Honor the knights
Various "whom would you like to meet" lists contain luminaries who were knighted. Which would you like to meet? Sir Winston Churchill? Sir Isaac Newton? Sir Paul McCartney? Yes, it's entirely proper and fitting to call them "Sir." They knelt before their contemporaneous monarch, who dubbed their shoulders with sword, bestowing upon them the lifelong honor and title.
Mr. David Bowie and Professor Stephen Hawking could have been "Sirs," but they rejected knighthood because they didn't like titles. That's fine; in the nicest sense, they are both "Space Oddities." However, for those who gracefully genuflected before the sword-wielding monarch, there is no un-dubbing. It's not Winston Churchill whom you might like to meet; instead, that'd be Sir Winston Churchill to you.
Paul may have been a lad with humble Liverpool origins, but Queen Elizabeth II, perennially one of the most admired women in the world, conferred knighthood upon him. Respect her wishes: one of the greatest songwriters ever is Sir Paul McCartney, so it might be dignified to dispense with the false familiarity.
Sir Isaac Newton may have stood upon the shoulders of giants, but was himself one of the greatest intellects of all time. Whether or not you appreciate Queen Anne, dubbed by some as Britain's forgotten queen, Newton more than deserved her accolade in 1705. Observe his title for all he did in unveiling heaven's mysteries, for heaven's sake.
What about the Nobility Clause in the Constitution that forbids the granting of titles? Not quite: it forbids only the establishment of entrenched nobility. Actually, Americans love titles: King of Pop, Queen of Soul, Knights of Labor, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, etc. Several U.S. states are named after British sovereigns, and numerous counties.
The Nobility Clause doesn't preempt our recognition of the honors bestowed by the head of state of 16 nations (including the United Kingdom), including some of the most vibrant democracies with whom the U.S. engages in deep security accords. Indeed, many U.S. citizens have gratefully received honorary knighthoods. Notably, the U.S. presidents to receive one were all Republicans.
Perhaps one might recoil and shudder at the luminaries knighted under King George III, the "Last King of America." Actually, while he may have been tormented with bouts of madness, he fervently denounced slavery and was conscientious about the limits of his power.
We tend to be meticulous in referring to Nobel Prize–winners as laureates. And lest we offend some sensitive snowflake's sensibilities, we are persnickety in ensuring we get their preferred personal pronouns right. Why not apply the same esteem to those who really deserve it? To those whom one the most admired woman in the world knighted?
It's propitious for the spread of freedom and prosperity that the U.S. emerged as a beacon of light from the yoke of British control. To some extent, British exceptionalism (by the standards of the time) helped establish the foundations for American exceptionalism and helped enforce the Monroe Doctrine. Our first seven presidents had British heritage, and numerous thereafter. Despite those historical ties, we may be disinclined to bow or otherwise humble ourselves before their head of state. That's understandable for proud Americans, but one less demonstrable way to show our tribute is to honor Her Majesty's knights with the proper salutation.
Venerable Queen Elizabeth II bravely served in uniform during WWII. As Great Britain essentially stood alone while Luftwaffe bombs ravaged her cities in 1940, then-princess Elizabeth refused evacuation and suffered the blitz resolutely with her soon-to-be subjects. That, along with her charity work, decades of dignified leadership, and forbearance of irascible tourists at her home, deserves deference, including assiduous recognition of her knightly conferees.
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