Patriotism, is a controversial topic in Britain. It was reported in early 2008, that British army soldiers were now prohibited from wearing combat uniform in public, deeming it “offensive to Britain’s multi-racial society”. For the exact same reasons, patriotic citizens have also been banned from publicly displaying the English St. George cross flag. They have been informed that only the full Union Jack can be flown, as a “friendlier” option.
Since the early 1970’s, Britain has seen a steady decrease in the open expression of patriotism, particularly in England. It is not by chance that this coincides with mass immigration. What doesn’t help matters is that most of us are generally aware of the troubled history of the 1970’s skinhead supporters of the National Front, who were the last outpouring of Union Jack-wavers. Expressions of pride in our country are limited these days; mostly to football or rugby matches, where we seem, to our American and Asian neighbours, slightly deranged about our passion for these sports. Alas, the firey passion they are witnessing is not just for the Beautiful Game itself; it is the direct consequence of what happens when some 83,000 Britons are given the freedom to simultaneously uncork the highly pressurized bottle of patriotic expression. What our neighbours don’t know, is that it is now considered an oddity, perhaps even a silent act of aggression, to see a Union Jack flown outside a home in 21st century Britain.
This is in stark contrast to the American attitude towards patriotism. Americans never need an excuse to show national pride. An American flag stands, outside pretty much every home in the U.S. Everywhere you turn, it seems, the national flag is emblazoned on absolutely every blank surface. Arriving tourists are often amazed to find themselves bombarded with this bizarre, American ‘obsession’ with the Stars and Stripes, making it’s way into every holiday photograph, cutting into their line of sight with every blink. Businesses, cars, trucks, shop fronts and windows of all manner are flamboyantly and often, outrageously adorned with it. Most of the time this is done completely in spite of the hatred expressed toward America. Day and night, American marches and other such patriotic music, pours out of classical music radio stations; at deafening decibels in every university, college or national sports game. Sung over and over again like a broken record at schools the country over, the American national anthem is now one of the most recognised patriotic songs in the world.
However, as a result of the negative image patriotism has in Britain, the tendency has been to frequently look down upon the bold, loud American display of patriotism as false and showy, aggressive and insensitively hostile to foreigners on their soil. Honestly speaking, I think neither extreme serves well. A country’s governance shouldn’t go to the ridiculous heights of banning it’s brave military from wearing it’s khakis or citizens from waving the flag; nor should it go to the absurdity of making it federal law to face the flag, hand over heart and sing where both song and flag are in the same room. I do, however believe that Britain can learn a little from the Americans in the face of adversity. It is good and fitting that every British citizen should, in the face of politically correct discouragement, fly either the Union Jack or the English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish flag, as a mark of recognition and respect for the freedoms their soil has earned them.
An ethnically diverse London has earned me friends with people of hundreds of different nationalities. I am curious to hear people’s views on what you believe patriotism means to you. Bring into consideration the entire mixed bag: your ethnic origins, country of birth and your country of residence, because often, these are not always the same thing or place.