Friday, 22 June 2012

Standing by the flag

Proud :Feeling pleasurable satisfaction over an act, possession, quality, or relationship by which one measures one's stature or self-worth: proud of one's child; proud to serve one's country.

Fear not dear readers. I have not become a poster girl (sic) for British nationalism, a royalist or a patriot. I was asked to pose for a portrait at Vintage Nation before the bargain hunters piled in to paw the second hand wares. I was asked if I minded posing by a Union Jack, to be honest I was ambivalent. I was more concerned about my double chin and the prominence of my baby belly/wine waist. Post Jubilee I had become de sensitized; bunting with polka dots, retro 70s, retro 40s, in shop windows, even French fancies popped up in red, white and blue.I didn't give it much thought but on reflection it has forced me to examine why I feel no connection to the emblem of the nation, if
I am even proud to be British.

I was born in London, hence I am British. This is a fact and standing by the flag illustrates this if shown overseas. In this country however it could be misconstrued, a symbol of my pride, of standing up for British values, institutions, history and foreign policy. Am I proud to be British. No. Am I ashamed of being British. No. Nationalism has no bearing on my feelings of self worth or identity.
Much British history involves the subjugation of other nations, a jingoism that taints much of what people feel being British is about. In this sense Britishness is measured on feelings of Superiority and racism.I spoke to a Brazilian friend of the family today who chose to leave England because of the racism and bigotry he faced teaching in British Schools. I felt sad that young people can still be so closed minded in this day and age, that their bigotry and agression limit their experiences and that their rejection of the 'foreign' is to embrace a monoculture that exists not as a celebration of its own culture but as a rejection of others.
I am not highly patriotic but I'm not ashamed to be British.I dont feel the need to apologise for actions that are out of my control. I don't perpetuate hatred in my daily life but by the same token I haven't personally faught against Fascism as my fellow Stallholder Cyril did in WW2. I have great respect for him as one of the last survivors of the Normandy Invasion. He defended his country and as an ex dairy farmer he provided milk for the other soldiers by miking cows that had been deserted. I have great regard for him but it's not pride.Im grateful that he gave a part of his life to protect us against a fascist invasion.He did that, not me.I can only be proud of my achievements, my children's and family's highpoints. I have a hand in this. If I am proud of my nation and stand in the golden glow of its achievements, I would also have to apologise and stand shame faced as drunk Britons invade Europe or attack international students on the streets.
I am ambivalent not reactionary. People often critise this country as a teenager would their parents. It can't do anything right. I am disgusted at the way politicians are dismantling many of loved institutions but there are worse places to live. Britain is culturally diverse, vibrant and eccentric in places. Like human nature it is good and bad simultaneously. It is what it is. And in the context of the above photograph the flag is a backdrop, a piece of cloth signifying the country the photograph of this short woman was taken in.
No, I dont find pride in a flag but in things and people I have a hand in making, achieving or developing. I has a surge of pride today in the corner shop. My tiny daughter elbowing her way into the crowd of kids huddled round the penny sweet shelf. She nearly sent a man flying as she returned with her bounty 'Nake' she hollered as she held a rubbery sweet snake aloft in her fist.That's my girl.
Copyright for the above photograph belongs Emma Duggan

1 comment:

  1. I rather look forward to reading Michelle's blog, and this did not disappoint. Her insightful and heartfelt articles just get better! I'm still chuckling about Michelle's reference to her diminutive stature in proportion to the Union Jack backdrop. Fabulous!