Saturday 25 August 2012

National Pride - A guest post from Dorky Mum

The second of my guest posts for this week and this little nugget comes from Ruth at Dorky Mum.  You may have read me gushing about Ruth before, she is a fantastic writer and an inspirational activist.  This is a lady who always makes me think and question my actions - which is a good thing. OK, over to Ruth...

There have been a lot of people asking questions recently about what it means to be British. I think the combination of the Queen's Jubilee and the Olympics, combined with the ongoing debate about Scottish Independence have all contributed to this collective navel gazing.

I can't say that my own 'Britishness' is something that I've ever thought about too much. I was born in Scotland to an English mother and a Scottish father. I support the Scottish rugby team, but the English football team. I always thought it was daft when fellow Scots voiced anti-English sentiments, and felt the same when the English slagged off the Scots.

That said, since we moved from Scotland to England at the end of last year, I have been giving it more and more thought. Am I Scottish? Or British? Or both?

It is perfectly nice here. I have made some lovely friends; we get on well with our neighbours, and have generally settled into our new life pretty well. I cheered myself hoarse watching Team GB in the Olympics, and didn't find myself trying to distinguish between the Scottish competitors and the English or Welsh ones.

But, for some reason I can't put my finger on, I do feel different here. I feel like I don't really fit in. Even after nine months, I still find myself taken aback every time I go into town and see the red, white and blue bunting everywhere. I often find the local accent grating. There is a confidence - bordering on arrogance - about a lot of the people who live in this area that I find both intimidating and unattractive. People seem to have a sense of entitlement that I can't recall ever seeing in Scotland, although perhaps that is just my selective memory. And perhaps this small Hertfordshire town is not representative of any wider cultural difference between the two countries - perhaps it speaks only for itself.

Goodness knows, there is no shortage of idiots north of the border either, but I feel myself drawn back to Scotland by something indefinable.

I actually think it's a good thing for normal folk like me to consider issues of identity and national pride because all too often people on the extremes hijack such debates.

What I am finding challenging is that all my own thoughts on matters of national identity are instinctive ones. I am well aware that it is my heart rather than my head is leading me, and that doesn't sit comfortably.

I have never thought of myself as a Scottish nationalist. I am still undecided about how I would vote in a Scottish Independence referendum (although it's probably irrelevant, because if I'm still living in England I won't be able to vote in it). The independence debate should be based on the discussion of tangible benefits and drawbacks - for the economy, the environment and local communities - rather than the patriotic stirrings in people's hearts.

But even knowing that… gosh, how my heart aches to walk on Scottish soil, to breathe Scottish air, to splash my toes in Scottish water.

We are about to head off on a ten-day holiday - firstly to the Western Isles and then to Edinburgh. It will be interesting to see, after almost a year away, whether Scotland still feels like home or whether I feel like a visitor.

I would like to live somewhere that makes me feel like anything is possible. Whether that is Scotland, England, Britain or elsewhere, I don't yet know.

What are your feelings on national identity? Do you feel English? Scottish? British? European?! How do we define ourselves in this modern and ever-changing world?


Thanks so much Ruth, yet again you have got me thinking.  I do think it is sad that there seems to be a lack of pride in Britain, I often muse about the fact that they have citizenship classes in the USA for their kids. They all know the declaration of Independence and the anthem and are proud to be American.  I fear it is not so here.

What you say at the end is so important though, if you live somewhere that you feel it is possible to achieve anything, then you are in the right place!

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