The secret patriot

I can feel a pang of patriotism swelling in the pit of my stomach.

It’s an alien feeling and one that sadly seems too often to be suppressed in England.

Like every other country, we have a national day. St George’s Day. It falls on April 23, not that many of my fellow Englishmen and women know, or care for that matter.

Unlike most other countries, we don’t really celebrate it; it slips by unnoticed like a ship passing silently in the night while everyone’s tucked up in bed dreaming of exploring lands far away.

St Patrick’s Day, on the other hand, is etched on everyone’s memory.

On March 17, the Irish flags come out, green shamrocks are plastered over pubs, the Guinness is flowing and England is awash with shops flogging gimmicky leprechaun hats and orange beards.

Part of the problem is that patriotism has been hijacked by far-right organisations and extremists who use their “British pride” to mask a tainted soul and twisted hatred of the world.

People are petrified that if they hang a Union flag or St George’s Cross outside their house, they’ll be labelled a racist, a fascist, a bigot, when in fact all they want to do is celebrate the place they call home.

The other part of the problem is a collective sense of not actually caring, and sadly that’s something that’s dangerously contagious.

I can vaguely remember being taught who St George was in primary school.

Hazy memories of a man dressed from head to toe in shiny armour, bearing a red cross on his chest as he swung his sword at a dragon breathing ferocious flames.

Apart from that, I can’t tell you much more about our patron saint, and I can guarantee it’s not just me who lacks the knowledge. It was never a story that was sold with much enthusiasm by teachers.

I never used to care about our beloved royal family either; an unnecessary drain on our resources. Why should my hard-earned cash pay for them to live lavish lives of luxury?

Then there’s the headlines that shout about Broken Britain, crushed communities, a tearaway generation of youngsters and a society that’s crippled by a kindergarten cabinet that call themselves a Government.

I mean, what exactly is there to be patriotic about?

Then last year there was the royal wedding, and with the world’s eyes watching my country, as Kate walked down the aisle to marry her not-so-handsome prince something inside me snapped.

A small lump of pride got stuck in my throat as William shifted nervously from foot to foot as he waited for his wife-to-be to appear through the doors of Westminster Abbey.

My heart melted when his cheeks flushed and his eyes welled up as his beautiful bride glided gracefully down the grand aisle.

Yes, they’re humans just like you and me, and England really isn’t all that bad.

Aerial shots of London screened on the TV showed swarms of ants lining the streets of London; each one desperate to catch a glimpse of the latest addition to the monarchy, who actually aren’t all that bad.

Millions of people who had flocked to the capital to watch history unfold cheered and waved their formerly forbidden Union flags at the cameraman before gushing about how great this moment is.

Those crushed communities came together. England was alive with street parties, flags were flying proudly and I finally got to meet the neighbours I’ve been living next to for the last three years without ever uttering a word.

I got my first taste of patriotism and I loved it.

Of course, St George’s Day passed without a mention this year and that sense of unity vanished as quickly as it appeared.

But I can feel it slowly creeping back with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee just days away.

The bunting’s being brought out, the flags are once again flying, preparations for the street parties are well under way and the global spotlight is about to be shone straight on my England.

And I’ve got a feeling, with the Olympics hot on the jubilee’s heels, the patriotism might just be here to stay for that little bit longer.

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12 thoughts on “The secret patriot

  1. As a child we always took part in a St Georges day parade through town. It’s not lost everywhere, although I dislike the tacky plastic flags.

    • Good to hear there’s still celebrations going on. I get disheartened as I work on a newspaper and every St George’s Day, I get the same reponse from the majority of the public, who don’t know or don’t care.

  2. Great reading, be proud of England! We in the States are also crippled by political correctness and fear of being accused of being racist or this and that. It’s disgusting. PCism is a disease used to squelch the freedoms and lives of a populous. Don’t let the control mongers win. Let shine your love of your homeland! 🙂

  3. Lived in the UK for 12 months in 2005/2006 and loved the whole understated British stiff upper lips thing, you don’t have to wave flags and shout who you are. I thought it was wonderful and makes Britian, well, British.

    As for political correctness it’s a scurge in every country. Someone told me recently that making sense of it is like telling someone to pick a poo up by the clean end.

  4. While I know the national day of some countries – US, Canada, France – I have wondered what it was for England. Now I know. We Canadians are also known to be lax in our flag waving but when there is an event, like the Olympics in Vancouver in 2010 and our hockey team took the gold in a dramatic game, the rush of patriotism brings on such a high!
    And I found it very interesting when you said: “People are petrified that if they hang a Union flag or St George’s Cross outside their house, they’ll be labelled a racist, a fascist, a bigot, when in fact all they want to do is celebrate the place they call home.” Here I’ve come to believe that the majority no longer has any rights and that perhaps we tip toe a might too much in our efforts to welcome all races and creeds.
    Enjoy your spate of patriotism! There is much to celebrate in England this year.

  5. I’ve never heard of St George’s Day, unsurprisingly being 5th generation Australian but I say commemorate, celebrate, everything, anything at every given opportunity 🙂

  6. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being patriotic, as long as it is from a positive spirit, to celebrate our country and our roots, rather than to put down other nations and people. Patriotism can be even a great thing if we use it to inspire ourselves to help move our country forward and to improve the lives of its people.

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