Message of love from a royal wedding that defied convention
Royal weddings are known for pomp and spectacle; they are not known for being profound events with a far-reaching global message of love and redemption. Prince Harry’s marriage to Meghan Markle broke all the rules by being an earth-shattering occasion — for all the right reasons.
To describe this marriage as remarkable — as many newspapers have done — simply because Meghan is a black, American divorcee marrying into British royalty unjustly serves this determined, assertive lady who transcends lazy racial labeling. Indeed, Meghan opened the event with a bold feminist statement, confidently walking unaccompanied down the aisle in a beautiful but unostentatious gown, embossed with symbols of far-flung Commonwealth nations.
Let’s consider the context for a moment: Britain and the Western world have never felt so polarized and divided. In the age of Trump, Brexit and the populist right, racist attacks are on the rise, accompanied by the ascendance of inward-looking nationalist narratives that occasionally teeter into white supremacism. This has been an uncomfortable period for people of diverse backgrounds. In a world that once appeared increasingly tolerant and open, the margins of what was considered truly British, American or European have narrowed.
Royal weddings are often awe inspiring, but they often inspire awe by leaving others feeling diminished: We aren’t quite rich enough, beautiful enough or white enough to be part of such magnificence. Meghan may be exactly the role model the British royal family needs to shake off its customary reticence and become a more inclusive institution. This successful actress, who at 11 was already writing to Hillary Clinton about the media’s portrayal of women, will undoubtedly relish the opportunity offered by her public persona to speak out for what she believes in.
This wedding was, among other things, a celebration of black culture: Among the African-American cultural royalty in attendance were icons such as Oprah Winfrey, Serena Williams and Idris Elba. This wasn’t a smattering of faces of color as token ornamentation; black and African themes enriched and defined the event. For example, the gospel choir singing “Stand by Me” with its civil rights associations, and the awesomely gifted black teenage cellist leading the musical interlude.
The moment that will surely linger in memories was the charismatic black American preacher Michael Curry, who zestfully commanded his stunned audience to “imagine governments and nations where love is the way,” while referencing Martin Luther King and slavery: “When love is the way, no child will go to bed hungry… poverty will become history!” Twitter erupted with images of dumbfounded audience members, uncomfortably unaccustomed to such heartfelt displays of passion.
We live in a world drowning in fear and mistrust: We fear those who are different because we fear they may compromise our way of life, and thus our fear festers into hatred
Weddings make us smile and cry, but they rarely make us think. This event was far more than just a fairytale love story. This was the unifying and inclusive wedding our divided and polarized times most needed. We live in a world drowning in fear and mistrust: We fear those who are different because we fear they may compromise our way of life, and thus our fear festers into hatred. The most powerful man in the world sits in the White House unashamedly denouncing those fleeing the horrors of war and poverty as “animals,” “rapists” and far far worse.
Parts of the media vigorously demonize those who need our assistance the most — for example, bombarding their readers with fearmongering campaigns against foreign aid: Yet even if we have insufficient humanity to feel moral obligation toward the world’s poorest, shouldn’t we at least be pragmatically conscious of the globally destabilizing consequences of turning our backs on fragmenting states and desperate populations?
Offensive stereotypes reduce entire peoples to gross generalizations, dehumanizing them and blocking our God-given natural capacities to feel empathy and compassion. Genocide is a crime committed twice over because, along with the physical extermination of innocent Rohingya and Syrians, the victims are inevitably dehumanized as extremists, criminals, illegal immigrants and security threats — allowing the world to ignore their plight.
One wedding can’t change the world, yet Harry and Meghan’s celebration presented us with an opposing world view to this prevailing climate of fear, intolerance and hatred. The preacher concluded his sermon by saying: “We must discover love — the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world, a new world.” He was talking not only about love in its sentimental sense; he also meant a practical love, reaching across divides of race, religion, gender and class. This is the love of offering “sanctuary” to refugees, the bereaved and the impoverished. This is love for those who don’t resemble us or share our beliefs.
Across the Middle East we see few “governments and nations where love is the way.” Just imagine if Israel’s leaders reached out to the Palestinians with compassion instead of enmity. Just imagine if Iran and Syria’s leaders used their wealth to benefit their citizens, rather than for purchasing weapons and sponsoring terrorism; or if extremist religious groups became obsessed by scriptures exhorting them to love humanity, rather than destroy humanity.
The preacher’s call to “love your neighbor as yourself” acquires its true meaning when we ask, who is our neighbor? Our neighbors are not just those who look like us, think like us and pray like us, but all mankind and all womankind. Let us pray that there will come a time when ordinary Arabs, Iranians, Israelis, Kurds and others sharing this blighted region overcome their hostilities and regard one another as neighbors.
In a world governed by the redemptive power of love, not only are we motivated to do all we can for those who need our assistance; but also, when we are most desperate and alone, we find ourselves surrounded by strangers and friends alike, offering support — and unconditional love.
- Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.