While Down on the Farm
Last Friday, my essay was about the lack of transparency in my family while I grew up. I asserted that my parents weren’t transparent with me, and I didn’t learn to be that way until I was an adult. That was the truth and the backstory for this article.
Queen Elizabeth II died on September 8th. As the American TV networks rushed off to England to cover her death and funeral, my mind had two thoughts swirling around in my head. On one level, the queen’s death was a time of mourning for her family and the British people.
Nevertheless, amid genuine grief, there was a litany of talking heads pontificating about Queen Elizabeth doing her royal duty. I’m not really sure what doing her duty entailed. I watched every monarchist in Britain expound upon how Queen Elizabeth tirelessly worked at doing those tasks. It was then that I recalled one moment when I was transparent with my parents.
My parents came from two different religious and ethnic backgrounds. My father’s side of the family was Presbyterian and Scottish, and my mother’s background was Quaker and English. My maternal grandmother was a Quaker. When I was a young child, my parents would take my grandmother and me to visit her family, who lived in Oxford, PA. My grandmother’s half-sisters, Laura and Ethel, owned a dairy farm, which had been in the family for several generations.
Some of my earliest memories were when we went down to the farm. The farm was heaven for me, even as a toddler. I got to play with Green Eyes.
My cousins were devout Quakers, which meant attending friends meeting in Oxford every Sunday morning. The friends meeting is the term Quakers use for going to church. That experience seemed rather dull. We just sat there and sang a couple of songs but mostly listened to various members stand up in the congregation and speak their minds about their beliefs.
Attending friends meetings took time away from enjoying being down on the farm. My two cousins had a tenant farmer named George, who worked the farm for them. George had two sons, Grover and Brady. Grover was the youngest and was in his late teens. He was particularly interested in helping a city kid understand a dairy farm. I learned to milk cows, which included carrying the fresh milk to the milk house, which was the front of the barn. Grover showed me how to filter the milk before it went into the cooler. We loaded the large milk cans onto the back of the pickup truck and took them to the creamery.
I was lucky to have understood firsthand what being a dairy farmer was. After milking them, I’d help let the cows out of the barn and run down to the old wooden gate at the end of the path to the pasture. I’d pull the boards back, allowing the cows to go into the field and graze for the day. At the end of the day, I’d open the wooden gate so the cows could return to be milked.
Being down on the farm was paradise for a kid that wasn’t even ten years old. I’d go with Grover when he was bailing hay.
Laura and Ethel prepared dinner, which he ate at midday. During dinner, the adults would talk about things while I enjoyed the food prepared by my cousins. I still remember the plates and silverware, the long oblong dining table, and the pictures on the wall. That setting was etched into my little mind. Nothing changed from one summer to another until just after Queen Elizabeth II became the queen. That summer, Laura and Ethel had new glassware.
One of the adults mentioned the new glasses, which contained iced tea. My cousins had just received them from London. They were special glasses with royal family’s coat-of-arms on one side and a picture of her wearing a crown on the other.
There I was with three adult sisters in their late sixties, my parents in their early thirties, and I had just turned ten. For some reason, I thought I needed to express my feelings about the new queen. I don’t recall what I said, but my father took me aside after dinner and reminded me that Laura and Ethel were Quakers, which I knew. Additionally, they were descendants of Quakers from England dating back several generations. It was his polite reprimand for my anti-monarchy comment.
That encounter with my father was before I knew much other than I was not particularly into royalty. In the ensuing seven decades, I have learned a great deal about the Society of Friends, which was the official name for Quakers. They were a Protestant denomination that started in England in the 1640s.
However, at the time, England wasn’t into Quakers and persecuted them for their unorthodox beliefs, like individuals trying to discover their inner light. They also were pacifists and weren’t into fighting, including any wars. They were also totally against slavery and were one of the earliest abolitionist groups in America.
Many Quakers sailed to the New England colonies to find religious freedom. Initially, they settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, founded by Puritans. Puritans came to America for religious freedom but didn’t like other Christian faiths that weren’t like them. They punished Quakers at a whipping post. The Puritans actually hanged several Quakers for their beliefs. The executed Quakers were called the Boston martyrs.
As a result of torture and hangings, the Quakers left the Massachusetts Bay Colony and established the Rhode Island colony, which tolerated religious freedoms.
In 1682, another Quaker, William Penn, set up Pennsylvania under the Charter of Privileges around 1701. The charter became the model for the Bill of Rights later that century as America declared independence from England. If I didn’t understand my disdain for the English during my early childhood, I acquired a valid disfavor for them in my adulthood.
Queen Elizabeth and all previous British monarchs never paid taxes until 1992. As a result, they enriched their coffers. The queen’s net worth at her death was estimated at $500 million, according to Forbes. However, the Crown Estate was estimated by Forbes to be $19.5 billion, which “includes official royal palaces and the royal collection of art and other assets, including the official crown jewels.” To assist the royal family, BBC News reported that the government pays them around £86 million annually, which is precisely $99,888,960.64.
The British royalty viewed themselves as almost divine. The kings and queens of England, when expressing their opinions on some matter, would say, “We….” referencing themselves and God. That habit of hubris is called the Royal We. The British royalty has a holier-than-thou mindset.
Additionally, British royalty is a Disney-esque fairyland where the royals live and enjoy their money and privileged class. In America, we see racism as a skin-color issue. The royal family has that type of racism embedded in their DNA. Ask Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Oprah Winfrey interviewed them about how Meghan felt discriminated against due to her mother being black.
However, racism is not limited to color. The Royal We is racist. Royals are better, as in nearly divine, when compared to commoners. Merely by birth, the royals were better. That royal racism raises an either/or question. Royals are in league with a divine racist, or the royals are just like everyone else. It is another either/or issue.
Imagine that many people in Britain buy into the notion that some people are merely better than others. The tragedy of both forms of British racism is that we inherited that same stupidity from our founding fathers.