American elections: like a sixteen-year-old girl, we are ever questing for our new hero. He must be someone who will treat us like an equal while protecting us from all the things we can’t handle about adult life. He must do this with the understanding that we get to dump him in a few years. Sooner, if he’s really, really abusive.
We search the profiles of our prospective political lovers; are thrilled and despondant by turns. They take us on dates to rallies that rival the excitement of a rock concert. They take us to expensive dinners – which we have to pay for, naturally – and promise us the world. We believe them again and again. We fall in youthful love, quarrel, and break up with our favorite candidate. We hear rumors about them which we believe one moment and disbelieve the next. Eventually we decide to go to the dance with whomever asks most nicely. And then the seething process comes to an abrupt halt – because the constitution says it shall – and we wake up the next morning with an election-year hangover, wondering what “we” did the night before.
Furtive rumors seep through the veil between us and the rich, and we start to suspect that what made our candidate so hot actually had something to do with sucking up to unelected powers. He made all those promises, but does he really love me? We wonder.
Some, it turns out, do really love us. We remember them with painful passion, treasure their keepsakes and letters. But we always say goodbye and watch them go away, to belong to someone else. They were good for us, but it was never going to last.
What’s really odd is the contradiction in our humors concerning this process. On the one hand, we feel it’s all about the moment – the process – the change – getting there. On the other hand we whine and complain constantly about not being “proud of my country” – tacitly discomfited by the fact that we define ourselves as a nation newly with every new President or Congress. We claim that we are grown up and can handle our own life, but we hate the way it is turning out. Not our fault, we cry. We never realize that what we really want is a King.
Yes, a King. I know, most Americans labor under the odd conviction that a king is a tyrant is a king. But deep down, a King is what all human beings want. We want the husband who is always going to be there, not the boyfriend we will dump in a few months for someone just as inadequate. We want someone to play the role of Head who is there because he is destined to be there by the relation of his birth and ours, not because he was hot this semester and “we” decided he was our new steady.
Yes, a King would take our – well, taxes – just like any other leader. What he would give in return, however, sets him apart. Almost any wife understands the difference. It’s the difference between a home and a shack – however palatial the shack may be. It’s the opportunity to bear true faith and allegiance to a Person, not just a text. It’s the different kind of self-knowledge that comes from attaching yourself to a husband whose character makes its powerful impression upon your own. It’s learning to get along with someone who is presumably there for the long haul – not just until next mating season. It’s knowing you belong to each other equally – but in different ways.
It’s getting to treat someone else like they are better than you. That’s a privilege that we as Americans miss more sorely than we yet realize. Maybe when we’re a little older we’ll wish we could trade in our ticket to the Everlasting Prom for the privelege of putting on our best clothes, bowing down our bare heads to a head that is crowned, and saying “Till Death Do Us Part.”
Too bad a king can’t be invented out of thin air, which leaves American expertise at a loss. I guess we’ll be going to the Prom forever.