Don’t let the Far Right own the Rights to Patriotism
Across the West, moderate parties are in trouble. In Germany, America, and Britain (worryingly, the list grows), right wing populists seem to be scoring a string of victories. This includes Trump’s election and the Brexit vote. What we generally associate with right wing parties tends to be nationalism – extreme nationalism. If I said a far right demonstration was going to take place here, you might imagine a sea of Union Jacks and St George’s flags, openly derogatory chants, and of course, a token ethnic minority. It’s a similar picture in other countries with their respective flags and symbols.
Commonly, the vast majority of the British public seem to be scared of showing their patriotism, in fear of being called a racist or xenophobic. Very rarely do I see a Union Jack or a St George’s cross displayed in the vicinity of people’s houses, or anywhere on campus for that matter. Apparently, nearly half of young people in Britain don’t know the British national anthem (I’m quite weary of polls but that sounds about right). Rightly, most people don’t want to be associated with far right/fascists; however, you don’t realise how the very symbols they use, can be utilised against them to water down their divisive rhetoric.
Let’s start with St George: putting up the St George’s cross or getting overly excited about St George’s day has for some weird reason become associated with being far right and racist. Of course, far right parties in England use these symbols to ‘unite’ their members. I say weird however because St George was probably born in Turkey and his mother was Palestinian. As well as being England’s patron saint, he is the patron saint of Georgia, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Aragon and Catalonia. He is also revered by Muslims and Christians in Palestine. I really don’t think you could get more multicultural if you tried. You really don’t hear the far right talk about this side of him, do you? I hope you can see how important it is that we all, young and old, should learn about him and really give him the celebration he deserves so he that he isn’t weaponized by the far right.
What about the Union Jack? Just look at the visuals; it’s the Cross of Saint Andrew (Scotland), that’s overlapped by the Cross of Saint Patrick (Ireland), overlapped by the Cross of Saint George (Wales is indirectly represented through the cross of St George, which represents the former Kingdom of England, which included Wales). It is literally a union on a flag. If everyone started flying union jacks, or St George’s flags (or your own respective flag), then I feel that far right parties would lose their appeal. If everyone’s flying their respective flags, then the parties lose their distinctive quality, if you can call it that.
So reader, how do we reclaim these powerful symbols? Well, fly your flags with pride and not just when the football or some other sporting event is on. Side note: It would look so cool if we had different flags flying in campus, like a budget UN. Sing your anthems and celebrate your national holidays like St George’s day with pride. No matter what your ethnic background, religion etc. these things make us aware of our shared national identity. (Plus it would really confuse the far right if you start doing what they’ve been doing for a long time).