WASHINGTON -- It has suddenly occurred to me that I am in danger of becoming "Britishized." What is good and noble and lasting about being English surrounds me everywhere.
On one night, it is the BBC's "Victoria," the endearing series about the young English queen who came to power in 1837 and became one of the great monarchs in history. On another night, I marvel at the series on the present-day Queen Elizabeth in "The Crown."
These dramas shine for their enjoyment of beauty, a sense of history and sheer excellence.
In between, there is "Queen Elizabeth's Secret Agents" (I always thought her special spy, Francis Walsingham, was quite the cunning devil!), not to speak of the documentary "Elizabeth at 90" plus the many recent shows on MI5, London's domestic intelligence agency, and MI6, the secret foreign intelligence service.
And, of course, who is not waiting on edge for the magnificent marriage planned in May between young Prince Harry (note how we need only one name to describe all the royals) and his American true love, Meghan Markle (who, you know, is mixed blood -- isn't THAT exciting)?
The Brits even get immoderate amounts of attention for their defeats. The retreat at Dunkirk in 1940 has been the subject, by my count, of one huge movie and at least two TV specials, all of which leave us in pro-British tears.
So, I must ask: Why such a heap of attention right now in America on things royally and valiantly British?
I would argue that it's because the integrity of the political and social figures in our own public sphere has been lowered to an embarrassing degree. Think of Stormy Daniels, Paul Manafort and, most unfortunately, even our president as examples. Indeed, even as I write this, our president has fired his respectable secretary of state, Rex Tillerson -- in a tweet, the very symbol of our modern-day nonchalant stupidity.
The Brits have the Windsors; we have the Kardashians. They have Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and Balmoral; we have Trump New York, Trump Chicago and Trump Panama. They have the BBC and Shakespeare; we have reality TV and explicit sex shows on prime-time unregulated television, and public figures who say "F--- you" in public.
Is it surprising that Americans are searching desperately for figures and principles to remind us of something to strive toward?
We did have our own form of an independent "aristocracy" in the great early families of the nation -- in the Roosevelts, the Rockefellers, the Bushes and many others. The Eastern Establishment, they were called. Oh sure, they were far from perfect, but they upheld principles of rectitude and at least pretended to high standards of taste and tradition that set the ideal for all Americans.
If I were to venture a single moment in time when it all changed, that would be January 1993, when President George H.W. Bush, the last president of the Eastern Establishment and a veritable scion of well-mannered cultivation and intelligent foreign policy, surrendered the presidency to Bill Clinton and to the fulfillment of American meritocracy.
Oh yes, Clinton was bright as hell (nobody denies that), and he was Yale Law and a Rhodes Scholar, but his presidency was the first to exhibit the trend toward indecent culture that began during the youth protests against the Vietnam War.
Historically, Arianne Chernock, assistant professor of modern British history at Boston University, notes that "Anglophilia" is nothing new to America. "Part of this enduring obsession, surely, has to do with curiosity about the path not taken, the what-ifs and might-have-beens," she has written. "In 1776, Americans may have been fed up with royal politics, but most were anything but tired of royal pomp and circumstance."
But today our little obsessions with British queenliness have far less to do with pomp and circumstance than with the simple decency of the British monarchs and their understanding of the complexity of their role. Take good note of the superficially simple Queen Elizabeth II, now 91, and how carefully she walks between her limited political power, her marriage and family, and her quite extraordinary moral and inspirational power.
Every nation needs symbols of its values, its principles and what it holds dear. Great Britain and its Commonwealth are lucky pups, indeed, to have such a symbol.
The Original American -- the man or woman the world admired -- was a simple person, but a person of individual integrity, well-spoken, with dignity, seeking higher levels of experience and reality, versed in literature and the Bible and proud of our free culture.
One does see these virtues today in many Americans -- Warren Buffett, Bill and Melinda Gates, Joseph Biden, Mitt Romney and many others -- so perhaps that is where our hope lies.
And, yes, "Britishized" IS a word, at least according to the Urban Dictionary. So is "Americanized." Maybe now we need to be "re-Americanized." Let's get started.