This time of year, I’m always being told I should be patriotic, or being asked if I’m proud to be English.
Because it’s Saint George’s day, that’s why!
This is usually when the argument starts.
My problem is, which England am I supposed to be proud of?
In a world where being a nationalist is synonymous with extremism, and every discussion on immigration risks you being labelled a racist, do we celebrate our multi ethnic society, or deplore the rise of far right groups like the BNP and EDL?
National pride, it seems, is a thorny issue.
Now, Saint George is a different problem altogether
The patriotic gentlemen that I generally have these arguments with, tend to say things like “You should be proud of your heritage and celebrate our Saint’s day like the Irish and Scots.”
Except, of course, he wasn’t English. Not even British.
He was Greek.
His mother was Palestinian.
And he served in the Roman Army, where at the behest of the Emperor Diocletian, he was executed for refusing to renounce christianity, and has been venerated as a Christian martyr ever since.
Known primarily as a military saint, he isn’t only patron of England, but also Iraq, Russia, Bulgaria, Rumania, Israel and India, amongst others.
And he probably didn’t meet many dragons either.
So, am I proud to be English?
Well, that’s the trouble isn’t it?
I mean, I was born English, of English parents, in England, so I’m English by default, it’s not like I had the choice.
It’s like being proud of having blue eyes.
Or being tall.
I’m proud of some of the things I’ve done. I’m proud of what I have made of myself.
Because I did those things in England, does the country itself deserve some credit?
This is a genuine puzzle to me.
How do you determine national pride?
If anyone has any clue to this mysterious, ephemeral state of mind, please let me know how you establish whether or not you are proud of your national identity, because I am eager to know if I can calibrate my own pride index.
Oh, and how do you celebrate your patron saints’ day?