Yesterday was St George’s Day. The patron saint of England and a day, unlike St David’s, St Andrew’s and St Patrick’s day generally passes by without much attention at all and nothing by way of national celebration.
The local pub my Dad went to near where I lived as kid had a large Irish contingent. Every St Pat’s night the pub would be packed out with people, Guinness would be flowing and husband, wife and children would all be out to celebrate. Maybe it was just an excuse to get leathered? I’m not sure but the fact remains is that it was celebrated. In fact in most cities’ in England pubs and bars will run special evenings for St Patrick’s day.
The Scots and the Welsh also celebrate their day. Flag’s fly, thistles or daffodils are worn and there is a sense of pride in their country. If you ever drive into Wales or Scotland there is one thing that always stands out to me immediately. The number of cars that have the Welsh or Scottish national flags stuck to the tailgate. In fact if you drive into Cornwall the number of black and white Kernow flags is impressive too. From a police perspective you only have to go into Wales and find a police officer to see that they have the national flag embroidered onto their uniform.
How many special events did you see advertised yesterday for St George’s Day? How many people did you see wearing a red rose? Does your workplace have a flag pole? Did they fly the english national flag? I’ll put money on NO being the answer to most of those questions.
What I cannot understand is why? What, in this country are we so afraid of. Why are we the english so reserved? What stops us from shouting out about all that this country is good for?
Yesterday morning at 8am, having forgot the night before, I dashed up the church tower and hoisted the flag of St George. I tweeted about it. There were many retweets and many supportive replies. Yet there were some that came back as negative;
“We have been told they won’t fly the flag as it might offend somebody”
“Who was St George anyway? Nothing to do with England”
In not only England but the UK we are overall a very accepting, welcoming, culturally diverse and aware population. Somebody tweeted yesterday that they were pleased and thanked God for winning in the “lottery of life” by being born in England. What a fantastic tweet that underpinned how grateful we should be for everything that we have and yet somehow take for granted and ignore for all our complaining?
The contradiction in many terms is sport. We have national teams and when the country gets behind a football or rugby team we are unreserved in our support and encouragement. We watch at home, the papers are full of stories, we fly flags from our cars and homes and the pubs advertise special match openings. The momentum is impressive. On such occasions the Government will jump on the bandwagon and try to claim some responsibility for the upsurge in public euphoria when our national teams do well.. (yes I know it’s rare.. at least in football).
So what gets lost between our day to day national pride in our country and when our sporting teams enter an international competition and do well?
There are no doubt countless reasons and some may say they live here but are not proud of this country at all. I am proud of my country. I’m proud of what we have and feel very lucky to be here. No, I don’t agree with everything the Governments do but overall I thank God I am here with a roof over my head, food in the cupboards and a happy family. Would you rather be in some of the African countries?
For me one of the overriding issues is diversity and equality. I’m not against either. In fact I’m fully in support. Having recognised our prejudices we have taken huge steps toward equality and diversity. It does seem however that we have set off at a march, led by government policy and law and gone blindly marching past the line that said “common sense.”
We have bred such a culture of fear of being criticised that many organisations and individuals will simply refuse to show any pride in their nationality, heritage and even sexuality. The risk of upsetting the opposite minority group is just too great. It is incumbent on every person in this country to embrace and respect equality and diversity no matter what your background or beliefs. Mutual and common acceptance of all.
Many years ago I had occasion to police a religious festival. It was a very busy event and in years gone by their had been some disorder. Community relations officers were very keen to ensure no repetition and that the police engaged fully with this community. I was asked to put a printed sheet of paper that had a traditional greeting for the festival on it in the rear passenger windows of my cars. I refused on two grounds.
1. The windows were for me to see out of. Not to block with a sheet of paper, reduce my visibility and compromise me as an advanced driver in a police vehicle.
2. I had never been asked to put a sheet up at any time that was in celebration of festivals celebrated by other religious groups.
I was told the Ch Supt had ordered it and I would face the wrath of him if I didn’t comply. I refused and the Ch Supt either never saw me or decided his argument was folly.
To my mind this overly sensitive approach does nothing to improve relations between diverse groups. Give ground? Yes. Take it so far that you give greater precedence to another culture and traditions over your own? No. There is an invisible line right in the middle of equality and diversity where every group should meet. Every group should be aiming for that point where we all maintain and respect our own traditions and those of our neighbours.
There is of course further sensitivity on a number of issues that revolve around the British National Party. Whilst we have wallowed in apathy and not given our flag or our country the respect it deserves this group have taken the flag as their own. They like to use patriotic songs such as Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory. They have become associated with this disgraceful organisation and as such people and organisations don’t want to be associated with them. This is understandable but it is in its entirety utter rubbish. Our national flags are ours. Our patriotic songs are ours. They cannot be taken away from us and they must not be surrendered to racism.
Pride in your country is not racism. Fly your flags. Be proud and respect your neighbours. If everyone, no matter what group/s they belong to adheres to this simple truth the path to true equality will be so much shorter.