Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Whenever I have visited the USA I have noticed that it is far from uncommon for people to fly the stars and stripes. (Sorry - should that be Stars and Stripes with capital "s"'s? I really meant no offence.) The same is not quite true in France. Well, they wouldn't fly the Stars and Stripes, would they? But one does see the tricolour flown quite a lot. Every mairie flies one, along with the European Union flag. The same is even less true in England. Very, very few people would ever think of flying either the Union Jack or the St George's flag. But there has been a patriotic flush and a veritable rash of the red crosses on white backgrounds over the last couple of weeks. I even had one given to me in the local supermarket, and the guy across the road has hung one over his front door. That one must measure 9 feet by 6 - it's enormous! Every second car has one or two flying from windows, although they are a lot smaller than the one across the road.
So why this sudden outbreak of apparent patriotism? I call the patriotism "apparent" because it's not really patriotism; all these flags are to show support for the English football team in the World Cup. Unless it's for football, the English don't fly flags. The Scots and the Welsh might, but not the English. After all, we don't need to. We know who we are and have no need to announce it to all and sundry, especially when the all and sundry to whom we would announce it are, for the most part, fellow Englishmen. The French are unsure whether they are Frenchmen or Europeans and so hedge their bets by flying both flags. The Americans are still amazed that their country exists - it is, after all, very young as countries go - and are of such mixed backgrounds that they need to reaffirm their unity at all times, hence the multiplicity of flag flying. But it's just not the done thing here.
What I do find distasteful is the way some people deface the flag by printing "ENGLAND" along the centre. Even more distasteful to my mind is the production of underwear seemingly made from the flag. Somehow I can't imagine disrespect such as that being shown in either France or the USA.