ? but that's a (mostly) separate issue.

The issue at hand is a much more serious affront to our Republic. My county's officialdom has decided to extend an invitation to Britain's Prince William, the 22-year-old "royal heartthrob," to peruse our humble county in 2006 so that "his Majesty" the Prince can bestow his royal stature on our august anniversary.

You know Prince William. He's the son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, both of tabloid fame. We grew up with him. We place his picture on our mantles next to our own kids'. We read the National Enquirer.

In The Washington Post, Nikita Stewart writes, "A royal appearance would be, by far, the highlight of the yearlong celebration. . . ." By far? And I know it's Christmas time, but as a taxpayer, really . . . a "yearlong celebration" does sound a bit pricey.

Liz Barhns, a spokesperson for the county, is excited about a possible visit by the young prince. She says, "He could bring a little class. . . ."

And her comment got me thinking . . . just what's so classy about the British Royal family?

Is it that, for centuries, they've found a way to live in luxury off the hard work of others? At least for today's more-hip Prince William, whose royalness is only an unfortunate accident of birth, his job calls mostly for photo-ops. He hasn't been obliged to oppress folks, run an empire, or kill any of his enemies.

But for goodness' sake, he's shilling for the monarchy!

On the other hand, it can always get worse. The county is actually named after William's seventh great uncle, Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. That William is best remembered for ordering his men to execute the surviving Jacobites after the Battle of Culloden in 1747. That earned William, the Duke of Cumberland, the majestic nickname: "The Butcher."

Is it really so quaint that the world used to be controlled by bloodlines, by monarchs with absolute power? Do we really need the deluded members of these same bloodlines running around shaking our hands and waving at us?

It just reminds me what a great thing it has been for America that we threw these royals out of our country a long time ago. And I think we did it for a really great reason: freedom.

Or, was it just because we were too "low class" to appreciate King George?

Maybe I'm a stick-in-the-mud; such royalty is mostly a tourist trap these days. But as big a fan of commerce as I am, I just don't like this trap.

Look, I don't have a long list of demands or anything. We don't have to change the name of the county. Or beg forgiveness for being of the same ethic background as other folks, who may or may not be our ancestors.

All I ask is that we not embrace the evils of power and privilege ? America's traditional political enemies, and the focus of my Common Sense e-letter ? from our past and celebrate them. Or use them to celebrate ourselves.

Even if the f? comes with a "royal heartthrob."

But perhaps ? just perhaps ? I've got it all wrong. Maybe the idea is for the Prince to visit and take part in an elaborate ceremony. He steps up to the dais. The applause calms down. He begins to speak. And before you can say "semisesquicentennial," we throw him out on his classic Windsor ear. Gently, of course. All in good fun. We're friends now, after all.

Now that would make for a fine celebration of our history.

And it would prove the Prince a great sport. It would be a sign of real class.

Let's just hope it won't cost too much.