Back when I was living in Washington, DC I used to be quite political. Working for a national museum, hosting visiting foreign dignitaries, attending embassy events with ambassadors and diplomats it was hard not to be. Though I suppose I was already political before that, raised by parents with totally differing political opinions. Before I ever formed by own world view or any kind of political awareness, I was keenly aware of politics being a frequent (and often emotionally-charged) topic of debate.
These days, I try to keep my head out of politics. I find it a complete bummer. Plus, I’m a guest in a foreign country and always cognizant of polarized international opinion about my country. When it comes to English politics, it’s really not my place to have an opinion. I can see firsthand the pros and cons, just like everyone else. Today was former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s funeral and it was blatantly obvious that she was a divisive figure in British history.
Here’s what I know about Margaret Thatcher: she was the first woman Prime Minister. Which indicates to me she was extremely ambitious, probably a bit stubborn, and exceptionally thick-skinned – a lot like me actually (except for the thick-skinned bit). I always saw her as Ronald Reagan’s droopy-eyed galpal during an era of austerity economics and neoliberal capitalism. I remember during the zenith of the MTV age her cameo in Genesis’ music video for ‘Land of Confusion’ – a sinister, grotesque puppet in a political nightmare.
When I moved to London, her speeches were played on a loop in the toilets at Maggie’s – an 80’s themed boutique nightclub in the heart of Chelsea; it was as if no one really listens to what she said, it was that voice, the way she said things. She’s on record as calling Nelson Mandela “a terrorist,” so she was obviously a bit impulsive… better make that unapologetically impulsive. But aren’t all politicians? And what’s any worse about her administration than the one Britain has now? Privatizations still continue under the current coalition government, and foreign policy remains very conservative and reactionary – so her legacy isn’t truly dead at all in terms of what is going on in Britain today.
Fortified by a strong cup of coffee, I nudged my way through the crowds at St. Paul’s to witness the state ceremony.
Media networks staked out their territory in the churchyard.
On guard for the Queen’s arrival.
The Queen and Prince Phillip arriving.
Queen Elizabeth ascending the stairs into St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Baroness Thatcher’s horse-drawn casket arriving.
The band leading the procession was playing the most sombre marching tune. I caught my breath a couple of times.
At exactly 11:00 the church bells began to clang solemnly as the coffin was carried up the cathedral steps.
The atmosphere was so silent you could hear the wind moving, there was a palpable tension in the air.
Inside, foreign leaders, royalty, and those close to Baroness Thatcher would witness the funeral ceremony. It was sure to be memorable as the procession and arrival had all the hallmarks of practiced and perfected pomp & circumstance – what the Brits do best.