The Queen’s legacy is not the same for everyone

September 13, 2022
Loughinisland massacre
The pub in Loughinisland where six people were massacred by the Ulster Volunteer Force in 1994. Photo: Dean Molyneux/Wikimedia Commons

I woke up on September 9 to some big news. Charlie Crocket, the rapidly rising United States country singer whose music has become a byword for authenticity and quality song-writing, had a new album being released that very day. I highly recommend it if you are into that sort of thing.

I realised something else had happened when I logged on to Twitter and saw a bunch of right-wing snowflakes losing their minds over some jokes that upset them. Honestly, you can’t say anything these days.

It’s not that the death of Queen Elizabeth II left me entirely cold. The prepared script written by professional speech writers and closely vetted by high-ranking officials that our new king managed to read out without breaking into joyous laughter and cries of “finally!” was the most moving thing I'd heard in years.

My response, though, was mostly disinterest. There are 7 billion people on this planet and a 96-year-old dying is about as surprising as the latest beer price rise. It’s what happens as time goes on.

I do, however, realise many others have a different response. I have no desire to tell anyone how to respond to anything, nor is it hard to understand. For most people in England and also Australia, the queen appeared in their lives as a largely neutral figure. Neither the good nor the bad were attributed to her influence and she seemed more like a character in a fairytale. Responses to her death mix nostalgia with the sense of a changing era.

The problem comes when this response is virulently pushed on the entire world when most of the world has good reason to hold a contrary view.

Of course, you expect the Daily Mail to lose their shit — they claimed a random cloud was the departed queen looking down on her former subjects. Expecting them to talk sense is like expecting one of the late queen’s corgis to recite a Shakespearean soliloquy.

Of course Pauline Hanson responded to Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi’s tweet that she would not mourn a symbol of racist colonialism by telling her fellow senator to go back where she came from.

And sure, Pakistan, where Faruqi comes from, is a case study in the real-life consequences of British colonialism. Having brutally plundered the subcontinent for centuries, Britain chose to partition its Indian colony when finally forced to leave, precipitating a horrific genocide and tensions between now-nuclear armed powers that continue to threaten human civilisation.

But no one expects Hanson to know or care about such historical footnotes. So far, so standard.

But I’ve never seen a Twitter mob with the ferocity of the one that came for Carnegie Mellon professor Uju Anya. The top trending term on Twitter was “vile” after the Nigerian-born professor caused outrage by tweeting: “If anyone expects me to express anything but disdain for the monarch who supervised a government that sponsored the genocide that massacred and displaced half my family and the consequences of which those alive today are still trying to overcome, you can keep wishing upon a star.”

There is a massive disconnect for many in Anglo societies, who seemingly can’t imagine that the fairytale queen they recognise might look different to those in the places from which the shining jewels in her crown and sceptre were stolen.

The defence is often that the queen can’t be personally held responsible. Yet so much of the coverage emphasises how “dutifully” she played her role as the head of a state that murdered and plundered without restraint. It can’t be both. Either she was a dedicated head of a state associated with horror on every continent on Earth or she wasn’t.

The outrage shows a disturbing lack of perspective. No words tweeted by Faruqi or Anya, however much you disagree, can be put on the same scale as genocides that wiped out countless human lives and whose consequences countless more humans have to live with today.

This massive disconnect was seen in the pearl-clutching and tut-tutting that followed Irish football fans singing “Lizzie’s in a box”. If you think this is tasteless, just wait until you hear about the massacre of Irish football fans watching their national team in a pub in 1994 by forces backed by the British state.

Bursting into a pub in County Down on the northern side of the Irish border imposed by Britain, Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) members opened fire with automatic weapons on those watching Ireland play a World Cup game. Six people were killed. Collusion between the UVF and British state forces in the attack was later proven.

Maybe a rude song is worse, I don’t know.

I certainly don’t want to stop those who wish to mourn the queen. Most aren’t doing so to celebrate such horrors, or even to support the monarchy as an institution, but for far more complex reasons. Mostly, I’m just glad to live in a country where they didn’t cancel the football on the weekend. Or where I don’t get murdered for watching it in a pub.

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