Are you proud to be British? Philip-Anthony Gardner is. In the second part of my series on patriotism, Philip lays out what he believes ‘Britishness’ means…
When the chance came to write for Sam about what it means to me to be British, I jumped at the opportunity. Now I know what you’re thinking. You are imagining I’m going to start a speech about the British Empire and about ‘small c conservatism’, the Queen and afternoon tea. Well, not quite.
I’m not a Conservative. I’m not a royalist. I am British, however, because the UK today is what my grandparents and yours made it.
I am the grandson of a war-refugee, and of an immigrant who came to Britain to be educated. I am the grandson of a man who served as a soldier in the fight against Fascism, and of a woman who went to Oxford to study even though people around her did not think she belonged because of pervasive sexist attitudes.
This country is a product of their generation, and it is because of them that I am so proud to be British.
It is my grandfather who served with his school friends in the army, who brought home with him a young wife who had been made homeless by that same conflict. Who served his community as a local council member while his wife went to do the most important of all things; teach others.
It is my grandmother who went to Oxford to learn and better herself, despite the ridicule and anger it provoked. It was her husband, who taught law in universities and helped emerging new states write constitutions.
Two mixed marriages in terms of nationality, a set of values of tolerance, the rule of law and equality that is typically British.
Of course, being British is not all there is, certainly not in my life. Being British is also about being European. It is about believing in the values that abolished war on a continent, about celebrating the wonderful history, the languages and the cultures that make up this place. Not everything about the great European project works, but that’s the best thing about it. We are still in the process of building and strengthening our society and the way it operates. If everything was perfect, what would be the point, after all?
My parents taught me the value of Europe. From my father working in human rights law to my mother interpreting and studying languages, they both taught me the importance of different perspectives informing your beliefs and morality.
Like all great identities, I believe my British and European attitudes have much to learn from another. I treasure the sense of fair play that is inherent to this country, and indignant reaction we all have to people cheating the system. That said, I believe the European attitude towards intellectualism is so much more rewarding, none of this ‘too clever by half’ business. The two personalities belong together, warts and all. What political will, peace and shared values has brought together, let no man tear asunder.
The Britain that has been built is one we should all be proud of. Not because it is perfect, but because it tries to be. It honours the fallen in the most moving of ways on Armistice Day. It is polite and bloody-minded all at the same time. It is knowledgeable and arrogant concurrently. It gave the world the welfare state and William Shakespeare. It gave you free healthcare and a belief that society should value people regardless of background. Those who shirk faith in what Britain stands for just because it is fashionable are anything but. Their dissidence is as bland as flag-waving is; we have simply seen it all before.
Being British is something that fills me with pride. I am proud of the opportunities this country gives me and others. I am proud of the service our nurses, police officers and armed forces do. I am proud of the way we honour tradition, and the way we are so intolerant of intolerance.
It means something to me when I hear the national anthem, and when I see Adele go global being so different. It meant everything to me when Jess Ennis conquered the world, and when Ellie Simmonds did it as well. To see us triumph in the Paralympics (that we came up with) and punch so above our weight in the Olympics brought me to tears again and again. Did it not you?
Honest hard work, and a belief that we can be stronger tomorrow than we are today. That’s what it means to be British. It is absolutely something to be proud of.
I get the impression that a large percentage of people my age are a little disillusioned with the monarchy.
In a straw poll during one lecture at university, we were asked to raise our hands if we cared about the monarchy. Out of a full lecture theater, only a handful of us were bothered.
Since then we’ve had a royal wedding which may have helped renewed interest in Britain’s most famous family, but overall my generation is cynical.
Sometimes it even takes foreigners to remind us of our own nation’s unique standing in the world. Today on The Mall, much of the front row were made up of Americans who had camped out just to catch a glimpse of her Majesty.
My mother is, other than the Queen herself, the biggest royalist in the world. To illustrate this point, while at home last night watching the royal concert on TV, my Mum stood to sing the national anthem…
Today was a first for all of our family as we went to London to catch a glimpse of the Royal family. But why bother? That question bugged me all morning, but especially when my alarm went off at 5.30am.
The answer had started the night before.
It wasn’t Cheryl’s shocking vocal performance, Grace Jones bizarre costume, those comedian’s terrible jokes, Cliff Richard’s embarrassing “Dad dancing” or Will.I.Am’s usual “it’s all about me” attitude that impressed me.
The beauty and magnificence of it all came later in the evening. Stevie Wonder’s unfortunate moment of singing; “Happy birthday to you” led to @Queen_UK tweeting “It’s not one’s Birthday. Awkward.” But Stevie rescued it magnificently when he changed the lyrics of “Isn’t She Lovely” in honour of the occasion.
“Isn’t she special/a young eighty-six years old/I can’t believe what God has done/let’s celebrate the royal one”
Madness performing “Our House” on top of Buckingham Palace was a special moment, as was Paul McCartney leading all of the artists and thousands of onlookers in a rousing rendition of Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da.
By the time the national anthem had been sung and Prince Charles had delivered the best speech of his life, I could almost see the earlier cynicism melting from my Twitter feed.
At the mention of the DofE’s health, her majesty looked close to tears. The outpouring of love towards the Queen was touching.
I’ve always supported the monarchy, but this weekend has gone a long way in cementing my belief that this country needs the Queen and to do away with the monarchy would be a travesty.
Those on the other side of the argument have made my beliefs even stronger. Peter Tachell’s disgusting and offensive opinion piece that The Guardian dared to print incensed nearly everyone who read it. Then there was the New Statesman‘s usual cynicism, but that was to be expected.
Tatchell managed to frustrate me further when he moaned “Media coverage of #DiamondJubilee one-sided in favour of #royals. Not everyone is pro #monarchy. Pro #republic voices should also be heard”. I couldn’t resist hitting back with: “Boo you! Party pooper”. Immature, but he deserved it!
The Queen has counseled 12 Prime Ministers. She’s met with everyone from Churchill to Cameron week in week out. In the often messy world of politics, she has remained a-political. A figurehead that brings millions to our country ever year, the Queen is well respected and rightly honoured throughout the world.
Open about her faith and clear about her responsibilities (all of which will continue until the day she dies), the Queen has remained steadfast in holding the country together through the toughest of times.
It’s not right to ask “what does the Queen do?”. This weekend has reminded us that our identity does not lie in what we do, but who we are. The Queen does a lot for this country. But who is she? The answer is obvious; she’s a living legend.
Commas save lives.
“Let’s eat, Mum” or “Let’s eat Mum” have two very different meanings.
Language is also important. When language is misused, misinformation can spread quickly.
As most of you will know, when we say ’1st century’ we are talking about years between 0 and 100CE.
The word Palestine traces back to the word Philistine – the ancient enemy of the Israelites.
The territory today defined as Israel/Palestine was never called Palestine until 135CE. 35 years after the ’1st century’.
Before that, it was called Israel by the Jews, and Judea and Galilee by the ruling power – the Romans. We have the Bibilical record for that.
From my research, it’s fair to say the entire New Testament was completed by 70CE as that is when the temple was destroyed and not a single New Testament (NT) writer mentions that catastrophic event. So it makes sense to assume the event hadn’t happened yet, and that’s why they weren’t writing about it. Although this is an argument from silence, it would have be the equivalent of the media not mentioning 9/11 in the year following 2001.
But even if you don’t find that argument convincing, the majority of scholars will tell you the NT was completed by 100CE at the latest. Nowhere in the NT do any of the writers reference “Palestine”. They only ever mention the land of Israel. So if the people living there at the time said they lived in Israel, why in our academic literature, do we say they lived in Palestine?
I am not making a political point here, I’m explaining that Palestine simply didn’t exist until the Romans renamed Israel as Syria Palaestina in 135CE. So by all means talk about 2nd century Palestine all you want. But 1st century Palestine never existed.
I hope this explanation has been clear. I find it hard to believe that so many academics have got something so important, totally wrong. And like everything I write – I’m open to correction should it come in the comments below.
NB. For those of you with Bibles, flick to the back where you’ll most likely have some maps. Many of them title the maps ‘Palestine in the time of Jesus’, or equivalent. Now, I know Jesus ascended to heaven and is still alive today, but he was not walking the earth in 135CE, and his book had also been finished by then! Jesus died and ascended around 33-35CE. So ‘Palestine in the time of Jesus’ is 100% untrue. It was Israel in the time of Jesus.
Here’s what I woke up to this morning:
First stop today project Leket. This excellent charity picks fruit and vegetables that farmers don’t want or need and gives them to the poor and homeless. Today, we volunteered to pick onions.
I was in secondary school (year 7) when 9/11 happened. (Read my memories of the day here.)
I’m conscious that we are now entering an era where people will grow up with little background knowledge of what caused 9/11 and what its effects have been. What were ‘current events’ are now past events. Journalism is turning into history.
The next generation’s understanding of what happened on September 11th 2001 will be similar to my understanding of what happened on December 7, 1941. And if you don’t know what happened on that date, that just proves my point!
Even though ten years is a very short time in historical terms, 9/11 will now be taught as history. But what happened on that day in New York still has very real and very significant ramifications for not just Western society today but our perceptions of the Middle East, Islam and Terrorism.
Radical Islam is still violent, messy and filled with dictators like this nutter who would like to nuke Israel and create a second Holocaust. That’s not hyperbole…just so you know. Apparently it’s not politically correct to link radical Islam with violence or terrorism…which just proves people have forgotten what happened on 9/11 already. (Also see here)
I believe George Bush was right to launch a ‘War on Terror’. What president would stand back after the dust had settled on 9/11 and say: “Well maybe if we talk to the people behind these attacks, we can have world peace”? In a perfect world, great. But in case you hadn’t noticed, this world isn’t perfect and some people will never back down on their views. Followers of radical branches of Islam have been so indoctrinated, nothing will stand in the way of them and suicide attacks.
While Bush was right to go about doing something to protect America against future attacks, his methods were widely criticised. He will be remembered as a heavy handed president who invaded countries and turned a blind eye to interrogations (or its less popular name “torture”). Obama on the other hand, will be remembered as a “wishy-washy” character who gave in to pressure from Muslim nations, never really spoke out and won a Nobel Peace Prize for nothing but good intentions.
How do you deal with a radical? Obama has been talking to them, with limited (if any) success. Bush shot them, which although successful, still (rightly) makes us a little uncomfortable. Having said this, Bin Laden was caught and killed under Obama’s watch, not Bush’s. But generally speaking, Bush was more “gun(g) ho” than Obama is being. The point is, our view of Islam is massively important. It effects politics.
Much is made of 9/11 changing the world. But we should remember it has been the ensuing decade which has really changed the world.
The United States is built on Judeo/Christian principles. These beliefs include the idea that life is precious. Suicide bombers laugh in the face of this idea. This week we must remember America as it mourns and commemorates. We must also remember what caused 9/11. Radical Islam continues to be a threat, even today.
Terrorist attacks are becoming increasingly likely and dangerous as Radical Islam spreads. The fact that America has not been attacked since 9/11 is in many ways remarkable. It’s easy to criticise governments, but we should all acknowledge that the Americans have stepped up their defenses, and should be applauded for it. I often wonder how many attacks have been prevented in both the US and UK that we never hear about. Although the teachings of radical Islam will never fade, Al Qaeda may soon be history. If we do finally see the end of the hateful organisation that started this war, it will be for the good of the world, not just America.
September 11th 2001 changed the world. But the last 10 years and the wars we have seen in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Libya prove 9/11 was about more than just one day. It’s defining the politics of a generation. The question we must all ask ourselves now is: “How will we respond to radical Islam?” It’s a question Israel has been asking itself for decades and there are no easy answers.