Lions and Leopards and Nazis, Oh My!

Since the media outside this country is far more likely to accurately report on what’s going on in it than our own news media, I frequently turn to foreign newspapers to stay informed. While studying abroad in England during college, I was amazed to find out that England has a broadsheet that willingly identifies itself as left wing. It’s called the The Guardian. Not only that, but this paper produces a Sunday-sized paper on Saturday, and then has some kind of sister paper, called The Observer, that is responsible solely for the Sunday paper. This means that both days of the weekend are essentially Sunday. If you love enormous newspapers full of frivolous articles on things like art and culture enough to plow through them twice in one weekend (and I do), the Guardian and the Observer are a dream come true.

Returning to America meant returning to my first newspaper love, the incomparable New York Times, which I still love despite the fact that it has told me many atrocious lies in the course of amusing, infuriating and entrancing me. It seems that’s always the way when it comes to love. I used to think that love was truth and truth was a white light in your veins that emanated from your heart, but I was probably just high at the time. When we consider “What is love?” as it relates to loving The New York Times, loving it from the scrolling font of its banner to the sentence-fragment witticisms of the movie descriptions in its primly-titled “Television” section, loving it despite its propensity to under-report the number of people who attend demonstrations, despite its guiltily guilty-liberal pomposity, despite the snobbery of its advertisements and its thinly veiled insinuations that the paper itself is only for rich people–when we consider “love” through this lens, love becomes more complicated than truthful white light.

It was not in The New York Times, but rather in my paper on the side, my old trans-Atlantic love, The Guardian, that I learned that Prince Harry was photographed at a costume party wearing a Nazi uniform. Uproar among British Jewish organizations is ensuing. The 60th anniversary of Aushwitz is this month, Harry’s not fit for his chosen career as a military officer, etc., etc. But that’s not the best part. The best part is that Prince William was apparently at the party as well, more appropriately clad in his “homemade lion and leopard outfit more in keeping with the party’s ‘native and colonial’ theme.”

Ah, yes. It would have been so much less offensive if Harry had just dressed up as a colonist. It’s the fact that he dressed as a member of a mass-murdering empire from this century that’s so offensive. Why go runing a tasteful “native and colonial” party with such an ugly reminder of such a recent attempt at raping, pillaging, colonizing and exterminating whole peoples and countries when you could instead dress up as someone who did that a long time ago? Or, you know, dress up as a “native?” Because while a royal in a Nazi uniform is a “disgrace,” as one official quoted in the article said, a royal dressed up as native–that’s not offensive at all.

Or maybe Harry could have dressed up as a plantation owner. Or one of those English colonists who beat up on Gandhi. Someone from the British East India company. An African colonist. A slave trader–they’re colonists, aren’t they? Harry, you idiot, you case in point of high-class inbreeding, don’t you get that we can’t have a little chuckle about atrocities until all the people who participated in and survived them are dead? You’re the spare heir to one of the largest colonizing empires in world history. Your ancestors, fleeing from the horrific weather of your home country, travelled the world seeking warm sunshine and people to enslave and steal from. All of this happened a very long time ago and therefore is not upsetting nor in poor taste.

But it is understood that we simply do not dress in outfits from defeated would-be empires of this century when invited to dress as “native and colonial” at a costume party. I think the British media should cut you some slack, Prince Harry. You were just following the theme. You should have done like your brother and dressed in a “lion and leopard cosutme,” whatever the fuck that is.

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