It’s the summer holidays, so while trying to avoid the rain and ignore demands to entertain children, I’ve been watching West Wing repeats. Watching the same show again often throws up stuff to think about. This time, probably because it’s between the Golden Jubilee celebrations and the London Olympics, was the difference between how patriotism is seen in the USA and the UK.
In the USA, patriotism seems embedded in the national psyche. Most of my US friends describe themselves as American and THEN tell you which state or city they’re from. Here, friends tend to introduce themselves as Scots, Welsh, English, Irish or Northern Irish. Only occasionally do they call themselves British, whereas when I worked in Paris about twenty years ago we all described ourselves as British even though we hailed from across the UK.
So, has devolution affected how we view ourselves? Instead of a federalism like America in which citizens see themselves as constituent parts of a single nation with one flag and a strong feeling of national identity and pride, has devolution changed us into separate nations with no common identity?
America has a clear sense of itself in an uncertain and hostile world and this forms part of its immigration strategy, including learning to speak English and learning the Pledge of Allegiance. Post-imperial United Kingdom has lost that certainty and sense of self and I think devolution has devalued national patriotism further. Even the English are seeking a more regional identity now as government has become so London-centric.
The recent surge of support for British troops is to be welcomed, but is a new development. The Jubilee celebrations were so widespread that perhaps patriotism is not dying but government needs to ensure that all UK citizens see themselves as part of something bigger and worthwhile. If the drift continues, how long before the UK does truly fracture?Share on Facebook