A version of this column ran in The Virginian-Pilot on Jul 24, 2013.
If you've traveled by air recently, you know the landing drill: wheels down, phones out.
My arrival at Norfolk airport Monday had a twist. No sooner had we hit the runway than a woman two seats away let out a yelp.
"It's a boy!" she said, holding up her iPhone.
That's all it took to spur nearby passengers into exclamations of joy. After all, the TV in the Atlanta boarding area had been tuned to CNN during our rain delay, which meant we'd been hostages to a tedious televised birth vigil featuring nonstop royal chatter with a camera focused on the entrance of a private wing of a London hospital.
You didn't think the heir to the throne was going to be born in a National Health Service maternity ward, did you?
The people near me seemed delighted with the news. I groaned. But no one seemed to notice.
Calm down. I'm happy for Will and Kate. They seem like a nice couple. The top of their baby's head looked adorable when he was introduced to the public Tuesday afternoon.
But isn't every birth a happy occasion? Aren't most parents overcome with emotion when they first gaze at their newborn?
What, exactly, makes this birth so special? To Americans, that is.
It's understandable that British subjects, who fork over millions to keep a handful of blue bloods in palaces and tiaras, are ecstatic about the arrival of the future king. But it seems odd that our part of the world is enthralled.
Let's blame the media. I watched in disbelief Tuesday as all three cable news stations wasted even more time on hospital-door footage in anticipation of an appearance by the royal newborn. Newscasters who want to be taken seriously - Andrea Mitchell and Christiane Amanpour, for example - took part in the circus.
When Prince William finally installed the royal baby seat in the car and took the wheel of the royal Range Rover, TV's talking heads suffered a communal case of the vapors.
"He's driving!" one gasped.
Geez. Don't most men drive their wives and babies home from the hospital?
One commentator complained that while trying to get English-man-on-the-street reaction to the royal birth, he encountered nothing but giddy American tourists on the streets of London.
Clearly they weren't students of U.S. history.
If I'm not mistaken, we celebrated Independence Day about three weeks ago. You know, the anniversary of July 4, 1776, when patriots shook off the shackles of the British monarchy, declaring all men to be created equal and effectively pledging that we would no longer bow down to sovereigns.
Now, 237 years later, it seems millions of us are celebrating the most odious tradition in the British Isles: the hereditary monarchy.
In a piece written shortly before Prince William and Kate Middleton were married, the late Christopher Hitchens, who had a rabidly anti-royal point-of-view,
deliciously ridiculed the concept.
"A hereditary monarch, observed Thomas Paine, is as absurd a proposition as a hereditary doctor or mathematician," Hitchens wrote on the eve of the royal wedding. "But try pointing this out when everybody is seemingly moist with excitement..."
OK, Hitch, I will.
Consider this: A tiny, nameless infant is destined to be king of England by dint of his bloodlines, without regard for his intellect, his work ethic, his accomplishments or his character. If DNA is destiny, then the media frenzy over the birth of this baby makes sense.
But those of us who subscribe to the democratic ideal that every infant is created equal should shun the royal rumpus and instead send good wishes to each of the roughly 361,481 babies born around the world Monday.
Including, of course, Britain's future king.