Did you realise it was St George’s Day yesterday?
JOHN DARLISON reckons you didn’t.
England’s national holiday was a definitive non-event in Cambridge.
The only thing I noticed was the council offices and the UL flying the cross of St George (a surprising outcome given certain attempts to suppress this display of English pride).
No one seems to care about England’s national holiday. I got more drunk on St Patrick’s Day and I’m only one sixteenth Irish. I’m pretty sure Burns Night is a bigger thing here.
Cambridge has many international students. For the most part, they’re proud of their home countries and they’re not ashamed of it. The Czechs and the Slovaks have their society. The Scottish do. Pretty much every European country has their university society.
We’re in England, so an English society is unnecessary. But we should be able to celebrate our culture and heritage without worry. The thing is, we choose not to.
I can think of two reasons why this is the case.
First, the idea of being English carries a lot of historical baggage. Embarrassing historical baggage. Expressions of English national pride that have relied on the subordination of other races and cultures have done this country (and the world, more importantly) a great disservice. The British Empire made England the richest country – for a time – but this was done through the exploitation of people and the appropriation of their lands.
We haven’t always been the good guys, but we should remember the positive contribution the English have made to the world – especially scholars of Cambridge. Members of Cambridge have won more Nobel prizes than the entirety of France.
Second, the flag is considered by many today to be the preserve of football fans and racists. I don’t want the EDL to be what people think of when they see the cross of St George. (Incidentally, I do hope they realise the guy was Syrian not British.)
During the recent Rochester by-election, one MP tweeted a picture of a house displaying the flag, with apparent disdain for the homeowner.
I think this association should be challenged. My Australian friends hang flags in their flats. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if I did likewise with the cross of St George.
St George’s Day should be a public holiday – who better than a martyred, dragon-killing Syrian soldier who refused to sacrifice to Roman gods to represent modern-day Britain?
English patriotism shouldn’t be for a few on the political extreme. Love of Merrie England should be reclaimed by the respectable majority for everyone who lives in this country.
Let’s not be afraid of being English. There’s no need to apologise. (Unless you’re trying extra hard to be English.)
No one’s going to be offended.