At the end of a horrible week where we have seen English ‘football fans’ involved in violence, Nigel Farage present an advert that Nazi Germany would have been proud of and most terribly of all a young woman, an MP and mother of two, brutally murdered by a nationalist radical, it is time to reclaim our pride in our country and not let it descend into hatred.
So, why am I proud to be British? Seriously? I could write forever on this. I love our countryside, from the sweeping majesty of the Scottish highlands to the desolate beauty of the East Anglian marshes.
I am proud of our legends from King Arthur to selkies and kelpies to Robin Hood and I’m proud of our music – our great folk songs, the stirring tunes of Elgar and the super-stardom of the Beatles to name just a few.
I am proud of our great literary tradition. We have Shakespeare, Austen and Dickens. Writers loved by the whole world! Incidentally, I don’t think I am taking anything away from their genius, by saying that they owe much of their success to the wonders of the English language. This incredible language that has developed over the centuries, enriched by each new wave of immigrants that has come.
But most of all I am proud of our history. Not all of it, of course, but as a whole spectacular tableau that tells our story, it is truly something to be proud of. But from the very beginning, our story has been inextricably linked to Europe. In unity and enmity, war and peace, marriage and friendship, trade and aid, their story is ours. Plagues, famines and environmental catastrophe have affected us all over the millennia, but so too have the freedoms, the inventions and advances. How can anyone who is proud to be British want to turn their back on all that?
There are people who want to equate pride in Britain with Brexit. I’m sometimes as guilty as anyone on that. If I see our flag flying I assume they’re voting Leave, but perhaps that’s not the case. The clue is, after all, in the name – Union Jack. Flying that flag is a celebration of a very old union of European countries. And that sadly is another union that is under threat. Two years ago the Scots were convinced to remain in the United Kingdom that they might lose their EU membership if they left the UK. Now it is England that may drag them from the EU. Surely even the most ardent of Brexiters can see that this is pretty shabby treatment. This betrayal will likely be too much for Kenneth Mac Alpin’s proud nation and they will be gone, finding their own place in Europe.
So where will that leave England? A small nation tumbling head first into recession, surrounded on all sides by the bright shining stars of the EU. Will I ever say I am proud to be of that nation? That depends. When the recession hits, who will we blame? Will we blame whoever the right-wing press says we should blame? Probably not the Jews – that’s been done already. But perhaps the poor, perhaps the disabled, perhaps those ‘foreigners’ who remain in England. Or will we take responsibility for the disaster ourselves? Will we one day realise our own utter stupidity at sending our country back into recession just as we are emerging from it? It would be better if we did not have to find out.