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Opinion

England, My England

24 Mar 2024 3 minute read
Flags, Sarah Morgan Jones

Ben Wildsmith

You’d think that the English would be delighted that someone had spiffed up their flag a bit.

Throughout the seemingly endless years that I was imprisoned there, smiling weakly at Ant & Dec as they represented the only culture on offer, I felt that the flag of St George only made things worse.

Fluttering above the certainties and repressed emotions of its subjects, the symbol reduced even us to something generally utilised by the illiterate in place of a signature. It is the heraldic expression of Phil Mitchell’s face. Red crassness daubed on nothing.

So, I suppose, Nike’s kindness in lending the thing some nuance was always going to enrage the sort of person who identifies with it.

It’s only recently that these people have come to terms with garlic as an acceptable component in seafood dishes, so cut them some slack.

But that’s enough about the entirely fictional English folk described in the gutter press and played to by politicians who wouldn’t know a real human being if they bumped into them at a war crimes trial.

Cyphers

The ‘English’ of mass culture are as imaginary as the ‘Welsh’, ‘Scottish’, ‘Irish’, ‘Jewish’, ‘Muslim’, ‘Palestinian’, and ‘Gypsy’ people caricatured there.

They are cyphers: empty canvasses for the people who own dishonest media outlets to paint prejudices upon.

I was born in England to a mixed-race Welsh mother and Romany father, then adopted by another Welsh mother and English father, but have lived for the last decade in Wales, which I consider to be my home.

How does a flag cover that?

I claim the Welsh flag because I want to, it’s the bit of my makeup that pleases me and represents the place I choose to live.

I don’t want to kill anyone for it, unless strictly necessary, and I wouldn’t drape myself in it to make anyone feel unwelcome where I live.

Nobody’s done that to me either, although my Heinz 57 genetics and personal history make me vulnerable to it if you want to have a go. Please don’t, I love this place as much as you.

Base instincts

All around the world, people are being thrown back on to base instincts by a poisonous political culture. Our true identities are formed by family, art, religion if you choose, and personal preference.

They are complex, beautiful expressions of the human miracle.

We fall in love with each other because of them and create other humans with differing, crystalline features. Perhaps we don’t and explore the universe on our own terms for as long as we can.

Obviously, the Welsh flag is the best. Its colours are sublime, and it has a dragon on it. Nothing can compete with that. Ditto the anthem: the French one is ok, but the rest inspire pity, None of these things contain us, though. Our singularity cannot be governed by symbols.

Our flags serve us, not us them.

The politics of 2024 are vile. I don’t see anyone I know represented in the divisive, dreadful manipulation of identity that is engulfing everywhere from Pontyclun to Ramallah.

A flag is a flag, my brother is my brother. A nation is a nation, my sister is my sister.

Flags & Bones by Ben Wildsmith is available to order from Cambria Books


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Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
19 days ago

Genetically we are all Heinz 57, though some may have less variety than others – poor them! In nature it is those species that manage to mix genes from as wide a pool as possible that are the strongest, most resistant to illness and disease that can more easily affect those strains supposedly genetically purer. I think we all need to remind ourselves every now and then that we all have our origins in Africa. Ben, I think you’re quite safe from those who would make you feel unwelcome. They exist in Wales as elsewhere and are equally ugly in… Read more »

Bethan
Bethan
18 days ago

I really do get fed up of media and politics putting words in the mouths of the population. I’m tired of hearing how nasty and unintelligent the human race is. If the human race was as hostile and quick to impulsive rage as is represented by our ‘representatives’ we wouldn’t have gotten this far. Paddy you’re right. Humans aren’t perfect. We’re not always gentle agents of love and compassion, but we’re not stupid, monstrous orcs determined to inflict suffering and destruction either. We’re misrepresented as either/or and the realities of being a person are overlooked. I don’t think xenophobia really… Read more »

tutoring
tutoring
16 days ago

Also a thing to mention is that an online business administration program is designed for college students to be able to well proceed to bachelor degree education. The Ninety credit college degree meets the lower bachelor education requirements when you earn your own associate of arts in BA online, you’ll have access to up to date technologies with this field. Some reasons why students have to get their associate degree in business is because they may be interested in this area and want to find the general education and learning necessary just before jumping into a bachelor college diploma program.… Read more »

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