Here at the Tribune Editorial Board, we all have a number of years on Prince Harry. And it is with the perspective of age, and the greater knowledge of life’s fragility that it affords, that we suggest he call a halt to his public attacks on a family he knows is unable to respond in kind.
In all our collective experience, we have never known anyone who publicly attacked a loved one while in their 30s to still think that was their finest hour many years later. But we know plenty who rue that day. That princely myopia is at the core of our objection to the interminable media blitz surrounding “Spare,” the sensational new memoir that hits the bookshelves Tuesday on both sides of the Atlantic.
Despite allegedly extensive precautions by the publisher, the manuscript has predictably leaked. Reportedly, readers will get one side of the sad story of two brothers, sons who lost their mother, Diana, at a young age, who clearly no longer get along. According to a report Wednesday in The Guardian, Harry’s book recounts the blow-by-blow of a physical fight between two infuriated brothers, apparently with the behavior of one of their wives, Meghan, as the main cause.
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Sides were taken on whether the former Meghan Markle was a vulnerable victim of the royal British establishment, or a bullying aggressor who seeks her own agenda, be it dysfunctional or malevolent, long ago. No doubt there was fault on both sides. The institution could have done better by the Northwestern University graduate, and she could have done better by the institution and by her adopted country, the reputation of which she is, as the British say, presently rubbishing.
These are entities made up of human beings. It would be remarkable if it were any other way. Suffice to say it was not a good match. Meghan is hardly the first person in the world to find something similar out about themselves and their current situation. This is why people make changes.Of course, much of this is about monetization. The entire affair is suffused with the kind of paradox that can make it seem like the world is careening out of control.
In order to bring in the cash, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex must lament the intrusions of the very media that now pays their bills and gives them the cultural power they seek. In a cold, gray January, with bills in the inbox and recession threatening with every gust of frigid wind, the story is understandably compelling to many people, with its baked-in conflict, stark contrasting sides, fusion of race, class and the establishment, and its ability to make viewers and readers feel superior.
Our families, we are able to think as we devour Harry’s anger, are at least not that bad. The affair also serves as a reminder that privileged people, especially those disinclined toward truly selfless service, invariably are no happier than those of us who work for a living. From the perspective of reporters and columnists, the topic guarantees high readership, even for those lamenting the existence of the story in the first place. This is inversely related to the level of nuance of the coverage.
So “Spare,” in reality, is anything but, despite the slyly self-deprecating title, deftly weaponized. The book will make a lot of money but it could well destroy a few lives in the process or bring about years of misery. There is rich irony in how names such as Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu have been incorporated into the cause of the couple from Montecito, California. Harry and Meghan have no compunction at co-opting the imprimatur of those who devoted their lives to reconciliation, even while they have no demonstrated interest in doing the same. In interviews set to air this weekend and designed to promote the volume, Harry will reportedly say various versions of “I want my family back,” and “the ball is in their court,” which any professional mediator will tell you is precisely the wrong way to start any path toward reconciliation. Rather, any such process requires you to look at what has transpired on your side of the net and consider whether your opponent had a point. Harry had a contract to fulfill, clearly understood that his monetary value to his sponsors and publishers required him to trash his family, and decided that dovetailed quite nicely with his own righteous anger.
We’re sure he had much to be aggrieved about, and that is not a disingenuous observation. The world saw his pain. But that point, that grievance, has been made over and over again, even though it is being made to those whom the world dealt just as harsh a hand and whose feelings and sadness do not command hundreds of millions of dollars.
The impact of what these two wealthy people are pursuing on young people of the world is, all in all, a negative, suggesting as it does that what you believe about yourselves is the whole truth. And there are impressionable young people in their own families.
They don’t see this, of course, but then they’re both still too young.