Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Costume Nazi

England's Prince Harry is in hot water for having attended a costume party in Nazi dress. Now the Prince, his father, wants him and his brother to visit the death camp at Auschwitz: in Nazi-annexed Poland. What? As penance? To learn history?
Once upon a time the Beatles made a Sergeant Pepper album. The cover graphic was a bric-a-brak of symbols. Do you imagine that John, Paul, George, and Ringo had more than the vaguest idea what any of those symbols symbolized? How many Christians have a clue what their cross is all about? I think it would be a hoot to challenge a lottery-sampling of anthropology majors to interpret the Sergeant Pepper graphic: or the album itself.
Why can't a kid wear any costume he wants to a costume party? Of course he's not a kid, he's a prince: and that's key to the problem.
But first: What if Harry had gone dressed as "the" devil? Would Prince Charles or anyone else have cared? Hitler invaded Poland. Hitler occupied France. Hitler bombed the hell out of England. Hitler stole left and right. Hitler killed Jews, gypsies, fags, dissidents ... eighteen million worth -- not counting the war itself. But that's amateur: think of what the devil is supposed to do. What if Harry had gone dressed as God? Is there anything that's ever happened, good or bad, that God isn't supposed to have a big hand in? Hitler was an amateur. And he fell on his nose. What about the devil? What about God?
When I was half Prince Harry's age Ernie Kovacs did a "Ripley's Believe It Or Not" spoof for Mad. They showed a drawing of some voodoo "Death Mask." Anyone who sees the mask dies. The blurb ended "Too bad if you looked."
Any field, any wood, has deadly plants, animals: mushrooms, snakes. When the United States military finally leaves some country it typically leaves the country's woods salted with land mines. (Soldiery strikes me as the least likely manifestation of kleptocracy to learn to clean up after itself.) Yet there are more than six billion humans living on the planet. Any library has scads more symbols than the librarian knows about that are as toxic as any Nazi, devil, or god.
England boasts a country that's talked about "freedom" for centuries. When Americans talk about freedom they're likely to be repeating things some Englishman said before there was a United States. But England has a prince that can't even wear what he wants.
My last short story showed a king at great peril fleeing his own coronation. You don't have to be English to know that kings have never had any freedom. You're too important to be allowed to play in the mud. Contemplate the Queen if you want to see a human being warped into a boring statue.
Historian Michael Grant suggests that that's what made Nero and Caligula so crazy: they were totally helpless.

I've duplicated this piece in Knatz.com's Society section.

PS: Jay Leno just had a couple of good gags on the situation. He said that Prince Harry claimed that wearing the Nazi uniform wasn't his idea: he was just following orders. Then Leno added, His father was very upset: and Prince Charles wasn't very happy either.

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