Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Happy St George's Day

Flag St George

The idea of celebrating our national saint's day is a new one for most of us English. I can remember the St George's Day parade being a big deal when I was in the Cubs, but beyond that I have never taken much notice of it.

That is changing, and I am rather pleased.

Billy Bragg had an ambivalent article on the subject in this morning's Guardian:
It is possible for St George's Day to become a celebration, but whether or not it can become a national day in the way the Americans have, I very much doubt; we just wouldn't feel comfortable with a day when we have all got to salute the flag. The belligerence within the English tradition is still a fresh memory and for some people the national flag is associated with football violence.
I don't want to see us saluting the flag either, if only because that would be so unenglish.

But I am puzzled by the claim that the English flag is associated with football violence. The use of the English flag rather than the Union Jack by England supporters largely dates from Euro 96, and there has been far less violence associated with the game since then.

And what is "the belligerence within the English tradition"? It was the British Empire, for instance, not the English Empire and it was largely run by the Scots.

In another Guardian article today Marcus Stafford from something called the England Society rightly points to the role of devolution for Scotland and Wales in raising English national consciousness. And he also makes the important point:

"The more St George is celebrated, the more the flag is taken away from the far right where it has been tainted."
Let's leave the final word to Richard Thompson:
The time has come for action
Leave your satisfaction
Can’t you hear St George’s tune
St George’s tune is calling on you
Freedom was your mother
Fight for one another
Leave the factory, leave the forge
Dance to the new St George
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