It’s going to run and run for years to come. Oh, dear.
It’s too easy to take sides, to either castigate the royal institution or to sneer at this youngish married couple, because disapproval is always easier than trying to understand the issues, and so our default positions becomes a part of who we are, part of our ‘rightness’.
Royalist or Meghanist, iconoclast or conservative, stout defender or indignant accuser. Which are you? Either?
It’s not surprising that many feel a pull of the heart towards either the dewey eyed love story, or the wounded father who doggedly keeps the door open to his son, or the woman subjected to thinly veiled racism, or maybe to the family that’s been betrayed and traduced, or the older brother who has been discarded. Others may feel less empathy for everyone involved but more judgmentalism – judging both sides for the lives they lead, the money earned from Netflix, the apparent coldness of the Royal machine, the events Meghan has ‘mis-remembered’, the misleading trailers, the spin so clumsily applied, the tears and artistic shots of grief…. going on and on and on. Whether we take sides or sniffily stand aside from the debate in our imagined superiority, it’s interesting to look at our attitudes and wonder about our inborn bias.
But, really, what has this personal tumult got to do with any of us? How is it relevant to the rest of the world, struggling to recover from a pandemic, to a continent ravaged by war, to inequal societies and to the many dictatorships worldwide? What relevance does it have when a large swathe of our communities rely on food banks, and can’t afford their heating bills, when the NHS is on its knees in this country and social care has imploded in the States, when Africa is starving, millions are without fresh water, and freedoms are denied everywhere?
Well, it’s relevant because we are part of the world and this story is all over every media outlet. It’s relevant because how we react to the side-taking reveals who we are. It’s relevant because of that familiar question, ‘What would Jesus do?’
Do we ignore it or do we try to engage and bring some sanity into play, maybe even a drop of love (!) and understanding? Today I’ve been surprised and humbled – I’ve just watched the first few minutes of the Harry and Meghan series on Netflix, and my response is entirely – and I do mean entirely – emotional. I don’t know the ins and outs of this family rift, and I don’t want to know them. Not for me to judge and I won’t be watching any more, because the first twenty minutes were all I needed to assess the sort of programme they’ve made. It’s an OK series as far as I could see, well produced, well lit, cleverly filmed, smoothly edited, narrating a coherent story. So far, just as expected. Just one side of the story, of course, unverified, and artfully presented by a huge team of marketing people and producers, all with their own agendas. What has surprised me is that after just twenty minutes or so, I now understand what has made Harry into the man he has become. Or more so than I did before. I begin to translate the bowed head now, the sidelong glance, the reticence, the loneliness. I start to grasp the unbearable tension of his childhood and adolescence, lived in the gaze of the world, observed by a hundred long lens cameras wherever he goes, whoever he is with, whatever he is doing. I get it. I have some small insight now, maybe deep in the bones of me, how this life long intrusion and awareness of the world looking on, has shaped this man, how it distorted his teenage years, and how it hurts him when he remembers those same pressures breaking into his mother’s life and into her death. And I begin to get a glimmer of understanding about his own damage and the damage he’s done to the people he loves over the last four years. I think I knew all this before, but now I have some deeper understanding of it. And that’s what happens when a story is told well.
Good story-telling draws us into other lives. Brings us closer to people we have never met and will never meet. It unifies and humanises even enemies. It allows us to feel compassion for the person who a moment ago was a strange alien.
There is a wonderful passage in Isaiah, one that I’ve banged on about before but here I go again – and yeah, yeah, yeah, you can get all po-faced and say that these words were directed to a peoples, and by extension to Christians, but whether you’re Christian or not, they’re great words. Great thoughts. Great promises. And they are so liberating, universal, they are a truth about new beginnings and new days, and walking away from old hurts….
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”
Isaiah 43: 18&19
If I had Harry and Meghan here, what would I say to them? Just that. Exactly that.
And then I’d ask them to look at these two photos, taken the same morning, the same beach, maybe 100 yards apart…. behind me the lowering threatening storm, and in front of me the new day full of light and promise.
Which way will you look, Harry? What will you walk towards, Meghan?
Come on, kids, you have so much. Forgive those who have done you wrong, just like you want to be forgiven. Just like I want to be forgiven, and have been.
Only, Jesus said it better. ‘Forgive us, as we forgive others.’ I knew a pastor who used to say ‘Jesus is brilliant – he says the words our hearts need to hear.’ and I think that today Meghan and William and Harry each need to hear the word ‘forgive’.
Forgiving and stepping out into a new day is the key to a happy and contented life. Forgive. Move on. Go and see your Dad, Harry. He ain’t perfect and neither are you.
Forgiveness is freedom.