Patriotism and 'national pride' in the UK?

This is rapidly becoming a 'hot issue' in the UK at the moment.

There are government plans afoot to introduce a new Public Holiday annually which will be a 'National Day' starting in 2012. They are also seriously considering have school leavers swear an oath of allegiance to Queen and Country. The former Attorney General who has researched the issue and is making the proposals, insists Britain is becoming a divided nation with little sense of belonging. He also believes it will help youngsters to foster a sense of national pride in their British identity.

It is proving controversial due to the arguments against the measures put forward by the pro-republic, anti-royalist lobby. They believe the proposals are an affront to democracy and many people would be unhappy about their children having to make such an oath.

Comments have been made about the approach here in schools; these have included it's an 'un-British idea imported from America' and an 'empty pointless gesture'. Some Brit's sneer at this very 'pro-America' attitude in the States, but they are probably the same people complaining about how the UK is not what it used to be!

Having lived in both countries, only immigrating just over 2 years ago and working in schools, I get to see the American system daily. I have to say I think it does develop a sense of national identity and pride in the youth of the country.

One of the first things that struck me forcibly after I arrived, was the far greater show of patriotism on a daily basis. In the UK there are 'occasions' and 'events' that seem to bring out national pride at certain times, but it is not a part of everyday life as it is here.

British flags only tend to come out in force for the big sporting events. Then all of sudden national pride and fervour will sweep the whole nation as they get behind the national Football, Cricket or Rugby team. But this is born more out a type of 'tribal' British pride for our sporting teams to win, than a pride in our actual country!

Just before I left there was an increasingly rare show of patriotism for the Queen's Golden Jubilee. I am sure this was in part due to her continued good reputation with her subjects and alot of affection for her. As long as she remains the monarch then a percentage of the population will continue to support such events.

But there is no doubt that the next generation of Royals do not command anywhere near the respect or affection she does with the British public. Many people dislike Prince Charles due largely to the 'Princess Diana' effect, who was very much seen as a victim in the UK and then his remarriage to Camilla, his unpopular long term mistress. There are serious concerns that the monarchy will struggle and never recover from Charles ruling, although when push comes to shove, I think they'll survive. After all they say you never appreciate what you've got until it's gone!

It may surprise many Americans to realise the level of either dis-interest, anti-royalist feeling, anger at their cost, or lack of pride in our Royal Family. There has been a definite shift in their popularity in my lifetime. I think alot of people below 40 in the UK today, really lack national pride and view the Royals as an archaic, expensive unnecessary institution.

The ABC special on 'The Royals' shown recently included a comment from a young Brit' who when asked about the royals said "I don't see what the point of them is, I mean what do they do for us?". That pretty much summed up for me the attitude of much of the youth of Britain today. I can't say I have ever felt like this personally, probably due in part to a life long love and respect for the history and heritage of my home country. Living abroad I probably appreciate now more than ever, how the history of our country, architecture and royal heritage helps our nation.

I doubt the UK would have anything like the tourist industry it does without this heritage and royal link. I get more questions here about our royal family than anything else, apart from maybe Stonehenge! Americans are just fascinated with the whole British 'thing' and we are seen as the epitomy of coolness and enviably rich in history. I have no doubt many Americans would willingly take on our heritage and the Royal family given half a chance!

I think it is only to America's credit that at every school the day starts with the 'Pledge of Allegiance', hand on chest facing the flag, in classrooms across this huge land. At their sports games they sing the National Anthem and there is always a flag flying somewhere.

Today I explained to some very typical, 'cool & trying to be hip' teenagers here in school, what they are thinking of doing in the UK and the reaction this has caused amongst some of the British public. I asked them how do you feel about swearing allegiance everyday and honouring your flag so regularly? Their reaction was surprise British schools don't do this already, they are happy to do it and everyone one of them said they are proud to be American without hesitation, or perhaps more significantly, any laughter from their friends. What a very different attitude to the majority of teenagers back in the UK!

Even in the smallest towns, sporting events start with everyone singing the National Anthem, hats removed in respect, whilst saluting the flag. There are many Public Holidays during the year that are also flag days when flags will be seen throughout neighbourhoods. In our area residents pay a small annual fee for the local Rotary Club to put up a flag outside their home on these flag days.

But many American homes also have their own flagpole in the yard and regularly fly a flag, just because they 'feel' like showing their patriotism. I brought a flag of St George with me, the traditional English flag, and we always fly it when we have British visitors or events going on back home I want to support.

I plan on taking US citizenship at the first opportunity, but will also retain my British citizenship. I recite the pledge of allegiance whenever I am in school and know the national anthem by heart, I already feel some pride in the country I now choose to call home.

I will always be proud to be British. But maybe some cynical or pro-republic Brit's need the experience of living in the States, to truly appreciate Britain's heritage and restore their own national pride.

I am in no doubt American national pride is alive and well in all age groups. I think having seen this issue from both sides of the fence, Britain could do alot worse than to follow the American example and set about restoring some of it's own patriotism.


Karen H. said...

Good Afternoon Sarah,
I hope this finds you having a good day. I am finally doing my laudry. LOL. I have one load in the dryer and another one in the washer. I still need to wash some towels, but if I don't, then that's okay. We have enough to get thru the night. I will do them tomorrow. I enjoyed reading the History on Patriotism about the British. It's been years since I've been to School and I can't hardly remember things from back then. LOL. It is sad that everyone doesn't show their Patriotism like we do in the United States. And when they do show it, like you said, it's for the sports and other things and not the real meaning of showing Patriotism. This is such a sad and sick world we live in today. "CONGRATULATION'S" to Michelle for guessing the right answer to your Brit Words. Take care my friend and have a great day. May God Bless You and Yours.

Love & Hugs,
Karen H.

Anonymous said...

I just watched that ABC special last night - I had it recorded from last week. It's very interesting to see the split between those who love the monarchy and those who think it's all a waste of money.

pamokc said...

Sarah, this is an essay worthy of greater publication. I think for some reason, the British are proud of their lack of showiness, so being patriotic seems a bit too much to them. But I also think some are realizing they might be losing their country a bit more than anticipated. I have felt a ground-swell of "wanting our country back" over there, but this does not seem reflected in the press somehow.

Do you think the Brits feel about the Royals the way they feel about National Health? Everyone complains about it, but try taking it away and watch the riots in the streets? If Wills gets on that throne soon, he might could turn some tide. Charles? ZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

Iota said...

I feel a lot more proud of being British since living here in the US for the past year. It's partly to do with not appreciating something you take for granted, but also to do with realising that patriotism isn't all bad. I don't think I can see us Brits ever doing it quite like the Americans, but like you, I agree there is room for us to be a bit more enthusiastic about our identity.

I've just found your blog, and am enjoying reading it backwards. I like your British words of the day.

Flowers said...

i completely agree with you about there being a lack of national pride back home.

i suppose it no surprise really given that the guardianistas have tried their hardest to erode it/destroy it.

children no longer learn history at school (actually i'm 30 and all i learnt was how the mill workers felt. they feel a lot of guilt about britain's empire days and so refuse to teach about them in case it offends someone.

unfortunately their damage will be seen in its entirity too late. social marxism has spread through all the institutions and with the current labour government doing what all labour governments do and increasing the size of government and 'public' institutions it's clear that we need help!

even though my father is scottish i do think the best thing for everyone would be if the uk split up. of course the scottish must feel annoyed at taking handouts from the english. in some ways i can understand why they resent us so much. on the other hand they do very well out of the deal, very well indeed.

perhaps england can reclaim some of its pride if it goes it alone. that way we don't have to worry about offending anyone.

did you know the english are the only european group without representation? crazy.

fly your flag with pride, brit gal. i only wish people could back home.

p.s. did you hear about the guy from the bahamas who was working as a binman in the north of england? he had a st. george's bandana and was told to remove it by the council as it may offend someone. someone who has come to england is doing a great job and wants to show his feeling for his adopted country and he's told this. i say again, crazy

BritGal' Sarah said...

Tom - the political correctness has gone berserk back home, that binman sums it up totally. Over here people proudly display the flag on all manner of things including their person. They are taught to venerate the flag and I love the patriotism here, that's why I will take citizenship.

You are 12 yrs younger than I am, so very interesting what you said about history in school. That's utterly ridiculous, after all it's our history we are throwing away!

I agree with you that the UK would be better split. The Welsh and Irish have already grabbed their national identity and run with it, about time we did the same.

What's it like in Poland?

wanderingbtrfly said...

Hello :) I recently found your blog, so I'm slow to catch up...

I have found your post and the comments so interesting. I am American and have grown up here, and have only recently (past 4 yrs) seen what life was like outside of the States.
You are lucky to be in the midwest; up here in the northwest, people aren't so open to being patriotic. I used to say the Pledge of Allegiance everyday in school, but by the time I reach jr high, it just died out. Sadly, you probably know more of our national anthem than I do. It is true what they say - the heart of our country is in the middle.
When visiting the UK, I've always been surprised at how open it seems to be; I feel the political correctness at home so much more, but I'm only a traveler in the UK, therefore I don't see even half of the story.
I want to live in England someday, so this post has been very interesting to me, to see this issue from your point of view. I have to agree it is very sad at the lack of history being taught and flags being seen (and allowed - that is odd, I must say).
Thanks for sharing your view!