Patriotism Done Right – A Lesson For Britain, From Kentucky

The slavish worship of diversity is not enough to keep our fraying social fabric from coming apart in these difficult times; we need symbols and rituals that unite us, and we must defend these symbols from those who wrongly portray them as divisive or exclusionary

Take three minutes to watch this beautiful video of the Kentucky All-State Choir giving a moving and pitch-perfect rendition of the US national anthem from the balconies of the Hyatt hotel in Louisville, where they are currently staying while participating in a conference and competition.

Now try to picture this scene, or anything like it, taking place in Britain. Laughably impossible, isn’t it? Overt displays of gentle patriotism, and by schoolchildren? If such a scene did occur at an inter-school competition anywhere in the UK, it would more likely make the news because a group of parents complained that their children were forced to take part in some terrible, jingoistic ceremony, the first step toward the formation of a new Hitler Youth.

There would be earnest think-pieces in the Guardian about how teaching or singing the national anthem at public school events was oppressive to those who live here while wanting nothing to do with our shared culture, or who harbour a seething dislike of the various symbols and rituals which represent the country that gives them life and liberty. The matter would be hotly debated on BBC Question Time. Change.org petitions would be started, Twitter memes created and MPs would take sides.

One can just imagine Cathy Newman then hauling the poor choir director in to the television studio for one of her famously objective and well-researched interviews on Channel 4 news:

Cathy: So what made you decide to force these impressionable young children, many of whom might not even be comfortable identifying as British, to sing an anthem which they dislike and show respect to a country about which they might feel ambivalent at best?

Choir director: Well, there is far more that unites us than divides us, and our thinking was what better way to show that all of our students are united by something deeper, something which transcends the differences in their race, national origin or religion than by performing —

Cathy: So what you’re saying is that you wanted to brainwash these children into mindlessly supporting UK foreign policy and worshipping the government, just like North Korea?

Choir director: No, I —

Cathy: Aren’t you just normalising the ugly wave of nationalism and bigotry which has swept over the country since the EU referendum?

Lord knows that overt displays of patriotism do not come naturally to most British people. Many on the Left in particular seemed to discover their inner patriot for the first time when they watched the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, and only then because director Danny Boyle turned half the show into an all-singing, all-dancing Mass in worship of the NHS and centralised, government-provided healthcare.

But this needs to change. Cold, hard circumstances mean that the quintessentially British “softly softly” approach to patriotism is now inadequate when it comes to forging and maintaining a unified, vaguely harmonious society.

Even if Brexit hadn’t come along and revealed (not caused) a split right down the middle of the country in terms of outlook and values, high levels of immigration combined with a laissez-fair “integrate if you want to or stay in your own enclaves and ghettoes, whatever works best for you” attitude from the government mean that the United Kingdom is nowhere near as united as it should be. Throw in the recent Scottish independence referendum, the rise of Islamist extremism and the West’s failure to celebrate, defend and transmit our small-L liberal enlightenment values, and the net result is that our national body is very badly frayed indeed.

At times like this, unifying symbols matter hugely. Just ask the European Union, which has spent countless taxpayer pounds and launched dozens of initiatives in a desperate (and largely futile) attempt to inculcate a sense of European-ness strong enough to justify the vast institutions and creeping supranational government being built in Brussels. The EU has a flag and an anthem for a reason, and it has nothing to do with friendly trade and co-operation between autonomous nation states.

The United States, so long a successful melting pot for immigrants from all over the world, succeeds because it unapologetically promotes and celebrates its values and culture in a way that make new arrivals want to embrace the traditions of their new home, even while often carefully maintaining and cherishing their historical traditions too.

My wife grew up in a border town in south Texas, only miles from Mexico, where a huge percentage of the population are first and second generation immigrants, both legal and also some without legal rights of residency. Yet nobody in that town thinks twice about honouring the symbols of America, and nearly everybody considers themselves to be American and takes pride in being so. Everyone stands for the national anthem at sports games. All of the children recite the pledge of allegiance at school in the morning, and those first or second generation immigrant children do so without feeling that honouring America in any way diminishes their attachment to their other respective cultures.

In Britain, however, even displaying the Union flag causes some post-patriotic progressives to break out in hives or worry that they are about to get caught up in a BNP rally. And decades of constitutional vandalism by successive governments have resulted in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland rightly being given more devolved powers and space for home-nation patriotic self-expression while England has remained constrained in this regard, the result of which is that many British people outside of England no longer view the UK national anthem as “their” anthem.

Meanwhile, the Times Educational Supplement frets:

For schools, the problem remains of how to ensure that populist political initiatives to create shared citizenship are not be at the expense of embracing diversity.

In the US, courts notwithstanding, for years many children have had to salute the flag and recite the oath of allegiance every morning. The aim, supposedly, is to unify, yet it is inevitable that such exercises also exclude and exacerbate divisions. In France, for example, millions of children have family links to other countries including, of course, the UK. Are they supposed to renounce these links – or feel less “French” because of a failure to do so? Academics speak of governments imposing “societal cultures” and devaluing what they call, rather grandly, “differentiated citizenship”. They contrast the simplistic appeal of unity with celebrations of cultural diversity and philosophical values, such as equality of opportunity, that transcend nationalities.

What corrosive nonsense. The progressive blob would have us do away with E Pluribus Unum – out of many, one – and replace it with “out of many, even more”. They would have diversity be the only value worth celebrating, and practically discourage us from creating and celebrating deeper, transcendent connections between people of different backgrounds. And such is their faith in the god of diversity that they believe that liberal democracy can survive such a Utopian experiment.

The wonderful thing about these Kentucky school children singing the national anthem together is that they are E Pluribus Unum in action. Many may be native born, but some are doubtless immigrants or the children of immigrants. Many are likely Christian but others are of different faiths or none. Some are conservatives and even Donald Trump supporters while others are liberals who perhaps shed tears when Hillary Clinton delivered her concession speech in November 2016. They are rich, poor, black, white, male, female, Caucasian, Hispanic, gay or heterosexual. And yet however important those identities may rightly be to them, still they are able to come together in harmony to deliver a beautiful performance of the Star Spangled Banner. All of them are American.

This is a lesson that we in Britain urgently need to learn. We do not need to copy the United States in every respect, nor should we. But we should recognise that unifying symbols matter deeply if we want to maintain a cohesive society built on the liberal values for which Britain has long stood. And if not the national anthem, we need to identify and promote other unifying symbols, and withstand the manufactured outrage of those who would have us frantically celebrate our diversity until our increasingly atomised society crumbles completely beneath our feet.

We must stand up to the post-patriotic progressives and their destructive motto Diversitas, Heri, Hodi, Semper and instead re-embrace E Pluribus Unum.

 

Note: The high school choir members who take part in the KMEA All State Choir Conference in Kentucky do this every year, a wonderful annual tradition. Here is last year’s performance at the same venue.

 

Pledge of Allegiance - Stars and stripes

Pledge of Allegiance

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Labour And The Left Simply Do Not ‘Get’ Patriotism, And Their Patron Saints Holiday Proposal Proves It

UK Britain Patron Saints

The Labour Party’s genius plan to “unite the nation” by further Balkanising the United Kingdom

The Labour Party and the British Left in general just don’t get it. With the honourable exception of a few Cassandra-like voices warning that the Left must learn to re-embrace patriotism in order to reconnect with millions of lost voters, most on the Left seem intent on screeching “multiculturalism” at the top of their lungs until the United Kingdom (and even its constituent parts) are nothing more than historic entries in an encyclopaedia.

Labour’s latest great initiative is to create four new public holidays celebrating the individual patron saints of the four home nations. From the HuffPost:

A Labour government will seek to create four new UK-wide bank holidays on the patron saint’s day of each of the home nations, Jeremy Corbyn has announced.

The Labour leader said the move would bring together England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, while giving workers a well-deserved break.

Under the plan, it would mean there would be public holidays on St David’s Day (March 1), St Patrick’s Day (March 17), St George’s Day (April 23) and St Andrew’s Day (November 30).

“The four nations that make up our great country have rarely been more divided due to the damaging and divisive policies of this Conservative Government,” Corbyn said.

“But where Theresa May divides, Labour will unite our four nations. A Labour government will make St George’s Day – England’s national day and Shakespeare’s birthday – a public holiday, along with St David’s Day, St Andrew’s Day and St Patrick’s Day.”

This is the kind of idiotic idea that could only come from a leader, a party and a political movement which have so lost touch with the idea of what patriotism and national identity mean that they can communicate only in meaningless grunts and gestures, like a parrot mimicking speech without understanding the language. Or perhaps an elephant painting with its trunk.

Right now there is a problem with British national identity, inasmuch as it is increasingly missing from the people who are supposed to possess it. Why is this the case? Well, try the fact that our schools fail to teach students a balanced, cohesive and chronological history of their own country, while any attempts to teach citizenship or civics tend to degrade into leftist agitprop pushed by an almost universally left-wing corps of teachers.

Try the fact that national pride and British exceptionalism had become so embarrassing, gauche and ultimately rare among the left-wing establishment that whole explanatory articles were written explaining to people the peculiar warm, fuzzy and hitherto-unknown feeling they felt in their chests when London hosted the 2012 Olympics.

Try the fact that we just went through a bruising EU referendum in which the Remain campaign spent nearly all their time talking – against all available evidence – about what a small, puny and ineffective country we are compared to the swaggering might of, say, Malaysia or Norway.

Try the fact that Scotland has taken the decision to transform itself into a one-party SNP state despite that party’s jackboot authoritarianism and mind-boggling incompetence at governing, while agitating for independence every three years in the hope that certain childlike adults dwelling there might be better protected from the Evil Tor-ees in England, thus further fraying the bonds of our union.

Or the fact that for decades now, leftists have been insisting that we must observe, celebrate and even exaggerate the smallest of our cultural differences rather than celebrate and strengthen the bonds which unite us. Because multiculturalism.

And now that Brexit has given them a scare, Scottish secessionism refuses to die back down to the angry grumblings of the 1990s and 2000s, English nationalism is increasingly demanding acknowledgement and policemen are being killed at the gates of Parliament by homegrown terrorists, these wise mavens of the Left have decided that just maybe it might be worth throwing patriotism a bone after all. Not because of a sincere rethink of their worldview but because someone at Labour HQ thought it would make a good campaign gimmick and a way to garner positive headlines on St George’s Day.

Unfortunately, Labour’s inexplicable response to the challenges we face is to propose the creation of four new public holidays, saints days, which would further emphasise the separateness and uniqueness of the home nations rather than drawing us together in a common celebration of what we have achieved and will achieve together as a single United Kingdom.

One might think that the Left would instinctively realise that in our increasingly secular age, putting the focus of our national identity and patriotism on historical religious figures otherwise unacknowledged by non-Christians is not the smartest pull factor among subpopulations which have until now been encouraged to do their own thing in terms of integrating or not integrating with wider British society. As a Catholic, the saints and their lives have meaning to me. For millions of others, they do not.

Martin Luther King Jr. DayPresident’s Day and Independence Day have meaning for all Americans because they are rooted in shared history, not in waning faith. I know that the Left often like to talk down Britain and our substantial contributions in world commerce, arts, sciences, culture and diplomacy, but I’m sure that if they scratched their heads they might find something in the last few centuries of our national story worth elevating as a day in which all Britons can be proud (but please, not the Fifth of July).

Now, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating the unique histories, culture and achievements of our four home nations, and indeed we should do so more often. But too often this comes at the expense of celebrating British or UK-wide identity. As this blog has long argued, what we need more than anything is a single day to celebrate our entire United Kingdom, along the lines of France’s Bastille Day or America’s Independence Day.

And this should be backed by a myriad of other policies and gestures, large and small, which together might serve to nurture a positive sense of British identity around which we can all gather – regardless of ethnicity, colour, national origin, gender or any other grouping.

Some ideas that come to mind: a daily or weekly pledge recited by pupils at public schools; a return to playing the national anthem before top flight (and even lower level) sporting events, rather than reserving such gestures for the FA Cup final; continuing the investment in Team GB at the Olympic games and then celebrating their achievements back home after the fact; doing more to honour the armed forces and others who serve in uniform, both in public life and by encouraging businesses to acknowledge, reward and employ veterans; expanding on the National Citizen Service scheme, one of the few positive legacies from the Cameron government. I’m sure there are a thousand other, better ideas to be added to this list.

Instituting four new public holidays where the British people take the day off from work at significant cost to the economy, just to dwell on the fact that we are four rather than one people, is not the answer. One can’t even call it stupid – it is more the product of politicians who have so lost touch with the idea and importance of patriotism and national identity that they are no longer able to engage in sensible policy discussion on the matter. Rather than criticise Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party for this cack-handed policy suggestion, one pities the limitations to their thinking.

You don’t unite and strengthen a fraying union by chopping it even more firmly into four parts and then frantically celebrating the differences. And though the word “diversity” is almost branded into the minds of many leftists as an unquestionably good thing, Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party and the British Left in general would do much better to reflect instead on the far more inspiring words “E Pluribus Unum”.

 

Patron Saints UK Britain - St George England - St Andrew Scotland - St David Wales - St Patrick Ireland

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