Tomorrow is St George’s Day, a day of… frankly nothing, in honour of England’s dubious patron saint. Whereas St Andrew’s Day is at least a holiday for the Scots, and the Irish St Patrick’s Day has been exported all over the world as a celebration of stout and silly hats, we’ve kept ours to ourselves, down-played it, almost as if we’re embarrassed by it.
I can see why, though – celebrating English national identity has a stigma attached to it that few others have.
I can’t say that I love my country. The food’s tolerable, the weather’s pretty shite, I live here and I pay taxes here and I vote here. I care about its future. But that’s as far as it goes; I can’t say I’m proud of it. To shamelessly wheel out a quote by someone far more eloquent than I:
“Patriotism is the belief your country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it.” – George Bernard Shaw
Regardless of my own lack of patriotism and hence how little meaning the St George’s Cross has to me, I feel that it’s drifting in its symbolism toward unpleasantness. It’s starting to mean “football hooligan”, even “skinhead” and “racist”. It seems like it’s becoming something that we ought to be ashamed of.
Do people of foreign countries see the English flag that way, or is it a uniquely English idea of what our own flag represents? Or, for that matter, am I alone in my negative stereotyping and ought I to correct it immediately?